There is a sort of aversion to being identified as a tourist. I know that when I think of a tourist I think of a silly dad with his family holding a map out, trying to find where Big Ben is. To the Londoner, he is a joke to laugh at, but why? Certainly, if someone were to visit his city, they would become him. But maybe not.
This past week a friend from the U.S. came to visit, and her checklist consisted of London’s landmarks: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus. Living here for a month and doing my hardest to blend in with the Londoners around me, I realized that I hadn’t even visited some of London’s most sought after landmarks, like Kensington Palace. And when we did visit them, I had fun, I admired, I took photos and stood in awe. Sure, we did look like tourists, but what was so wrong about that?
I’ve been spending some time trying to work out my aversion, and the general aversion, to being a tourist. I think it mostly has to do with tourism not providing a fully authentic experience of a place. Hopping around central London doesn’t lend to an immersive English experience. But when you have five days in a new city, wouldn’t you want to see the things it’s known for? And hopefully, if you’ve got a friend who’s been living there for two and a half months (ahem), you’ll be able to hit up some lesser known and non-touristy spots like a blues club and a hole-in-the-wall pub for some delicious fish and chips.
Tourists, don’t feel bad. And Natives, go easy.