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Travel, besides seeing new places, is about understanding a different way of living, of speaking, and interacting with people. After all, these places wouldn’t be the way they are today without the locals who made it happen. Therefore, to be a stranger and to step unto their land is to be let in as a favor, as means of imparting their customs and values in this ever-expanding, globalized world.

That said, being welcomed comes with the unspoken rule of being considerate. In other words, be respectful and mindful of how you conduct yourself in exchange and mannerisms with locals and your surroundings. While it’s true that countries have their specific customs that might clash with others, there still remains some universal ones that are ultimately just common sense. And unfortunately, some people just don’t have that.

Yes, I’m talking about tourists who arrive and have no idea how embarrassing they are. From littering on the streets to demanding a hamburger at a sushi restaurant, these folks have zero self-awareness of their behavior, and they cause locals to resent them, even other visitors. Seriously, I get secondhand embarrassment whenever I encounter a crass tourist on my travels.

I admit, I’ve made some faux pas during my early days of travel. I’m not proud of them, but I’ve actively tried since then to be more mindful of how I act, even do a bit of research on the customs before I go. That said, if tourists are trying to respect these customs, their mistakes can be forgiven. It’s just those who repeatedly make the same blunder that makes me shake my head in disbelief. Harsh as it may sound, it admittedly offers amusing tales to tell.

Hence, I’m sharing with you a few stories of “cringey” tourists I’ve encountered on my travels. These folks made me laugh, shake my head, and overall gave me secondhand embarrassment. Not only are these stories being told for entertainment, but also as a warning sign to, well, not be like them whenever you travel. Don’t be these people, folks!

Don’t Be “That Guy”: Encountering Cringey Tourists (My Experience)

1. London, England (December 2015)

I was in and around Buckingham Palace, and I decided to check out the Royal Mews. Outside of the mews were a couple of British Guards, decked out in their cherry-red uniforms and tall bearskins, on horses. Photos were allowed, and there was a small queue for tourists to do so. There was a woman in her 30s who went up, stood next to the horse, and grabbed the reins as she smiled and posed.

At first, the British guard politely coughed and asked her to “please release the reins,” but when she didn’t (probably didn’t hear him), he got angry, slapped her hands off, and yelled, “LET GO!” The woman was taken back, but honestly, she had it coming. After all, it wasn’t her horse (nor was she going to ride it), so it was tacky of her to think she could grab the reins for a photo. Minor incident, but I felt bad for her, as she was literally chastised in front of a crowd by a British Guard, who are one the most-respectable soldiers in the country. You don’t mess with them!

2. Český Krumlov, Czech Republic (April 2016)

I was on a guided tour around the Old Town, with fifteen other tourists– it’s important to note that the average age of these folks was around 70, and I, being in my early 20s then, was the youngest by far. Majority of us were American, too. These are details, but they’re significant to this story…

Our guide was a middle-aged Czech woman, who was very informative and gave us a lot of history about Český Krumlov. After the guided tour of Old Town ended, she gave us about half an hour to wander Old Town on our own, before we were to reconvene and head up to the castle to continue the visit. She did a quick headcount of us, in order to keep track of how many we were. However, she counted in Czech, and one of the tourists (an older, American woman) mumbled to her friend: “that’s not counting.” Uh…what??

I was dumbfounded at how dumb the statement was– just because the guide wasn’t counting in English doesn’t mean she wasn’t counting! The guide was counting in Czech, because it’s her native language and was comfortable in it. Thankfully, the guide didn’t hear the ungodly ignorant comment, but seriously, I was cringing so hard at that American woman and for the other tourists who heard it, too.

3. Auschwitz, Poland (April 2017)

Now, I have reservations when it comes to visiting sites of tragedy, especially when it has been commercialized for people to come and take photos of it. Yet, at the same time, I do believe they serve a purpose to educate us on past horrors, and to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself. Auschwitz is no exception.

That said, it’s important to be extra-cautious when conducting oneself at these places, to be aware of how and where to take photos. When passing through the main gate of the concentration camp, I saw a woman taking a selfie in front of the gate. Not only that, but she was smiling. Which is something you best not do while visiting a place that literally killed millions of people. I give her the benefit of the doubt, as she probably forgot that this wasn’t, erm, a joyous place to be taking a smiling selfie, but still, it was a HUGE faux pas. Yikes.

