Last month’s Italy Roundtable topic on “bugs” prompted me to ask people about their concerns regarding Italy in order to try and find solutions. There were so many wonderful responses, that I didn’t use all of them in my original article. This month, I will try to address a few more.
These two stories that I am covering today started discussions on Facebook. Some people responded defensively by saying, “That’s never ever happened to me in my trips to Italy”, which seems to suggest that it couldn’t have happened for someone else.
It doesn’t matter how rare it is or if you are partially to blame. Or if the horrible feeling in your stomach isn’t about a whole culture. It’s just awful. Period.
Again, I issue the same highlighted caution I issued in the original article “What bugs you?”:
This article is not meant to be a diatribe about all the things that Italy does. Please leave a comment if you have any concerns about Italy. Keep it positive, okay? All of us need to be a little more kind.
Now? Let’s get on to the “bugs” that I am tackling today…
“On-the street marketers (of tours and whatever) won’t take no for an answers and will stalk you even after you tell them that you aren’t interested. No matter the language, “No is no”
– Susan, SusanValot.com
“Be aware that you can be cheated by anyone, regardless of whether they are using the wrong change or a receipt that isn’t understandable at a restaurant.
– Heather, HeatherKenny.wordpress.com
These two things are being combined under the umbrella of “being used because you’re foreigner.” It happens, and I’m sorry.
(Reality check. This happens everywhere, not just in Italy. It can also happen in your country.
The solution is to find the delicate balance between “expecting others to cheat” and “not expecting anyone to cheat.” This can be very, very difficult.
The first problem, about tour salesmen, is easier to tackle. You can simply walk away from them and eventually they will give up or find a new victim. This is where it can be very helpful to look more like a local. After all, they won’t try to sell a Vatican tour ticket to someone who doesn’t live there.
When I approach a tourist attraction, I try to avoid the inevitable tour-sellers crowding the sidewalk.
- Walk with purpose. It’s important to avoid looking like you’re just sightseeing. I don’t stop to take a picture or look at maps until I’m far from their reach. Walking with purpose is a sign that you have something booked, or at least you are not visiting someone in need of help.
- Don’t talk too loud or speak too fast. A tour agent has in English, German, French, or any other language you prefer. They will recognize that you are not from these areas and will provide the correct language. You’ll likely react negatively to your native language, as it is not what you expected, because you are in Italy. They’ll grab your attention.
- Wear headphones. I don’t like this when I travel. I love to hear the strange world around me. When I travel alone, I always have my earbuds with me. I will sometimes pop them in to make it seem like I can’t hear sales pitches.
This makes it seem like you should expect everyone in a tourist attraction to be full if touts. I suggest you avoid potentially positive experiences on tour. True to a certain extent. I may not always do all the things on that list. Sometimes, I can be a little hesitant about saying “No, grazie” and then continuing my journey. A couple of times, I have booked a tour with a street vendor and had a wonderful time.
The key is to be prepared for whatever situation you find yourself in and to choose the behavior that makes you feel most comfortable. You can find the middle ground, the place where you are comfortable with both expecting others to cheat and expecting them to cheat. It may take some trial-and-error to find the perfect spot.
This second issue, feeling like you are always being cheated, is more challenging.
As I said at the beginning, comparing your experience with statistics after the fact can be detrimental. It doesn’t help to realize that it doesn’t always happen. Your wallet was stolen, that’s all you need to know. It doesn’t matter if most gondoliers don’t charge per person for a gondola ride through Venice. It was obvious that you were cheated. It can be very costly to have this happen while on vacation.
These preventive steps can help you avoid getting in to situations like these. Before you go on vacation, make sure you know what the cost of a gondola ride is. Wear – and bring a wallet. Pickpockets are common in major cities, particularly those that have a lot of tourists, who tend to forget their valuables while they are busy admiring monuments.
As you would count the change at the shop down the street from where your house is, count the change in Italy. It will take you longer because coins and bills are different, but it is worth it. Do it before you leave the restaurant or shop. If you have any questions about the receipt, ask the waiter.
Or? Or, you can leave the shop knowing that you might be out a few extra euro and decide that it is not worth it. If you decide to take this route, don’t be so upset.
It is important to warn everyone, regardless of whether you are traveling to Italy, Mozambique, or just the local corner shop, not to try to define a whole culture based on a few encounters. There are many people in Italy that will scam you and rob you. There are also people from your country who behave just like them. It is my belief that most people you will meet in Italy will be either warm and friendly or pleasant and forgettable.
What are your biggest problems?
As long as there are contributions, I will keep this series going! You can comment on anything you dislike about Italy in the future article. Keep it light, everyone.
You can leave a comment below with anything you find annoying about Italy or email me, if that suits you better.