Saturday, January 05, 2008

Manners Revisited

Although Isla Mujeres at times (well, most of the time) seems like a wild party island, it is still very much a part of Mexico. The people here practice the same religion, have the same beliefs and standards as most of the rest of Mexico. Although it can be frustrating for foreigners here at times, the people are normally very mellow, very polite and would never intentionally be rude to anybody.

That can not be said of the tourists who come here. I think it is time for a refresher on manners.

WEAR SOME CLOTHES! On the beach it is fine to walk around in your bikini, thong, speedo or even topless. This is NOT approriate street wear. For God's sake, cover yourself up! Please stop walking down the main shopping street wearing nothing but the aforementioned attire. And really. Do you need to go into the grocery store wearing nothing but your bikini? I don't care how much you paid for those new boobs. You don't need to show them off to everybody in town. And guys, it is not ok to go into the grocery store not wearing a shirt. Who wants your armpit hair all over the bananas?

WEAR SOME SHOES! Look around. Do you see the local people going everywhere, or anywhere, barefoot? There is a reason for that. The streets are dirty and full of germs. Bad germs. Plus it is unsightly and unhygenic to grocery shop barefoot. And please, don't play in the mud puddles after a rain. I've mentioned before what this water contains: dog and cat feces and pee, human pee, human vomit, phlegm and just plain bad stuff. Do you really want to contract some tropical disease while on vacation? Or any disease for that matter.

WEAR A CONDOM! I can't believe how many people of both sexes I overhear bragging about last night's conquest. Then they even go so far as to say they couldn't find a condom so just did it anyway. Can you say STD or even AIDS? Not to mention unwanted pregnancy. Do you really want to risk your life for that night of vacation sex?

USE YOUR INSIDE VOICE! All nationalities are guilty of this one, but mostly it is the Americans (from USA) who are guilty. Why do you have to talk so loudly? Even shout for pity's sake. If you are in a bar or restaurant, your table companions should be able to hear you just fine. You don't have to shout out every word. Very annoying and disrespectful of the people around you.

SHOW SOME RESPECT! The Mexican people were not born to serve you and only you. Your waiter works very hard in a very respected profession here. There is no reason to call him boy, shout at him or snap your fingers at him. A little respect and courtesy goes a long way.

LEAVE A TIP! I don't care how expensive or inexpensive you think your meal or drinks were, leave an appropriate tip! Leave any tip for that matter. Don't stiff the poor guy who has been responding to your drunken requests all night. And I don't care what nationality you are. Just because it may not be customary to tip in your homeland, does not make it ok here. Do some research before you travel. Find out what the local custom on tipping is. For most people, 15% of the bill is correct. However, any Mexican would be happy with 10%. Just leave something behind in appreciation for the service you just got. And don't be surprised tomorrow night if your service is a little slow if you stiff the waiter.

OBSERVE! If you are in the grocery store and want to purchase onsite made bread or pastries, use the tongs and tray. Don't just grab barehanded something off the shelf and walk around with it. Take it to the bakery counter, get it wrapped and the price written on the bag. You will find checking out much, much easier. And whatever you do, do not consume product on the premises. Or worse yet, don't eat that muffin and think nobody is going to notice you trying to cheat the store out of 80 cents.

BE NICE. Not every person you encounter here is going to understand English. Especially if you shout at them, wave your hands wildly about or talk fast in complicated sentences. Slow down. Use easy words and simple sentences. You will find the people to be very helpful if you do. Use appropriate hand signals or draw what you want on a piece of paper. And please, when somebody doesn't understand you, don't call them names and don't give them the rolled eyes look. They will understand that.

So, come to the island, have a good time but remember. YOU ARE THE GUEST HERE so act like it please.


Andee said...

Nice job.
Too bad some people leave their manners at home.
If they ever had any, that is.

CancunCanuck said...

Wayne, you've stolen my lecture, lol! Your words are too true and I have said them all myself in forums and in person with rude tourists.

Manolo said...

There ought to be a "tourist manners manual". About the first two, when I came to Canada (during Winter time) I noticed restaurants with the signs "No shirt, no shoes, no service". At minus 15C (sorry dunno F) it seems silly, but when it gets hot and humid in the Summer some people might think tops and footwear are optional.

John W said...

Wayne: I love it when you tee off.

San Miguel's visitors don't parade around in bathing suits, because there's no water to swim in. But lots of people wear shorts, which in an inland city is pushing probity a little. But when they wear their shorts into one of our colonial churches and start taking pictures with flash cameras during a service, they cross a line.

And about tipping: I once heard an expat say that overtipping ruins the economy. By that they mean, they're forced to pay a little more for their margaritas or whatever. I immediately adopted a new policy of overtipping everywhere.

Anonymous said...

You've taken the words right out of my mouth,especially the comment on loud talking. I've experienced that all over Europe, Canada and Mexico. For some reason they seem to be quieter in their own country.
Elaine in Canada

gabachayucateca said...

Lovely list, Wayne. I do think that the most important point you made was OBSERVE!!! I really think that people's inability or unwillingness to do this is at the root of much of the obnoxious behavior.

However, this doesn't hold true ALL the time! Imagine observing Mexican beach behavior and then deciding that you too should swim fully dressed.

Billie said...

Wayne, you hit the nail squarely on the head. My fellow countrymen can really be an embarrassment.

Theresa said...

I don't mind the shorts if they are nice but I hate the sloppyness, Merida is not a beach town! Would you dress like that in your capitol city? I have seen guys without shirts in the main square here! We were at the beach one day (Progreso) when some (off a cruise ship)tourists wanted to buy cotton candy and all they had was a twenty dollar bill which would have bought all the cotton candy the vender had and then some. Of course no one wanted to change the money, us included. Shouldn't the ship have changed their money for them?

Jonna said...

Use Your Inside Voice! I love that! My mother used to hound me to "modulate my voice". I guess I'm glad now.

You grossed me out with the tourists playing in the mud puddles. Do they really do that? Argh!

I have to say that I see people eating stuff in the grocery stores all the time here in Merida and they aren't tourists. Oh, and picking through the food in bins, tasting it all. Yech!

Still, those are good things for most tourists to hear. The nationality is not as key I think as that feeling that they are away from home, no one knows them and then add a lot of booze. If you think the Americans and Canadians are bad, wait for the chilangos. One thing though, they dress better.

Hollito said...

Wayne, you have hit the point exactly.
One thing to add: Learn a few words of the country you are visiting. Like "Good morning", "Thank you" and so on in the corresponding language. This will shurely open up the hearts of the people you will meet in your holidays.
A good thing is, that you spoke about clothes. When I was in Greece a few years ago, I found a tavern that was mostly frequented by the people living there (I prefer to stay away from this tourist taverns). I went to this location in long pants, leather shoes (no Adidas or Nike!) and a white shirt. That was what the greece people were wearing there.
And I had a great time there, was invited for a drink by the fishermen and - okay, that must be said - was so drunk, that I had a hard time getting back to the hotel.
This said, you should be aware of that the Germans are not too beloved in Greece within the older generation who has seen WW2.
But, as I said, I really had a great time there, and even the older people were nice to me.
Another thing to do: Show your respect to the priests! I am not a member of any church, so I could say I have no confession - but I always greet a priest I meet, no matter what confession he has. People will notice this!

Regards, Hollito