The Philippines

winners and losers

Kumusta from Puerto Princesa, 

    Long-term epistle readers will know that I’ve railed against the worst of American travellers before. Yes, English oafs and soccer hooligans can be noisome. Yes, Australian yobbos can be very embarrassing in some situations. But, Americans are the most obnoxious. It’s not a three-horse race, of course, but the Americans win by the length of the straight, every time.

    A culture that lauds the individual over the collective is bound to produce selfish, self-absorbed boors, as sure as night follows day. These braggarts are hard to miss. They frame every second sentence in the first person (the challenge is to prove me wrong on this). In a great majority of instances, they have a lot to say yet nothing much to say. They place high priority on announcing their presence, just so that all and sundry can be left in no doubt exactly whence they come. (It’s not typically possible to tell a stranger’s nationality until they speak, right?) Their badinage has evolved to the point where it contains little of any substance. 

  There’s a new category of objectionable travellers on the move: a subset of the former. They are the most insufferable of all. They only lurk in Asian countries but they are increasingly finding their voice here. These are the people who are the descendants of various expatriate Asians whose families emigrated to the US in a previous generation. They are the next generation and they are the worst of all tourists. Here’s my hypothesis on the case. 

   At some point in recent history (in the case of Việt Nam, post-1975) the antecedents of these tourists have been drawn ideologically to the capitalist Mecca across the Pacific. Here’s the crucial point: they were ideologues BEFORE they left Asia. After a generation in the cauldron of capitalism, they are out to show their “less-fortunate” compatriots who chose another course that theirs was an inferior choice.

   Now, they’re back. Or at least, their offspring are.  And they are desirous to make a strident point. The problem for them is they still have Asian faces, largely indistinguishable from the locals. Under no circumstances do they want anyone to think they actually belong here. The need to differentiate themselves is overwhelming. The solution, of course, is to speak: forcefully; loudly; and with an accentuated American accent. The effect is unpleasant for everyone concerned, except of course the oblivious Americans themselves.

    If you want to enjoy the quietude, beware these intruders who are desperate to proclaim their presence, but even more desperate to proclaim their origins. This cohort is on the march in The Philippines, Taiwan, India, and most prevalent – and most odious – in Việt Nam, where these noisy tourists are intent on making a political statement. 

   They definitely want us to know exactly where they’re from. Trouble is, they’ve backed the wrong horse. Someone should tell them.
Paalam from Puerto Princesa


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