I remember one day at a museum in Helsinki cringing over the antics of two stereotypical brash American tourists. First of all, you have to understand, 99% of the people in Finland speak English. Many even speak it with better grammar than a good portion of Americans. But apparently when these two had stopped someone on the street to ask for directions, they found one person who couldn’t understand them.
Eventually they found this museum that they had been seeking, and proceeded – while wandering around an almost silent exhibit room – to complain in booming voices about how rude it is that people don’t bother to learn English. How did Finland expect to attract tourists if they couldn’t even manage the simple common courtesy of speaking their language?! I winced in embarrassment as the various Finnish people in the room – who quite clearly understood every word – glared at the obnoxious couple.
At the time I was there with a group of four Brits, who all looked at me while biting their tongues to stifle their laughter. I felt compelled to whisper, “I sincerely apologize on behalf of all my countrymen.” I wanted to go up to the two tourists who were giving all Americans a bad name and ask if they’d bothered to learn any Finnish words before traveling to Finland, but as a somewhat more easily intimidated 23-year-old I didn’t quite have the nerve.
Anyway, thinking about this story made me curious about other stupid tourists out there in the world, and after several hilarious Google searches I found there are lots of them, many way worse than those two I encountered in Finland.
So, without further ado, here are 20 of the stupidest tourist questions and comments I found:
These first four were complaints made to travel agents:
1. “Topless sunbathing on the beach should be banned. The holiday was ruined as my husband spent all day looking at other women.”
2. “No one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled.”
3. My fiance and I booked a twin-bedded room but we were placed in a double-bedded room. We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find myself pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked.”
4. “It’s lazy of the local shopkeepers to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during ‘siesta’ time – this should be banned.”
Then there are the stupid questions/comments made to tour operators and workers – and some of the brilliant, pithy replies:
5. Asked in the Florida Keys: “Are the gay people real or are they actors?” (No, it’s like Disney world. We give them costumes at the start of their shift).
6. A woman said to a black man working at a bar in England: “I didn’t know there were British African Americans.”
Four questions emailed to the Australia Tourist Board:
7. “Which direction is North in Australia?” (Face south then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we’ll send the rest of the directions).
8. “Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia?”
“A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe. Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not… Oh, forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.”
9. “Can you send me the Vienna Boys’ Choir schedule?”
“Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Germany, which is… Oh, forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.”
10. “Will I be able to speak English most places I go [in Australia]?” (Yes, but you’ll have to learn it first).
Some questions that show just how well Americans understand our friends across the pond in England and Scotland:
11. “Are there any lakes in the Lake District?”
12. “In what month is the May Day demonstration?”
13. “Why on earth did they build Windsor Castle on the flight path of Heathrow?”
14. “Why did they build so many ruined castles and abbeys in England?”
15. “What time of night does the Loch Ness monster surface and who feeds it?”
And finally, within the U.S. itself, at our lovely national parks:
16. At the Grand Canyon: “Was this man-made?” “Is there an elevator to the bottom?” and “Is the mule ride air-conditioned?”
17. At Mesa Verde National Park: “Do you know of any undiscovered ruins?” “Did people build this or did the Indians?” and “Why did they build the ruins so close to the road?”
18. At Everglades National Park: “Are the alligators real?” and “Are the baby alligators for sale?”
19. At Yosemite National Park: “What time of year do you turn on Yosemite Falls?” and “What happened to the other half of Half Dome?”
20. At Denali National Park: “What time do you feed the bears?” and “How often do you mow the tundra?”
Last, but not least, one extra one (my personal favorite) thrown in:
21. A woman threatened to call the police after claiming that she’d been locked in by staff. It turned out she had mistaken the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the back of the door as a warning to remain in the room.