We’re not tourists, darling, we’re not like them…

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Today I read a fantastic blog about Jane Austen and reputation. It sparked off a tangent in my head. I started thinking about women whom Austen would describe as being of independent means, with a tolerable mind, but nonetheless victims of the craving for romance and excitement. How would they look today? Like me, really. This is the post they inspired.

We’re Not Tourists, Darling, We’re Not Like Them….

A tourist never identifies with the label ‘tourist.’

In our minds, we’re a local. Well if we’re not quite locals, we’re at least Experienced Travellers. We know the real country. We’re not one of those tourists. Not one of the burned and blubbery masses, drinking imported beer on the beach.

To convince ourselves we hear the real beating heart of the country, we experiment with ways of being local.  I discovered the funniest manifestation of this: the Sri Lankan beach boy/rich white women coupling.

White, pretentious young things like me always want to get with foreign guys when we travel. It makes us feel like we’re really experiencing local culture. Plus it’s exotic! Refreshing! Culturally sensitive!

We probably shouldn’t do it. But we do. And it’s hilarious to watch.

I’m in a beach town at the moment. It’s a place full of white women in ethnic prints, and mandatory French fries with every meal. I like it though. It’s an urban safari where my Sri Lankan friends point out the beach boy phenomenon.

The beach boy is a manifestation of the ‘getting local’ game.

Sri Lankan friends explained its’ a running Lankan joke about foreigners. What happens is that women of independent means, as Austen would say, come on holiday here. To continue ‘getting local’ game, they hook up with beach combing Sri Lankan guys.

The girls think they’re getting with a Real Local…But, as my friend put it real locals don’t live in places that advertise 10 gelato flavours.

The guys get women with cash, libido and interest in them. I can see why they’d do it.

Admittedly this is a jokey stereotype, and I’m sure a number of these couplings are true love. But today I’ve seen three 50 ish spherical white women making out with a gorgeous Sri Lankan twenty somethings.

Some sly voice in my head, that sounds uncannily like my Dad, says she’s there for the exoticism, he’s in it for the Mastercard.

Now I don’t care who hooks up with who. But it’s funny the extremes we white girls go to.

We buy apparently Sri Lankan things, which we show to our non Sri Lankan friends, as proof that we have experienced the real Sri Lanka. (Can I just ask how many actual Lankans you see wearing anklets and elephant print purple harem pants?)

The local guy is the next thing we collect as proof that we’ve done Sri Lanka, man.

And watching myself, and people like me, with  our silly games and exotic fantasies is hilarious. No wonder Sri Lankans are so happy and friendly; they’re laughing at the comedy of White Woman on Exotic Holiday. 

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2 thoughts on “We’re not tourists, darling, we’re not like them…

  1. I laughed as I read this post, imagining the shrewd, witty observations Jane Austen would write about the “50 ish spherical white women making out with gorgeous Sri Lankan twenty somethings”. She would certainly be amused. 🙂

    Although one can never truly acquire another culture (no matter how much I tried, I could never become Sri Lankan or Australian or Greek), I think it is possible to ‘adopt’ a culture by really immersing yourself in it. The best way to do that, in my opinion, is to thoroughly learn the language of the place. I speak Spanish and it is so rewarding to talk with Spanish people in their own language, rather than resorting to English. But to some degree, I guess one will always be an outsider in a different culture.

    • Thanks so much, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I agree, I think understanding the language is certainly the way to beginning to understand a culture. To get involved you have to start speaking it. The actual mechanics of the language, what words are chosen etc, reveal cultural aspects. For instance, someone told me that when the Japanese express happiness they talk about it in a plural sense, to include the feelings of others they care about. As opposed to when Westerners do it; they refer to their personal happiness. So yeah, language can really show us exactly how different our cultures can be! (Although I don’t know if that’s true, someone just told me!)

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