The Ugly RIC traveller

If only all travellers from Russia, India and China were so well-behaved. Source: Flickr/russianpanda

If only all travellers from Russia, India and China were so well-behaved. Source: Flickr/russianpanda

A new breed of travellers from Russia, India and China seem to be on a mission to ruin their countries’ reputations overseas.

Before I write this article, I would like to make it clear that as a person who has been closely associated with Russia, India and China throughout my adult life, I have nothing but the greatest amount of respect for the warm, cultured and refined people of these three great countries. This respect of course does not blind me to the way some citizens of these countries behave overseas and on a recent holiday, I witnessed some rather unpleasant behaviour from my fellow RIC citizens.

Act 1: A Russian couple walks into an elevator of a 5-star hotel. They’d been arguing for a while it seems. “Sasha, you lying *******,” screams the wife. The husband responds using the worst imaginable Russian words possible. Stuck in that elevator, I kindly tell them to keep the volume down and that there are some people who understand them. The man responds by calling me a (censored) Armenian! “You Armenians and Azeris are everywhere!” This man had a problem with an alleged Armenian being in an Asian country.

When I realised that there was no point in talking sense with these savages, I got off on an earlier floor and went straight back to the reception to complain. As I came to know from a frustrated receptionist, I wasn’t the first person who had a problem with that Russian couple. “They are all crazy,” the receptionist said. “The Russians come here, get drunk and then often get violent...What is wrong with their country?” I then found myself defending Russia and Russians and telling her not to judge Russia on the basis of these idiots.

Throughout my travels, I heard the choicest Russian phrases; words that would not be uttered in polite society but then again these members of the nouveau-riche couldn’t care less what someone thought of their behaviour. Living in Russia, I rarely encountered these kinds of people and when I did; my friends were quick to point out that they were from “bad families.”

My fellow Indians, who tend to be less violent or aggressive overseas, don’t exactly behave like model citizens by any stretch of the imagination. Often travelling in groups, they seem to have no respect for their surroundings or for locals and other travellers.

Act 2: At the check-in counter for a flight back to India, a large group of people that look more like traders than vacationers hog up the queue. All of them are armed with boxes of flat-screen televisions and a few suitcases with more weight than their tickets allow them. The check-in process becomes cumbersome and long because these ‘travellers’ are bargaining and arguing with the airline staff about how much they can take home without paying.

I feel genuinely sorry for the stressed staff, who probably have to go through this routine every single day. On this given day when I finally did reach the front of the queue, I could still see the smile coming from the girl at the check-in and she was relieved when I said that I just have one suitcase. It almost surprised her that I greeted her back and smiled and was patient. Such is the reputation that my countrymen have created in places that Indians tread.

On board the aircraft, I was trapped between these passengers, who were determined to create a ruckus. It felt more like Saurashtra Mail (a train that connects Mumbai with the southern part of Gujarat) than an aircraft. These people were intent on using their cellular phones, getting up to take things out of their overhead baggage racks even when the plane was in taxi. Instructions from the cabin crew had to be oft-repeated since these people were intent on pushing their seats back in a reclining position during take-off. They also seemed to have unquenchable thirsts and kept calling the air-hostesses at very short intervals. The crew on board were trained to deal with these people but surely it can’t be a pleasant experience having to encounter such types on a daily basis.

These are the kinds of people that disappear after the airport. I wonder where they come from and where they go. I definitely (with much gratitude) don’t see these types in India, whether I am in my hometown or travelling.

A fellow traveller staying at a hostel said that he had trouble sleeping since his hostel was full of young Chinese students. I laughed at him and said that from my experiences, they are quiet and well-behaved and if I dare to say so, timid. The traveller had the same impression before he set up shop in that hostel. The horror stories then followed: Drunken screaming and loud music late into the night, an unbelievable mess in the common areas with half-eaten food left on plates that weren’t cleared even in the evening... I dismissed this as students being students until I was a witness to similar behaviour.

Act 3: The same up-market hotel where I met the “pleasant” Russian couple had a large group of Chinese travellers. The tables at the riverside dining hall where a buffet breakfast was being served were left in a shocking condition! It was like the students from the hostel where my traveller-friend was staying metamorphosised into wealthy adults. The less I write about the table-manners of these people, the better.

It wasn’t just the lack of etiquette at restaurants that made these Chinese travellers stand out. It was also a blatant disrespect for fellow travellers, which seemed to border on the level of the annoying Indians and Russians. Jumping queues, not even a slight gesture of apology when bumping someone (even if was an accident), sitting in front of people at screenings in a museum, without caring if they were blocking anyone’s views... These were the hallmarks of travellers from the Middle Kingdom. I am quite sure that these people weren’t from the elite circles of Beijing or Shanghai but probably members of the nouveau-riche from provinces like Kunming, which are now only a drive away from Southeast Asia.

Unless someone teaches this section of travellers from Russia, India and China manners and courtesy, it’s those of us that do know how to behave that will be affected by the stereotypes that are a result of such distasteful behaviour. 

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