Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Perspectives on Tour Guides

One thing the wife and I have in common is that we tend to breeze through tourist sites quickly. We see it, we appreciate it, we move on. We tend to operate best without a tour guide. That's not to say I'm not interested in the history and the story, it's just that I'd rather read about it in a book than have some long-winded guide try and prove he's smarter than me (which is quite likely the case). If I get a tour guide, that tour guide really has three jobs:
  1. Read my non-verbals. I'm not a terribly complex person. When I'm done listening, you'll know. When I'm done listening, stop talking.
  2. Keep me away from emporiums. I hate emporiums. In fact, 99% of foreign tourists hate emporiums. If a foreign tourist is at their second emporium and still pretending to watch whatever handicraft is being produced, they're being polite and don't realize it's perfectly acceptable to act obnoxiously to the tour guide.
  3. Take good pictures. This is what 99% of tourists really want; a good picture to take home. If you're a tour guide and you're not taking good pictures, I guarantee it's impacting your total income. Note, more on this in a later post (as a hint, I'm reviewing the archives for my best bad shots).

It had been a while since I had been around a person that felt differently about tour guides. Then Lindsay's friend Melissa came to India. Did she have questions? You would have thought someone had assigned her a research paper on the familial lineage of the mahanranas of Udaipur. The picture below, taken at the end of a tour through Udaipur's City Palace, clearly shows our respective attitudes toward the guide:
  • Melissa is still intently listening to the guide (her smile was genuine), hoping to soak up every last morsel of information about this wondrous place
  • Jeremy, her husband, can be seen simply appreciating the fact that Melissa is enjoying herself. 
  • Lindsay is in the background, eagerly plotting out the rest of our day, having completely tuned out the guide within the first 8 minutes of the tour.
  • And finally, there's me, entertaining myself by taking pictures of the entire situation, also having tuned out the guide.

Part of me thinks it's a bad thing that I've lost some semblance of curiosity about this country; part of me thinks people just value different parts of travel. Regardless, it was refreshing to see Melissa's enthusiasm to engage with the guide rather than to simply tolerate the guide, as had been the case for me lately. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess it was a better time for the guide as well. 

1 comment:

  1. I recall when I went to India for first time to see one of my best friends, I noticed there is a huge cultural difference, but I had a nice time and visited beautiful places!