If you’re not interested in the culture, maybe stay home

Jayde Atchison // Opinions & Columns Editor
Sharleen Ramos // Illustrator

After spending 30 minutes floating in the warm ocean waves just off the shore of my resort in Puerto Vallarta, I went to grab a slice of pizza and a mojito and an older man struck up a conversation with me at the bar. He asked the usual questions asked at an all inclusive resort: where are you from? When did you get here? When are you leaving? I answered them all, and since he had been in Mexico a week longer than I had, I asked him for recommendations around town. This Walter White lookalike looked me dead in the eyes and exclaimed how much he hated Mexico and everything that came along with it. 

I had to stand there and endure this man sharing his racist and ignorant opinions until his wife came to drag him away from the conversation. Before he left, I learned that he thought it was rude when people “spoke Mexican” and ignored him at the bar while trying to order another round of scotch, neat. The music they kept playing at the resort and the few restaurants or bars he ventured into was not what he wanted. Midwest Gary wanted good, old-fashioned hard rock to be playing at all times – none of this foreign business. The tequila tasting him and his group went on? Don’t even get him started. 

I was sitting on the stool, watching him stumble away and all I could do was take a gulp of my mojito and wonder why on earth this man was in Mexico if he hated everything about the music, people, culture and general vibe? It was hard for me to separate myself from him, because I was guilty of staying in an all inclusive resort in a touristy side of Mexico – and if I hadn’t left the resort, I would have just remained in the same bubble that my new drinking buddy was trapped in. 

I watched my best friend get questioned daily about why she was trying so hard to speak Spanish when “everyone spoke English”. It was maddening because she was making the effort to communicate with the people that were hosting us in their city, and honour their language as much as she could before resorting to an English word she didn’t know the translation for. There was a lot of sign language and giggles along the way, but ultimately she was showing a sign of respect for the people around her. 

If someone is not willing to learn about the culture or attempt a few key phrases of the language, what is the point of visiting these tropical places? More often than not, these same people are complaining about the humidity, the strength of the sun, basically hating the fact that they left their home. It feels like these people like the idea of a place more than the reality. They want a tropical oasis without any aspects that will make them uncomfortable – like a language barrier. People seem to be shocked and confused when they arrive somewhere and English is not known by everyone in their proximity. 

It is very ignorant to believe that English should be the official language across the world. I mean, haven’t English speakers done enough erasing of languages by this point? North Americans are not the center of the universe, despite what they might think. It’s time that everyone who decides to travel to places like Mexico, Hawaii, Thailand, Bali, and any other tropical spot to take a deep look into why they are going there – and whether they should be going there at all. 

It seems like some people want to go on a vacation just to be able to say that they went. They can become world travellers because they spent a week in a different country (without ever venturing outside of the airport or resort, but that’s besides the point). It often feels like they want to go, simply to be able to complain about it all to Barbara from accounting when they get home. 

If you don’t care about the language, traditions, culture or even the climate of a country, maybe just stick to visiting Florida – it has beaches, drinks and you can avoid annoying all the people around you that are trying to get more culture than an arrest warrant. Tacky tourist shirts are one hell of a vibe, but the tacky racism can stay home. 

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