Currently, I’m working on putting together a travel phrasebook. The idea is that it should contain phrases that are useful when travelling for example when interacting with the receptionist, waiter or asking the way. In order to get inspiration I have looked through old phrase books that I found lying around the office. Some are really old and others contain categories that are totally useless. But one phrasebook in particular really takes the price. It teaches you how to complain at everything and everyone. It’s called “English Schimpfen” and it has a moustache wearing old man with a monocle who is angrily waving an umbrella on the cover. In other words it teaches Germans how to ballyrag in English. And it does not contain polite corrections or even angry complaints. Oh no. There are only insulting phrases that really cross the line like: “This beer tastes like old feet”.
This makes me marvel. As far as I can understand, there are people out there who actually expect to go on holiday and get so disappointed that they need a whole book of nastiness to spit out in different situations? This makes me think about ”An Idiot Abroad”; the series in which the Englishman Karl Pilkington visits the most beautiful places on earth and never seems to understand what the big fuss is about. When I saw this series I figured that Karl was a pretty unique (but still entertaining) character who constantly found things to complain about. Maybe he isn’t that unique after all? I mean, there must be a target audience for this book. I seriously doubt that they wrote it only to be purchased and used by Karl Pilkington.
Maybe this says something about tourists in general. Do we unconsciously go on holiday just to prove to ourselves that our home country beats everything else? It could be that this is a need that increases in pace with the globalization process in the world. Nowadays, you could, if you felt like it, live basically in whichever country of your choosing. Possibly, this could create an anxiety in people as it makes them aware of all the places that they are missing out on.
With these thoughts as a foundation I came up with a totally non-scientifically based theory: People want to get dissatisfied and be able to ballyrag and complain in other languages to prove to themselves that they live in a nice country and have happy lives. A mental self defense mechanism if you will.
So what consequences would this slightly insane reasoning of mine bring? I will tell you. A need to totally restructure the tourism industry. If people want to be dissatisfied (and thereby get satisfied) they must be offered opportunities to use such phrases as ”Is this the beach or the dump” and “You drive like a bloody maniac”. Maybe every fourth beer could be poured into the glass through a smelly sock and you could wait that little extra quarter of an hour before you serve the food.
Employees in restaurants, hotels, museums and travel agencies would need to unlearn everything and start fresh. The service mustn’t be too perfect. Otherwise people won’t come back.
Therefore, I seriously consider whether I should, instead of a travel phrasebook for tourists, write a “bad service manual” for employees within the tourism industry. What do you think?