According to me, the encounters I make with locals on my trips are the most memorable moments I have and they shape the opinion and attitude I have towards the country I visit to a very large extent. As Alan Williams described in his book, Tourism Geography: A New Synthesis, such encounters can be of any character, be it positive or negative for either side. Prior to my trip, I was afraid that there could be an insurmountable language barrier between me and the locals, or that I accidentally behave in a ‘typical European’ way which could be perceived by locals as disrespectful or that locals would feel a sense of unease due to us visitors from Europe if there would be a big cultural difference.
As soon as I landed in Amman, I was immediately surprised by how modern the airport was and how well our taxi driver, owner of the hotel but also locals in the center of Amman and waiters spoke English. Simultaneously, however, I became aware that we as tourists take speaking English in foreign countries for granted, which can cause local languages to change more and more as good English skills are increasingly widespread and maybe even causing an erosion on the strength of the local language, in this case the Arabic. Having been to Egypt, as the country culturally and geographically closest and most similar to Jordan where I have been, I expected much of Amman to be similar to Sharm-El-Sheikh. However, when me and a few other students headed to Amman’s downtown I was proven the contrary. The strong odors or pushy vendors I had experienced in Egypt were not present in Amman at all. On the contrary, while the salesmen offered us their goods, they seemed to accept more easily when we declined with a smile and walked on. Even more pleasant however was the ‘Welcome to Jordan’ that we heard from almost every vendor as we walked around.And finally, we were given the warmest and most memorable welcome at the restaurant we visited the first night. We chose a restaurant where we could see mainly locals. As soon as we had ordered, two little boys approached us and one of them handed us a little note. His name was Zaid and the writing on the paper said ‘Welcom tow the Jordan. May nam is Zaid’. His mother had written the little note for us and I was lucky enough to keep it as a nice memory of a big smile that the woman and her child had put on our faces that were so tired after our day of travelling. This was probably the warmest welcome and tourist encounter I have ever experienced and made my fears of clashes with locals fade away immediately.
Stephen Williams, Tourism Geography: A new Synthesis (2, Routledge, 2009), pt 2 subsection 6, 134-155.
|‘Welcom tow the Jordan. May nam is Zaid’ - A warm welcome|