You are reading

Don’t Confuse Me With the Rest of My People!

Don’t Confuse Me With the Rest of My People!

  • Culture
  • Life

We all travel, to some extent, to get away from our home lives. To be occasionally free of friends, colleagues, family and our own people can be strangely refreshing and liberating.

Unfortunately, we’re never truly free of our fellow countrymen. From Stockholm to Hanoi, I’ve bumped into Singaporeans on every trip I’ve ever taken overseas.

Yes, globalisation is great. Sometimes, it sucks too. And as I write this in the airport waiting for my flight home after a long weekend trip, I’m recalling that video of a Shanghainese woman’s rant that made its rounds on social media a few weeks ago. In it, she ripped into fellow Chinese tourists for not respecting the Thai beach they were visiting.

Now imagine this: You’re at the boarding gate at the airport waiting for your flight home. An announcement is made for rows 25 to 49 to board. All of a sudden, every Singaporean present rushes to join the queue, regardless of their seat number, resulting in very irritated ushers who have to tell them to wait their turn.

This happens all the time. And you know they’re Singaporean because the complaints you hear following their rejection is always the same, “Why can’t they let us board? Isn’t it already our turn to board? Why must wait so long to board? Why can’t we all board at the same time?”

As they shuffle past you, you avert your eyes while hurriedly putting your bright red passport away, careful to ensure you do not appear guilty by association.

Of course, this is mild in comparison to tourists insisting on their right to pillage a beach of its natural landmarks. At the same time, there’s no denying that a kind of universal resentment exists in watching people from home not having their shit together.

From backpackers going nude at religious sites to tourists getting drunk and manhandling local wildlife, everyday someone out there is reading an article that’s gone viral and begging silently, “Please please please stop telling everyone that this is what we’re all like!”

We sneer at tour groups and the inauthenticity of their safe bubbles of familiar faces, voices and contrived itineraries. We forget that everyone has a right to decide the kind of traveling experience they want for themselves.

When we read articles about Chinese passengers trying to force open plane doors mid-flight, it’s easy to think of embarrassing behaviour as provincial or limited only to baby boomers and Gen X-ers. We get self-righteous in our millennial embarrassment.

What we don’t realise is, millennials can be just as entitled as Gen X-ers are anxious or ignorant. It is precisely because we think we’re chill, because we think we lead lives that go against mainstream paranoia that we become intolerant of the diversity of holiday experiences.

For a lot of today’s young adults, encountering travellers from home while on holiday tends to invoke the same annoyance—“Seriously, what does it take to get away from these people!”

We sneer at tour groups and the inauthenticity of their safe bubbles of familiar faces, voices and contrived itineraries. We forget that everyone has a right to decide the kind of traveling experience they want for themselves.

Sometimes, we think we know how we behave back home, how we make unreasonable demands of well-meaning service staff and how we can all be insular, dismissive and entitled. And so we avoid the flat, sing-song lilt of our own accents wherever we go.

Except, of course, there are always those who manage to acquire a British accent after just two days in Melbourne.

Jokes aside, traveling is a luxury, and few do it often enough to understand what’s allowed or what’s available. Flights can be scary and nerve-wrecking when a lot of us take them only several times our entire lives. Regardless of how impatient or confused people seem, most people are just doing their best.

As for the rest, the ones who are selfish, insensitive and cocky, let’s just not stand too close to them lest we be mistaken for being from the same country (or even the same planet).

Author

Wong Jia Wei