4. Auschwitz, Poland (April 2017)

If the woman taking a happy selfie in Auschwitz wasn’t the only cringe-worthy thing I saw, I clearly hadn’t seen enough. I continued my self-guided tour outside of the concentration camps, and onto the grounds where Jews and other “undesirables” were taken off to the gas chambers to be killed. It was an outdoor area with multiple guided tours going on at the same time, telling the tragic history of it all.

One of these tour groups had a small toddler, who clearly had no idea what was going on, nor cared about the historical significance of Auschwitz. He was quite antsy and decided to run around the grounds, yelling, picking up random sticks and throwing them around. He was making a ruckus, and although it was irritating, what made me mad was that his parents were doing nothing to stop him; they were still listening to the tour guide, pretending their son wasn’t there. If this isn’t irresponsible parenting, then I don’t know what is.

5. Tivoli, Italy (December 2017)

My family and I took a day trip to Tivoli during our stay in Rome. We spent the day on a guided tour throughout town, going from villa to villa and admiring their elegance. We ended the visit at the famed Villa d’Este, which is known for its Roman-inspired water fountains and well-manicured hedges.

There were perhaps ten to fifteen of us on the guided tour, including a young, college-aged girl and her father. The girl was clearly very excited to be visiting Tivoli and wanted to have her photo taken at just about every pretty staircase, garden, or painting we passed on our tour. Now, it’s perfectly fine to want your photo taken with a beautiful backdrop, but when you’re asking your father to take a photo of you at every other site AND dragging the tour behind, it does make the other tourists (and tour guide) impatient and annoyed.

What was especially irritating was at the very end of the tour, we had to exit the villa and head back to our bus to head back to Rome. After a long day spent walking everywhere and getting stuffed with Italian history, we were all-too-eager to go back and rest. However, the girl held us back, as she had to do one more glamour shot at one of the villa’s balconies. Or rather, several glamour shots. As her poor father took one photo after another, we were glowering at her, waiting for her to finish her modeling career so that we could return to Rome. Girl, I’m all for getting that photo for Instagram, but really, that was too much…

Have you encountered a cringey tourist (or have been a cringey tourist yourself)? Let me know!

— Rebecca

64 thoughts on “Don’t Be “That Guy”: Encountering Cringey Tourists (My Experience)

  1. Ah Rebecca, this was an amusing read. People… well, that’s all I have to say ha ha. If I can avoid any kind of group tour I will, but of course it’s not always possible. You’re right that we all make mistakes but hopefully live and learn. One of my big regrets is riding an elephant in India when I was in my early 20s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you. Riding an elephant comes with a lot of ethics about wild animals and their treatment. While you may regret that experience, knowing now that it’s unethical and not to do it again is better than remaining unaware and still doing it. It’s a constant learning process!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll admit I forgot to take my hat off upon entering Sacré-Cœur (but I quickly took it off when I realized my mistake) – oops! These stories made me chuckle, especially the last one – and kudos to the photographer-dad for his patience!

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    1. Catching yourself is forgivable, so no problem to that! I believe that girl was unaware of the inconveniences she was causing with our tour, but it was harmless compared to other cringe experiences. I look back and laugh about it today!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Unfortunately, I’ve seen way too many cringe-worthy things that tourists do! One type of traveller I can’t stand the most is the one who can’t enjoy anything about the current country he’s in without comparing it to how things are back home. Rather than basking in a new culture, he needs to constantly remind everyone of how amazing the culture is in his own country. Bureaucracy, cuisine, transportation, traditions, you name it. Understanding cultural etiquette around the world can be a challenge, but it’s a worthwhile task that goes a long way when you’re learning how to be good travellers instead of bad travellers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think Americans (and other Western nations) are guilty of this. Of not appreciating the novelty and preferring to remain in comfort, even while traveling. Not to say that visits must be huge, life-changing events, but at least being open to and accepting cultural differences and customs will really make the trip all the more insightful (and fun!).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, but yikes! I couldn’t help but notice that you had two entries for Auschwitz. The first one I cringed at, but the second one made me pause and think. What if those parents were Jewish? What if this was a statement of survival? We survived as a nation and children are running free in Auschwitz today. Just a thought.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, there’s a big disconnect between history and reality for some people. I don’t blame the kid for being antsy, but I was especially pissed at the parents who clearly had no respect for the site as they let their kid run around like that. If anything, it’s the parents who were the bad tourists!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post, Rebecca. I too have seen cringey tourist and can not believe the blatant rudeness of some. We knew a couple who actually yelled at a hotel receptionist in Greece because dinner did not start until 730 PM. They then went on to complain that the business should cater to Americans and serve dinner at 5pm saying, “What is wrong with you people”. They also had the audacity to complain that all the restaurant served was Greek food and there was no McDonalds nearby!! I was embarrassed to be an American because of another Americans behavior! I love your term, secondhand embarrassment! So appropriate!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The entitlement of some people…honestly, if they wanted McDonald’s, they should’ve just stayed home and not travel! I get that later dinner hours in some countries can be difficult to adjust to (I, too, eat around 5-6pm, and had struggled when I traveled in France and Spain, where dinner didn’t start until at least 7pm), but it’s their culture and it’s important to respect that. If you’re feeling hungry before dinner, a small snack isn’t hard to have!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Exactly! Respecting another country’s culture is so important!! Truly the respectful way to be. As for McDonalds….I don’t eat there in the US and certainly prefer to try other country’s food and specialties!

