Living in Honduras or Guatemala as a foreigner is sometimes hard, mostly fun and never boring. This Blog is about more than just the oddities of my years in the not-so tranquil, cobble-stoned town of Copán Ruinas and, more recently, Antigua Guatemala. Hence Serendipity, the gift of finding without seeking…

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I love Gringos!


Copán Ruinas is a famous tourist destination and thus frequently visited by people from all over the world although by some nationalities more than others. Besides tourists from Honduras and other parts of Central America, it’s probably mostly Americans who come through town. Being Dutch, I arrived here thirteen years ago with a typical European aversion against everything American, but after meeting so many I have to confess they’re not the worst tourists by far. Here my own personal top – 3 (and not necessarily in this order):
1: Israelis. You don’t see them too often, but if they’re in town, you’ll know it. They complain about everything, are stingy and often rude. I have nothing against Israelis in general and maybe it’s just the Israelis that visit Honduras that behave in obnoxious ways, but that’s how I feel about it. Thank goodness they don’t pick Copán Ruinas as a destination that often.
2: The Spanish. Again, 99.5% of the Spanish probably belong to the nicest people of the world, but the ones of that 0.5% that visit Copán could stay home for all I care. Besides their horrible dress code (they seem to favour gaudy wide sweat pants) they have this presumptuous arrogance for being European over American and speaking Spanish over any other language in the world. Since they do speak the same language as people in Honduras (well, sort of) they think they can’t be cheated and make sure as hell they won’t. They continuously haggle in a country where haggling is not common and are stingier than the stingiest Dutchmen.
3. The Dutch. What’s the matter with my fellow countrymen and women? When they go camping in France of hiking in the Ardennes, they just pack some comfortable clothes and that’s it. When the travel to Central America they make sure to wear a complete safari attire: shirts of lightweight-dry-quickly-no-sweat fabric; shoes meant to be comfortable but that fail their exam in appeal and oh yes, always those zip-off pants. Whenever I’m back in Holland for a visit I look out for signs that fashion has changed in my absence, but no, the khaki or army green safari outfit is solely used for travelling in the Tropics. Fine. It doesn’t bother me and it can lead to hysterically funny situations when groups of Dutchies visit some site and collectively decide to zip off their pants and thus become an instant attraction. Good, may the locals have some fun too.
The Dutch are famous for being stingy, but that is not what I think sets them apart so much (many other nationalities are stingy too, see point 1). Very typically Dutch is for them to completely ignore other Dutch tourists (except when they travel in packs, which they often do), whereas people from other countries tend to join tables to spend a jolly night together, because what a coincidence, they only live two states away from each other. Somehow the Dutch like to have this feeling they’re the first Dutch ever to set foot on a spot and don’t like to be confronted with countrymen who beat them to it. But worse than everything else is that the Dutch have an opinion about EVERYTHING. They can’t just sit, shut up and enjoy, no, everything has to be compared with something else and than be labelled and put in a box.
“I like the food here, but the food in that Korean restaurant where were last year was much better.”
“The ruins are okay here, but nothing compared to Machu Picchu.” (This often stated before they visit the ruins!)
“That waitress is not very friendly.” (Actually she is, but she just got a phone call that her brother’s best friend’s chicken was run over, for all I know!).
The Dutch know everything better because they are prepared, of course, because they read the guidebook, of course. Dear countrymen and women, throw away that book, look around and start enjoying what’s there in stead of complaining about what’s not!

No, give me the Americans: no nonsense, friendly and willing to pay the price whatever something costs. They have fun (admittedly loudly, every once in a while), they don’t complain too much and seem to thoroughly enjoy the short vacation periods they have. The Canadians are not too bad either, but they have this strange tendency to stick a Canadian flag on all their possessions in order not to be confused for an American. As if that matters. For the Hondurans we’re all Gringos…

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