You board an international flight, smile at the thought of a relaxed, well-deserved break and close your eyes as you await take-off. Your peace is shattered in seconds, thanks to a bunch of loud, aggressive co-passengers. From fighting for space to stove their cabin luggage in the overhead compartment to asking for exchange of seats, they literally demand attention. There's no respite from the cacophony until you reach your destination. Sounds familiar? Indian tourists are perceived to be lacking in etiquette, so much so that several travel agencies hand out a list of dos and don'ts along with tour itineraries.
Entrepreneur and frequent traveller Puja Sahney is not surprised. “The behaviour of a section of Indian tourists has come in for criticism in Europe and South East Asia. I have visited Thailand at least seven times and with each visit, I notice how Thai nationals are increasingly hostile towards Indians. We have brought this on ourselves. It's embarrassing when a hotel manager tells you that it takes the house keeping staff 40 to 45 minutes to clean a room vacated by Indians as against 17-20 minutes for others.”
Agrees MNC employee Praveen Kumar and adds, “I have seen fellow passengers steal airline cutlery and even tissues from washrooms. It's embarrassing to say the least. Calling out for the airline stewards instead of sounding the alarm provided shows us in bad light.”
Jumping the queue while waiting for the taxi, taking photographs of women on the beach, littering the streets and fussing over the food served are some of the common complaints. Tour operators also have to deal with the lack of punctuality. Avid traveller and owner of Travel Channel, Shalini Nakanna points out, “Tour operators are sticklers for time. On some occasions, I have seen European tour operators leaving behind a few Indian tourists and moving on with the tour. Knowing Indian tourists, South East Asian nations reluctantly wait during group tours.”
This apart, Puja feels that the lack of etiquette, to a certain extent, stems from the demographic profile of travellers. “It's cost effective to travel to South East Asian nations, Thailand and Malaysia in particular. For some travellers, it's their first international visit and they tend to take the open nature of society in these nations for granted,” she says. The hostility towards Indians in massage parlours, for instance, explains this phenomenon.
If the behaviour of some travellers is painting a dirty picture of Indian tourists as a whole, take heart. We are not alone. In a recent survey done in the US by the online business portal LivingSocial, Americans felt the US traveller tops the list of rude travellers and 20 per cent of respondents admitted to stealing towels in hotels.
Nevertheless, a clean-up act remains high on priority list for the average Indian traveller.
Clean up your act
Talking loudly so as to announce your presence half a mile away is not cool.
At a buffet table, respect the queue and await your turn. Do not eat standing near the buffet.
Don't invite trouble by taking photographs of foreigners sunbathing on a beach.
Don't litter the streets. Use recycle bins.
Leave your hotel room and washroom in a tidy condition. Stealing towels and toiletries show Indian tourists in a deplorable condition.