At the zoo

This is a note about the whole tourism thing.
I’m in the middle of a (hopefully huge) set of cartoons (see the post before this one) about tourism (and the new wave of wealthy migrants to Portugal, mostly from the US, UK and France) and I talk a bit about in our radio show (Antídoto, Antena 1, with my new pals Catarina Carvalho and Dora Santos Silva, in which we talk about STUFF), and I guess some people think I hate tourism and hate the wealthy western incomers.

Well, that would be some A-grade hypocrisy on my part if that were true, seeing as I am a great big foreigner myself.

I’ve never really been much of a tourist, so I find it hard to understand the desperate need to travel all over the world seeing, eating and photographing everything, but I think I’m the odd one out. Most people with any means, it seems to me, HAVE to get to see everywhere in a mad rush before they die.

Therefore, I see tourism from an outsider’s view, a bit like I see most things.

And what I see are two main things going on in Portugal (and everywhere else that suffers mass tourism, but the only place I live in and know is Portugal).

1. Tourists, while many are lovely, and respectful, and interested people, many are not. Therefore, I take the piss out of them. Wildly. I always have (as I take the piss out of almost everything in the world. It’s my raison d’être), and even the nice tourists will have the piss taken out of them by me, because even though they’re not evil, their behaviour is amusing (see above).

Tourists’ awfulness often relates to their nationality. The British are awful in their own way, the Americans, theirs, the French, theirs, the Spanish, etc., etc., etc. and sometimes it’s just universal awfulness.

I’m not expecting tourists to know anything about Portugal or the Portuguese, but of the people who move definitively to Lisbon I expect more. They move because they think it’s lovely and sunny and cheap and pretty (if you look in the right direction) and that’s… lovely, but are they becoming part of the community? Are they treating the Portuguese with respect? Are they learning the language? Or are they making the city change to suit their idea of what Lisbon is and forgetting that there are people being priced out of the city? My main beef is the language thing.

Please, learn the language beyond “Uma bica, se faz favor”. The rest might follow.

2. The Portuguese refuse to say no to any behaviour, any request, any demand that foreigners, especially from the West, let’s say, put to them.

I never see anyone removing stag or hen parties from their premises, even when they are visibly upsetting other people, or filling up the pavement around a esplanada. When people fill the pavements with wheelie suitcases, four abreast, making it impossible to get past on one’s way to work, nobody says a thing (except me). Being overly drunk, rude, shouting instructions in English (mostly by the English, obvs), being arrogant, blocking the way all over the place, all these things are just let past. Why?

Stand up to them and they’ll respect you more.

I’m not against change… I bloody LOVE change. But I see a lot of people behaving badly on their holidays and I see a lot of Portuguese being pushed around, and maybe the worst thing, I see a city being modified in a way to suit only the foreigners… and the city forgets, THE FOREIGNERS WON’T ALWAYS BE HERE IN THESE NUMBERS (because, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the world CAN change, on a dime, overnight, and this will end, one day).

3 Responses

  1. Even people who become residents, namely the “digital nomad” kind, are only in Portugal (or any trendy destination) while it works as some kind of tax haven for them and it is something of a commodity in their digital lifestyle. Trends come and go. I hope they enjoy their stay but it is hardly a sustainable economic model for the country.

  2. Now that they’ve discovered Oil in Guyana, Important People are rushing to our shores. Tourists are discovering our jungle. Hotels are going up on the coastland…too many. And we call it progress. I weep.

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