How hospitality in tourism can be delusional to a traveler
As I upload photos from my new destination, and write-up the first post for next week I just realized something. I’m coming face to face with a lot of new faces with old problems solved.
One of them is about who can you trust when you travel? Not trust in the sense of life and death, but trust as in friendships; be they temporary or long-term. I thought writing out my past mistakes and lessons learned might remind me about this, and maybe give readers here some insight for their own plans.
All those happy faces?
Smiles and travel go hand in hand. Smile at the receptionist. Wave at the housekeeper. Make a joke with the security guard or taxi driver. It’s nice to be smiled at, and to smile back at people.
We do it automatically. It’s courteous, and rewarding. It can open many doors, and makes the world a better place.
But, there is also something called too much of a good thing.
If you are a short-term, once a year traveler, you may not get this article.
If you are traveling long-term, make friends when living overseas, travel on a budget, or trying to make friends as you travel read on …
The value of a friendly smile for the tourist
I won’t go into this too much. We all know about a good smile. We all know about the fake smile of courtesy served by many a hotel or recreational service around the world.
Some smiles are good, others fake, others just for business.
No, I am writing about when you smile too much and become an unknown target.
Smiling nice guys finish last … with a frown
When traveling long-term or living overseas you’ll no doubt end up staying somewhere for a while you like. You’ll be trying to make friends with people in the same area as you. And, you’ll get to know the staff well where you are staying pretty well too.
No point in being grouchy to the receptionist when you know they are the key to making sure housekeeping arrive on time. The hot water works. Your laundry arrives on time. And, will happily tell you all the tips of the town you are in.
Yes, being friendly to the receptionist works.
However, you can over do the smiles and end up being taken advantage of.
House keeps, security guards, maintenance, and staff are not your friends
You don’t know many people. So it makes sense to say hello to the housekeeper and jest in a friendly manner. Or have a joke with the security guard. You pull back a little when you realize that maybe they don’t speak your language so well. They still laugh and smile though, so everything must be alright.
The truth is though, they see thousands like you every year. They are cleaning your mess, and standing around all day watching you enjoy yourself.
What’s more, every other tourist is asking the same thing and making the same jokes.
But, you are different and go the extra mile. Now they give you a big wave and smile every morning. The hand of friendship has been extended by you.
It’s now the problems start to occur.
Friendship vs performance in tourism and travel
The house keeper arrives and makes conversation. You are curious and want to make friends. Maybe they will do a better job and give you an insight into life in the country.
They talk a little. Probably about how hard life is there. They do their job and leave. Smiles and waves all around. Then, one day they don’t show up.
At around the same time the maintenance are meant to fix something for you but you notice them taking their sweet time about it.
You ask again as if they were a friend letting you down. Sure enough they eventually come.
But, the longer you stay, the worse it can get.
Personal experience with the smiling friendship approach versus all business
I’ve tried the all smiles and friendships with everyone approach, long-term. And, the less smiles, no friendships all business approach. What’s more, I’ve done both at the same accommodation. At different times of the year, with different staff.
Without doubt, sadly, the less smiles, no friendships all business approach worked a lot better.
The “let’s be friends” approach resulted in more frustration and loss than anything else. One by one items of my “branded” laundry went missing. To the point that the manager had the staff come to my room to apologize.
“The problem was, the staff were laughing and smiling as if I was their best forgiving friend.”
Some would say it was the culture that forced the laughing smiles or nerves. I know better.
The all serious approach
Previously I had taken no time to get to know the staff other than the manager. I was not interested, and too busy to chat with anyone. I never had a problem. The few times minor things happened, I let loose some vented rage at the manager. And, the problem was solved.
The all smiles, be friends with everyone, approach simply instills a false sense of friendship and value in the situation for you. To others it’s a sign that you have let down your defenses. Don’t forget, the hospitality industry whether in a developed or undeveloped country is trained to smile and be friendly.
Is there a middle ground to smiles in tourism, travel and friendships overseas?
Yes, it’s called respect.
The hotel manager and head receptionist are the real keys. Many staff in developing countries are paid a low wage, and are only employed for 6 months at a time to avoid government benefit payouts.
Respect all and be courteous. Throw the odd joke and smile at the manager or head receptionist to show you are human. These are the people you need when the other staff go awry.
Making friends with housekeepers, maintenance and security seems to have more negative effects than positive. Smile, but don’t smile too much. Show respect, but don’t get personal. It could well backfire on you.
Short term vs long-term travel friendships
I freely admit to sighing a huge relief when I walk into a “branded” coffee store. Hands go up, and people wave hello. They know me by name, and even know what I drink. It is nice. But, they will not become my real friends. The truth is, this would be very rare.
No matter how lonely you get in a new country or on the road traveling – remember that people working in these places see thousands like you monthly. It’s their job to be friendly. Don’t confuse this with friendship,
You will be gone soon. They know this. No harm in being friendly while you are here, it can even open small doors. Just remember if you take it too far and rely on this; it may come back to bite you.
Show respect, and you’ll have a much better time. Find friendships away from where you are paying for things.
This is my experience, maybe you’ve had the same or disagree.
This is an additional article on travel and life overseas to help others and serve as a reminder in this journey
Next week … first journal from a new country …