Love Your Neighbor Whether You’re a Tourist or a Native

You know how Parisians have a reputation for being nasty, especially to tourists?

Maybe it’s partly because tourists are nasty. 

I hate to admit, I can really, really identify with American-disdaining Parisians. I, myself, struggle with being an American-disdaining Greenporter.

by Claudio’s dock, Greenport, Long Island, New York

My town has, in the last decade or so, become a destination for vacationers and day-trippers. There’s a bus that runs between here and New York City, and something like 30% of the homes in this town are 2nd homes–vacation homes. I joke that our town is like Main Street, USA, in Disney World, except it’s real.

It’s cute, my town–there’s a downtown with actual shops and restaurants that are not Big Boxes or chains. There are cafes that are not Starbucks. There’s an adorable carousel, waterfront parks, docks, and more.

Antique Carousel, Mitchell Park, Greenport, Long Island, New York

As much as I’m thankful that the steady flow of tourists makes for a steady flow of $$$ into the community, I have to admit that it’s a struggle for me to love the tourists as myself, because while the majority of tourists are inoffensive, even pleasant, those who are clearly identifiable as tourists are often quite annoying. I will call the tourists that annoy me “clearly identifiable tourists,” or “CI tourists.”

Here’s my petulant little list of grievances:

  • CI tourists often ignore crosswalks and step into the street without looking
  • CI tourists are often loudly drunk at very late hours
  • CI tourists litter on and pee in the hedges
  • CI tourists walk the sidewalks at a snail’s pace and don’t make room for strollers or people–they don’t seem to look around.
  • CI tourists are loud and demanding in the grocery store. Once I heard one of them complain that ‘local people’ should get their shopping done during the week. More than once I have watched them torment the cashiers with utter nonsense.
  • CI tourists peer over the hedges and remark loudly about what is going on, as if I and my family are part of the entertainment.

Basically, my grievances can be summed up thusly:

  • Tourists don’t see themselves as neighbors for the time that they’re here.

I love to be asked directions. I love to give recommendations about where to go, where to eat, and what to do in my town. I’m happy to help a tourist find a public bathroom. I try to treat the tourists the way I like to be treated when I’m a tourist.

Stirling Harbor, Greenport, Long Island, New York

And so I kind of resent it when tourists treat me and my community members consumptively–as if everything and everyone is there for their pleasure, full stop.

As we make our way into vacation season, consider what it means to be a good neighbor wherever you are–being a good neighbor doesn’t depend on being in your neighborhood, and it’s easy to forget, when we’re on vacation, that everyone we meet is not a cruise director or a Disney ‘cast member,’ but an ordinary person just trying to go about her day.

Webb St. Station Miniature Railroad, Greenport, Long Island, NY

They’re people like us, and nobody wants to be part of the scenery. Right?

If you live in a vacation destination, what has your experience of tourists been like?

Any thoughts on why (or whether) it’s easier to be a bad neighbor on vacation?


2 thoughts on “Love Your Neighbor Whether You’re a Tourist or a Native

  1. Good job, Rachel, on a subject most people would not think anywhere near as carefully on.

    Our town is not a tourist destination, but it has many of the same phenomena you mention. We live in a college town. It’s got 65,000 people living in about 10 sq. miles within the city limits, and the students number about 32,000.

    This is the time of year my wife starts commenting happily, “Soon the children will go home!” Then in September as the college student numbers increase she says, “Oh no, the children are back.” The CI students do every single thing on your list of petulant grievances except complain that locals should shop at times the students are not shopping (then again, we’ve learned when students are most likely to be in the grocery store and avoid those times).

    Are most of the students great to have around? Yes, and we appreciate the many wonderful advantages of living in a town with a major research university. We even have a number of churches that specifically minister to these students who come to our community for a few short years, and my wife and I have supported and taken part in these types of ministries for years.

    But we also have CI students who fail to recognize that they are now our neighbors and not merely visitors gracing us with their presence. Thanks for the reminder that I need to view even the CI students as my neighbors as well.


    P.S. Greenport looks like a great place to vacation. Maybe my wife and I will be tourists there some day so we can watch the locals put on a show for us!

    P.P.S. Those awesome pics of your adorable son enjoying the local treats does nothing to discourage people from wanting to visit, you know.

  2. This post made me giggle. People are surprized to hear it, but Grand Forks, North Dakota is a tourist town in its way – it’s a major shopping destination for some Canadian territories. I’ve long fantasized that, if I were ever given the forum, I would tell the world about the evil-doings of “Manitobans” in Grand Forks, and it would be very cathartic. It might seem petty to some people, but dealing with people who treat your home as a non-space starts to wear on a person after awhile!

Please Join the Conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s