|Subject: Rude locals (was Italy trip)|
Just have to comment on meeting rude locals while in Europe. I know that everyone on this list approaches travel positively. Also, subscribers often give the advice that a few words in the local language will earn much goodwill. Although this is generally true, there are times when it plain does not work.
As one example, in our month-long stay in Locarno on Lake Maggiore in September 2001, we met many several exceedingly rude people. You have to take my word that I am a soft- spoken, polite Canadian who respects other cultures and always brushes up on foreign language before any trip. For this trip I concentrated on learning Italian phrases (Locarno is in the Ticino region on the Swiss-Italian border) and brushed up on German (which I had studied years ago) by taking an evening conversational German course (given that most of Switzerland is German-speaking), plus had French as a fall-back (not being fully bilingual but definitely able to converse in French).
To cut to the chase, the staff in the Locarno train station were distinctly unfriendly at all times. A woman working in Stresa for Navigazione Lago Maggiore (boat company) qualifies as the rudest person I have ever met in 40 years of travel and I cannot imagine how she manages to retain a job. Several waiters in Locarno restaurants bordered on the obnoxious. To my mind none of these people would survive in the tourist industry in North America as I have never met anything in NA that comes close to the lack of customer service shown by these people. Mind you, I have never visited New York. <<8-)
I can only put it down to the fact that September was nearing the end of a busy tourist season. Either that or some Europeans in popular tourist destinations no longer feel it necessary to even try. Come to think of it, it sounds like that's true of Paris judging from some of the posts I have seen on the list. I really appreciate folks who tell it like it is instead of apologizing for poor service and rudeness. There's a Danish fellow on this list who writes hilarious accounts of his travels that sound pretty true to me -wish I could think of his name to offer my kudos for truthful "reporting."
That said, these rude individuals in Locarno and environs were offset by others who were polite and helpful. Just wanted to make the point that when tourists experience extreme rudeness it isn't always because they behave arrogantly or speak only English. Sometimes the locals are plain rude.