        Liked by 2 people

  6. I had an experience in Japan that is sort of funny. We had returned to our hotel and the concierge hurried to push the elevator button for us. We gave a slight bow and entered the elevator. She was standing just outside the elevator and bowed again, so I bowed back thus initiating another bow from her. We each bowed several more times until the elevator door shut, which seemed to take forever! I think I should have stopped after the first one and just smiled, but I wasn’t sure what was customary.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m not Japanese, but from what I’ve been told (and read online), bowing several times isn’t considered rude. It must’ve been confusing for the both of you, but very amusing! 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I am also annoyed by Instagram poses that mobilise the best places for too long, but don’t I also have habits that annoy others. Despite the irritation, I force myself to be tolerant, not always easy in the moment 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m all for Instagram poses, but when you’re hogging up time for others to take photos or to continue with sightseeing, that’s unreasonable. I’m not tolerant in those situations, and I make it clear that I’m not pleased! 😂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I know! Even at Auschwitz, the rules and regulations highly discouraged those under 13 years old to visit, as the exhibits can be quite disturbing. Doesn’t stop a few families from bringing their little ones, though, especially those who still can’t understand what’s going on!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I actually cringed reading all of these stories! I have come across many cringy tourists and had that second hand embarrassment. I especially get this embarrassment when it’s British tourists, we don’t exactly have the best reputation when it comes to tourism 😏

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’m getting second hand embarrassment from reading these. I also saw people and groups taking selfies at Auschwitz smiling and I thought that this was not the place to be taking these kinds of photos! One of the joy’s of travel is encountering all of these. I was once in a group tour in India with someone who kept complaining they couldn’t eat spicy food…..perhaps it wasn’t the best destination to pick!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I wonder why that person would go to India if they can’t handle spicy food…I’m sure there are some Indian dishes which aren’t spicy, but best of luck finding them! 😆

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  10. Yes traveling around is fine. I see some people taking selfies in Auschwitz.it is such a horrendous area. I saw many tourists walking around throwing junk on the streets 😳 and some were talking loud in museums . Thanks for sharing this Rebecca.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some people have no respect, and that’s truly unfortunate. Best one can do is not to do the same when traveling. Thanks for reading and commenting, Anita!

      Like

  11. I remember in Japan a hotel staff refusing the tip being handed to him by a couple and handed the tip back. I understand their intentions were good, but maybe they could have done a bit of research first.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha, my dad made the same error when we visited Japan! Given that countries like the US and Canada have tipping culture so ingrained into society, I don’t blame them (i.e. Americans/Canadians) from wanting to show gratitude overseas– even if it’s not customary!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That was an eye opener for me so learning about the acceptable tips is one thing I keep reminding myself to do. I’ve been told by wait staff what’s the customary % in a recent trip abroad 😬

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  12. Love this collection of stories – far too common, the Auschwitz selfie makes me cringe so much.
    I live in a little village which has become ‘Insta-famous’ – literally every nice weather day there are dozens of women in dresses posing down my street. They do a shoot and drive off – they don’t explore the village beyond the famous house, or buy anything in the local shops.
    My worst story was when I was at Windsor Castle and an American guy was moaning that there was no cardboard cutout of the Queen to pose with and no rides.
    Ah the joys of travel!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a shame: tourists who come to your village are really missing out on the place itself. There’s more to a site than just a postcard-worthy photo! And even I was feeling secondhand embarrassment at the American guy you encountered at Windsor!

