Hooked to a new perspective
Lately I’ve been hooked to this blog, where The Hook (a bellman in Canada) diligently tells his story. The blog made me very aware of my behavior while traveling, that is not to say that I am anywhere near as bad as the people he describes! But caught up in the moment, one can momentarily forget that the bellman, the receptionist, and even the waitress who forgets to refill your coffee, are all people with their own complicated lives and worries.
I cringe at haughty travelers who seem to think their money buys them the right to mistreat hotel or restaurant staff. Yes, you have paid a lot of money and you certainly should expect cordial treatment, but are you being equally respectful? I’ve often heard people complain that Kuwaitis think they’re entitled to a certain treatment when they travel or go out to eat. I think that’s a naïve statement, if not a clichéd rant everyone repeats without thinking. Entitlement, in this case, does not revolved nationality but is based on economic stature, and boils down to a simple haves versus the have-nots. It is only because a large number of Kuwaitis belong to a middle to upper economic class (the haves) that they are seen as entitled citizens. Abhorrent behavior toward servers and staff has no nationality – it stems from a lack of respect entrenched in years of supposed privileges.
I went off on a tangent there.
Back to the hospitality industry.
When I talk about mutual respect and cutting people some slack, I am not suggesting that one should be taken advantage of but there are ways to solve a problem without yelling, threatening and intimidating. I have to admit, I’ve lost my temper at restaurants before when my orders were completely messed up and the server strutted with a devil-may-care attitude – or worse a resentment toward the consumer for being able to afford that commodity. I have argued with waiters and managers, keeping my voice down at all times and stating the problem clearly without being condescending. I also try to give suggestions or tell them how they can fix the problem. There are times when the staff were receptive and happy to cooperate. At other times, I was forced to pay for services I completely dissatisfied with, vowing never to return or telling myself that I will write about the place or at least get the word out.
During my recent trip to Istanbul, I kept The Hook’s words in mind as I dealt with people in my hotel and in restaurants. For the most part, nothing happened for me to lose my patience, but for the first time I found myself having short yet very real conversations with others, learning more about them and stopping to inquire about their day before they asked about mine. My sister and I established a good rapport with everyone at our hotel (or maybe we were just staying at an excellent hotel, with well-trained staff!).
Next time you’re traveling keep in mind that first and foremost we are all humans, we all deal with similar problems and not one of us should assume they’re better than the other. The different roles we play — tourists, bellhops, waitresses, teachers, drivers — they’re all secondary.
On an unrelated but festive note:
Today marks the beginning of the new Islamic year. Although most Middle Eastern countries primarily follow the Gregorian calendar, it is nonetheless a time (as good as any!) to dwell on our life during the past year – if only to learn from our mistakes and think on what we would like to change in ourselves before we can change others. May you all have a prosperous, healthy year surrounded by your loved ones. May the coming days bring us all tolerance, justice and peace.