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Sunday March 2, 2014

Visiting Mallorca? Please don't offend the locals

At Soller’s weekend market I noticed an English tourist aggressively attempting to persuade a local stallholder to reduce the price of a silk scarf. Grumpily he shook his head and gave an emphatic no when she fluttered a €10 note – five euros less than the required sum – in front of him. As the woman spoke no Spanish and he no English, he beckoned me over and asked that I explain that the scarves were expensive to make and that he never bargained. Instead of accepting the news graciously, she gave a frustrated tut, told me that given the state of the Spanish economy it was his loss and turned tail. If many Spaniards are already suffering in the economic downturn is that reason for visitors to lower their resistance and earnings yet further?

This sort of boorish and petulant behaviour from my fellow countrymen disappoints me greatly just as much as I cringed yesterday when a German couple in one of the local town cafés snubbed the offer of a Majorcan ensaïmada pastry because they said it looked fatty. The waitress who spoke reasonably good German was understandably offended and shot them dark looks from behind the bar. Of course ensaïmadas are rich – that’s part of their appeal – but there are many diplomatic ways to decline such beloved local calorie-counters without causing offence. On the faux-pas front I’ve noticed too that many foreign visitors assume that everyone speaks their own language and merrily try to strike up conversations or shout out questions in shops and cafés without first discovering whether they’ll be understood.

And don’t get me started on the camera-clicking brigade who barge into picturesque shops and cafés and begin snapping at everything in sight without a polite acknowledgement of the serving staff. One of my chums who owns the town’s delicatessen raises an eyebrow when tourists crowd into his colourful emporium and begin taking photos. He now calls out in exaggerated tones, ‘Can I help you? Would you like to buy something?’ which tends to have them slithering faster than silver fish out of his front door.

In the town – as opposed to the port which is a tad more liberal – it is not acceptable for groups of youths to roam topless about the streets slurping on open cans of lager and engaging in boisterous behaviour. Soller isn’t Magaluf and even in that yoof orientated resort it doesn’t go down too well either these days. Neither is it advisable for them to chant football ditties out loud or take images of one another goonishly clambering onto public monuments and making rude signs. There’s a noticeable taciturn reaction from the townsfolk and it does nothing to enhance Britain’s reputation abroad.

Of course it’s not just locals that feel affronted by the antics of – admittedly a minority – of overseas visitors. Come the popular tourist season it’s surprising how many English or German tourists ask foreign residents for directions without a please or thank you or checking first that they speak their language. Often they’ll shout from a hire car window, ‘Where are the shops?’ or collar one outside the post office with a ‘How much is a stamp for the UK?’ It’s as if they leave their manners behind with the cold weather.

Thankfully the majority of visitors that holiday on our golden isle are polite and gracious, respect the locals and fully embrace the Majorcan culture. But for those who seem less inclined to make friends and influence people when abroad or employ a few basic manners, might I suggest that they simply stay at home?

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