The outburst of feelings of shame, embarrassment and broad appeals to Indian tourists to watch their behaviour because they were representing the country’s image after a video from a hotel in Indonesia’s Bali about a stealing family of tourists and a racist notice in a Swiss hotel teaching Indians breakfast manners, is a massive overreaction.
To define the character of a whole nation of 1.3 billion people just because of instances of misbehaving tourists from that country is nothing but a gross exaggeration.
You just cannot expect every Indian tourist or every Indian living overseas to act like the whole country’s reputation and image is on their shoulders when they visit places or live in hotels anywhere because firstly that is too much responsibility on anyone, and secondly not every Indian represents the country like some elected government official wherever they go.
The fact is bad tourists come in all shapes and sizes. For many years, travel magazines would point to tourists from the US, China, the UK, Germany, Russia and Argentina to be the ones up to the most mischief.
Many tourists in the past have done much more than just steal everything in the hotel room like the Indian tourists in Bali did. They have been caught urinating in public, rioting, doing crazy things while drunk, having sex in archaeological sites and even resorting to stealing penguins from Sea World in Australia.
So are Indians above board? Not at all. Some Indian tourists have reportedly been seen cutting vegetables to make snacks in a plane, taking over a buffet counter in cruise ships pushing aside other tourists to pile food on their plates, talking loudly within their large groups and behaving rudely in tourist spots, in a long list of very inappropriate behaviour.
But the reaction to these actions of a few is always given a broad brush of it being a “cultural thing” and this generalisation sadly leads to incidents of discriminatory behaviour against people from the country - including some who no longer live in India or are citizens of other countries.
Some Indian tourists are bad and it would be right to deal with them by charging them a fine or getting them arrested but no one has the right to treat the next tourist of Indian origin with disdain and complete distrust because of the bad ones, and that is sadly what seems to happen.
There are many unreported cases of staff at hotels, restaurants, airplanes, and other tourist touchpoints behaving rudely to people because they were Indian or were judged to be Indian because of their skin colour.
Of course, there has to be a major improvement in behaviour by tourists, Indians or otherwise. They have to be respectful of local cultures, traditions and mindful of broadly the do’s and don’ts in the countries they visit, but there is also a need for increased understanding about India and Indians in several countries.
There are instances where even global corporations seem to completely misrepresent or show their lack of understanding of India and Indians.
Case in point, a large multinational company headquartered in the US once had a picture of dark-skinned man with a huge moustache and a large unibrow wearing a yellow shirt and brown pants with Simpsons character Apu’s offensive Indian accent in a training video to depict an Indian person.
The ignorance of some people from western countries about broadly Asians can only be described as appalling, so some of the complaints about Indian behaviour could be arguably stemming from this lack of understanding.
With some 50 million Indians expected to travel overseas in 2019, up from 23 million in 2017, people working in the world’s tourist touchpoints - some of whom may be tempted to judge a whole race because of recent media reports - would be well-advised to block out the noise and focus on dealing with this rush in an impartial manner.