Friday, April 06, 2007

Service with a snarl

I am holiday with my family at the moment. We decided to push the boat out and do the tourist thing. So we are staying in some beautiful apartments right on the beach on the east coast of Majorca (or Mallorca, of you prefer - it´s the same thing).

When I told a colleague where we had booked, he said that this was the part of the island favoured by Germans. He wasn´t wrong. The service staff at the hotels and shops all have German as their second language. We were warned that we would receive bad service if we were thought to be English - apparently English holiday makers have a bad reputation abroad. This proved true, too. After one night of incredible rudeness, and an accusation of shoplifting, we decided to set people straight. When asked if we are English, we now say, "No, but we can speak the language." This then gives rise to a major curiosity about our heritage, and how did a Swedish man and a South African woman (a) meet and marry and (b) wind up living in England? We have been treated wonderfully well and declared a "very nice family" by several people. We have been given free gifts and all sorts of perks.

Isn´t it weird? We are the same people who were thought to be so deplorable on that first night. We haven´t changed, but the attitudes of the people we meet couldn´t be more different - simply because we are not English. It would be interesting to do a survey on how people´s attitudes are formed and to what extent they are justified. When I think of the English people I know, it seems totally off.

For now, I´m enjoying the sun and the sea, oh and the food and the cocktails...


Anonymous said...

There are a lot of stereotypes about the nationality of travellers. Many people didn't believe I was Australian while I was in Africa and Europe! I must have had the accent wrong or drank less beer than they expected.

My recollection is that Americans, Germans, English and Australians had the worst reputations, often undeserved.

People from smaller countries like New Zealand, Switzerland and Luxembourg have it easy!

Enjoy your holiday.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how different nationalities get the bad raps. I have found that being Canadian is very positive and we have had nothing but positive experiences in our travels. It is unfortunate that all people get painted with the same paintbrush. Too bad their wasn't a way past such things.
I'm not sure if coming from a smaller country, as Michael suggests, have it easier. I find that your experience is typical where people have experienced a number of bad experiences and then a cycle of bad experiences sets in.
For you, it worked out. So enjoy the time away. I sure am.

Anonymous said...

Interesting observations. It has to be said, though, that some English people abroad do behave badly (think football fans), and some of the English people I spoke to about this, said that they switch to a second language when abroad (those who speak a second language that is - in common with so many English speaking countries there are not many of those about), so as not to be associated with other Brits. They also deliberately avoid holiday spots popular with their countrymen. A sad indictment, but perhaps it only proves that the stereotyping extends to compatriots.