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Does the polite traveller still exist?

Never Ending Honeymoon | Backpacking

While some people might think that being a polite traveller (or polite at all) is insincere and humbug, I’m a true believer that being a polite traveller is simply considerate and respectful. Just like booking flights and packing underwear, I believe that being courteous and polite are essential for every traveller.

Polite (adj.): showing consideration for others, tact, and observance of accepted social usage.

People tend to laugh at me a lot.  It’s usually because I’m recounting our latest adventure; a tale of broken feet and stolen passports in Paris, our ‘The Hangover’ style weekend in Vegas, or that time I dropped my phone in the toilet. Either way, I seem to be the source of amusement to people I meet around the globe.

This is not something that I usually mind, but when a few fellow Aussies laughed at me for saying ‘thank you’ to the bus driver I was amazed. The driver hadn’t done anything to deserve my thanks and was particularly grumpy, but I like to think that it would brighten her day just a little.

Then I read an article that claimed to have sent out under cover reporters to 35 countries to assess the politeness in their biggest cities. London and Paris were tied for 15th place in the most courteous list of countries and Auckland, New Zealand, was ranked seventh. Deservedly and not surprisingly, New York was ranked number one on the list. But, where was my home country, Australia?

Regrettably, Sydney was tied with Milan as number 24 on the LEAST courteous list, lumped in with the likes of Bangkok, Amsterdam and Montreal.  It made me sad. I like to think that my fellow Aussies are always courteous and that old-fashioned customer service part of our friendly, laidback life-style.

Perhaps the undercover reporters have never been to Brisbane? Or, maybe I think too highly of my fellow Aussies?

Suddenly, thanking a grumpy bus driver in the middle of London is laughable to other Australians. It got me to thinking about general lack of polite travellers in the world and the reasons why some people are more courteous than others. What is it that makes up a polite traveller?

Here are eight reasons I always try  to be polite traveller wherever I go:

1. To represent. As a regular traveller and proud Aussie, I like to promote the relaxed and friendly image of Australia by being polite and courteous with a smile. And hopefully this will also help extinguish the “drunk-Aussie” image that seems to resonate across the globe.

2. To respect others. When I visit another country and meet it’s people, I’m drawn to explore it’s culture and see it’s sights. I’m not there to trash it and disrespect it. So, investigating the cultural norms of your destination is always part of our travel planning.

3. For the good karma. And let us be honest, we all need a little bit of good karma.

4. To keep the peace. While confrontation and disagreement are good for improvement and progress, there are ways of being honest and critical while being sincere.  There is no reason for being mean.

5. It was the way I was raised and I’m proud of it. I’m sure that we have all had the experience of being in a restaurant or shop when a child is being completely vile to their parents or other customers and you just stand back and blame the parents. Well… who else do you blame?

6. Being polite will get you ahead. Being polite to your boss or team members at work will make you stand out in a positive light. Being polite to the bar staff at the pub could get you served first on your next visit to the bar. Being a polite traveller to the other customers at the local bakery could get you an extra roll in your baker’s dozen. And, being polite traveller to other public transport users means that they might help you push your way on at peak hour. Either way, it’s an easy way to get ahead.

7. You might make someone’s day. Have you ever been in that situation when you are angry at the world, at your boss, your partner, your brother or the person on the street who bumped into you? Sometimes a compliment, someone letting you cut the queue, or someone helping you pick something off the floor is all that you need to make your day a little better. Why not pass on the politeness and make someone else’s day?

8. It’s free. Being polite and considerate towards your fellow human being costs absolutely nothing and the rewards could be endless. That sounds like the type of investment that I want to make!



First Published on: Oct 30, 2012 @22.28 #12monthhoneymoon

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1 Comment

  • avatar
    09/03/2017 at 8:57 am

    1) yes2) Antigua, Anguilla, Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, US (over 30 states), Canada, UK (SaiIland/trelcnd/Gobraltar/England), France, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Macau, Costa Rica (Home)3) Very very curious about Australia but can’t say ‘live there’ until I spend a lot of time there of course4) Of course5) Yes but probably won’t, trying to save as much as possible6) Hong Kong was very nice, London full of stuff to do (but if I lived there I would be very busy merely trying to come up with enough money to pay those outrageous prices)

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