How to be a Good Visitor – Or, How not to be a Twit
This post is inspired by an article that has come across my timeline a couple of times recently about the different things tourists do that annoy “locals” in the countries they are visiting. As a teacher, though, I much prefer “do’s” to “don’t’s”, so here is my list of ways you can ensure you leave a good impression when you visit.
1. DO slow down. Relax.
One of the worst things you can do as a visitor is to get impatient and annoyed when things do not move along in the fashion you want them to. This especially happens when schedules are packed too full with no ‘wiggle room’. Depending on the time of year you visit, it is likely you will be visiting places that will be busy and where there will be queues (lines).
The easiest way to avoid finding yourself in these situations is to plan well. If you must travel during ‘peak’ season, there are other things you can do. Be flexible. Work a little bit of extra time (or optional activities) into your day. Whenever possible, I arrive at the places that are likely to be busiest very early or quite late. Usually this ensures that I miss the worst of the busy-ness, but there is no sure fire way of guaranteeing success. So…
Just go with it. Chat with the other people around you. Enjoy the view/atmosphere. Stressing about what is next on the agenda will not move things along any faster. And if you do miss something due to unexpected circumstances… there is always your next trip!
2. DO leave your ‘fanny pack’ and white knee length socks at home.
First of all: ‘fanny’ means something entirely different in the UK. If you want the details, check Google. Secondly, white knee length socks are never really a good look. And that is coming from someone who has been known to wear walking shoes and jeans to see ‘La Boehme’ to an evening performance at the Royal Opera House in London…
But seriously: a small backpack is your best bet to not standing out like a sore thumb. If it is big enough to hold a bottle of water, your tour book (if you have one) and your camera, you should be good to go.
As for footwear… check our Clothing & Footwear post. And listen to your wife/partner. 🙂
3. DO take time to communicate carefully.
This seems to be a common issue with people from countries ALL over the world. If we don’t understand others, we assume they cannot understand us. So we repeat things and raise our voices in an attempt to make ourselves clear.
Remember that Scots speak English. Yes, you will encounter different accents and dialect across the country (and some accents and dialects will be from countries outside the UK). But if you slow down (are you sensing a theme? 🙂 )you will likely find that it is not too difficult to figure out what is being said. And that they can understand you perfectly well.
Nb: before anyone gets their noses out of joint about this being aimed at people from the US, I can assure you it is not. I’ve witnessed the same behaviour from British, Canadian, and Australian travellers in different countries. Seems to be a bit of an English condition.
4. DO see our file on tipping.
I will leave that one at that.
5. DO see our file on driving.
Only if you plan on hiring (renting) a vehicle, of course.
6. DO be cautious with your cash.
Now, we get many questions about the safest way to travel with quantities of cash. There is no one right answer – it’s about doing what works well for you. We are lucky that in the 21st century, we have many options in how we do this, which will be outlined in a separate post. While in the vast majority of places you will be able to use card (credit or debit), you’ll likely want to bring some cash along.
HOWEVER – the main point I want to make here is to be sensible with it. Many accommodation providers will have a safe/security arrangements. These are trustworthy and you should feel that you can use them with confidence.
When thinking about how much money you want to take out and about with you, figure out approximately what you will need for the day and carry it as if you would at home. Don’t feel you need to take all of your cash around with you. And if you do decide to pack it all along, have a little in your wallet/purse, and the rest elsewhere – don’t be pulling out a stack of bills whenever you have to pay for something. I’ve travelled extensively in Europe and never felt cause to use a money belt or some such thing. Are there less honest people around? Of course. As there are in many places. Be sensible. But there is no reason to be paranoid.
7. DO find out about Scottish ‘traditions’ before you come.
My personal favourite is that if you’re at a pub having a drink, people take turns buying the round. Make sure you don’t disappear yourself off to the toilets when it’s your turn!
There is a ‘don’t’ with this one, unfortunately, that I feel must be mentioned. Don’t assume that Scotland is all shortbread, highland cows, tartan, and bagpipes. The stereotypical view of Scotland is actually a relatively recent one – created pretty much by Sir Walter Scott in advance of George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822. Less than one hundred years after the Battle of Culloden, it was a concerted effort to romanticise the image of the highlands and charm the monarch from the south. And nearly two hundred years later, the image has stuck.
It’s fine to enjoy/appreciate all of these things – I know I do! – as long as you realise that Scotland is a modern country on the leading edge of renewable energy, with a progressively elected devolved parliament, and a country where there is a strong sense of the common good.
8. DO be polite.
Politeness is universal and you’ll never go wrong simply being cautious and expressing gratitude.
One way you can demonstrate good manners is by respecting the environment. Make sure that you dispose of your litter properly. You will likely find that there is not always a conveniently placed bin (garbage can). Carrying a small bag in your pack – or simply putting your waste in it – until you can get rid of your waste properly will help keep things beautiful for all to enjoy.