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  13. In Peru with my 13 year old daughters for an extended trekking tour. I was telling a Peruvian near Cusco how to tell an American from a Canadian, and imitated the American by talking very loudly.

    Two weeks later, we are in Arequipa, when a load of American tourists come to our boutique hotel with a large lawn. The Americans are talking so loudly, that the other guests have to raise THEIR voices to have a private conversation.

    JUST when the Americans have a lull in their talking, my daughter asks (very loudly because we had to in order to hear each other) “Mom – are they Americans because they are talking so loudly?”

    Silence…from the entire courtyard.

    “Why yes Kayla, they are American.”

    What could I say? They were indeed Americans acting like typical Americans.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry you encountered some loud Americans on your travels: we are notorious for being loud, as it’s part of our culture. However, I wonder why you had to imitate us in order to get your point across? You could also just have asked the American tourists to lower their voices instead of doing nothing, but getting passive aggressive. Maybe it’s because I am American and maybe I’m being too sensitive, but you also have to understand that we cannot generalize all American tourists as being loud and brash, let alone disparage them. Some just aren’t aware of their loud behavior, and we would happily oblige to lower our voices when asked (and apologize, of course!).

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      1. I think you misunderstood. I imitated a typical American AT ANOTHER TIME so that the Peruvian could see the difference between a Canadian and an American. It wasn’t passive aggressive, it was the easiest way to get the point across when dealing with limited language on both sides – his English wasn’t great and my Spanish was lacking.

        The *joke* was that my daughter said that out loud, when the Americans could easily hear her. If anything, the Americans thought it was funny. They were not oblivious to the situation and their loudness. As a Canadian, to be in the limelight, so to speak, is a big deal for us. We don’t normally seek it out. It was more embarrassing for me than the Americans.

        I am actually a tour guide at a major Canadian ski hill, and believe me, we get a LOT of tourists from all over the world, including every single state in the US. I quite like our southern neighbours. Some are very loud and opinionated, and will blame Canada for all kids of things like hail or other natural weather events. Others are super sweet, and come back to visit me every year.

        This year, I had one guy from New Jersey almost break down in tears because he missed coming to my mountains to ski for two years over Covid.

        So chill!

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  14. Even though I also cringed a bit just reading your stories, it was a very amusing post! I know that I don’t like to “look as a tourist” whenever I travel because I don’t want people to think that I am an obnoxious tourist who will be in complete disregard of that country’s culture! I have encountered many of these cringey tourists and I have probably done many faux-pas abroad, but sometimes it is just a matter of respect!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My rule of thumb is lay low and keep to myself when I travel, to take as least time as possible when I stop to take photos (as to allow others their turn) and to always say “thank you” at service spots (e.g. restaurants, bakeries, etc). There are some common courtesies that are universal, but it’s surprising that sometimes tourists, even we, forget!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. While I think it can be tacky to take selfies in certain situations, the worst is to be just as bad and photobomb. I wouldn’t personally do that, but I will definitely frown to show them that I’m judging them!

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  15. Yikes, these are so bad. I’ve seen other examples too of inappropriate photos taken at concentration camps and I always cringe. I know I’m not the most experienced world traveler but I hope I’ve never done something this bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Even if you’ve made some faux pas during past travels, acknowledging and learning from them are a whole lot better than to be completely unaware or ignorant of your actions! I’m sure you do just fine, though. 🙂

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  16. Oh I’ve definitely witnessed a few similar incidents! I’ve seen someone get yelled at by the guards at Buckingham Palace too lol. That toddler would have driven me nuts (or at least the parents), what a place to let your kid act up. The smiling selfies at places like Auschwitz really annoy me too, literally zero self-awareness!!

    The whole taking millions of photos thing is so common now – I get it to an extent, but watching people set up for 10 minute photoshoots right in the centre of the scene when you just want to get a quick photo is infuriating!

    I think my worst one was the car that pulled up behind us when we stopped to let a bison cross the road in Yellowstone, and one of the girls literally jumped out screaming “BISON SELFIE!!!” ?????????? I just don’t get how you can be *that* stupid?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I winced at “bison selfie;” so funny, but so cringe at the same time. I’d like to think people have some sort of self-awareness in certain situations, but I guess not! 😂

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