A sign next to a whip stained with dried blood encased in a glass box at the museum inside the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana reads, “With this whip, they broke the hearts of many.” I stood solemnly with a small group, biting my lips, and trying my best to hold back the tears.
A white girl—possibly in her late twenties interrupted the tour guide’s narrative and bluntly asked, “Don’t you think it’s disgusting to still have the blood on the whip? Couldn’t you guys, like, wash it with soap or like, something?”
Twenty-five pairs of eyes, both local and foreign, including mine, turned to give her an angry and somewhat disappointing look. The tour guide, using the calmest tone I’ve ever heard said, “Intelligent people preserve history, stupid people wash it with soap.”
There has been an explosive interest in the tourism industry in recent years.
Excited tourists leave their home countries and make their way through continents in search of adventures. But this beautiful experience soon turns sour when blunders like the one in the story are made. There’s more to travelling than taking pictures, making memories and eating good food.
There are also many travelling etiquettes that tourists need to be mindful of, but the most important of them all, in my opinion, is: respect the locals and their culture.
If you’re an avid traveller, this is very important, and here are a few reasons why:
1. They open their home to you.
God forbid if France passes a law that will ban foreigners from entering their country. That would literally mean saying goodbye to the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre Museum, Notre-Dame de Paris, Arc de Triomphe, and more.
2. You are a visitor in their home.
Some friends ask that you take off your shoes before entering their home. You do it because it’s their house and you respect their decisions. The same rule applies here, when you visit Rome, you show respect by doing what the Romans ask.
3. They preserve the destinations you love.
The Maldives Island has clear blue waters and clean white sands because the locals are environmentally conscious. Some historic landmarks would have fallen into their ruin if it weren’t for the locals who create initiatives and committees to ensure that their history is preserved.
4. They are part of the culture you love.
It’s such an absurd thing for someone to say they enjoy Mexican food but hate Mexicans, or love African cloths but hate Africans. Culture is showcased through the actions and lifestyle of the locals who created them. They are synonymous with the culture you love.
5. They can help you.
Locals are the indigenous people of the land. They see thousands of tourists all year round and they know the struggles they face. If you’re nice and respectful, they’ll guide you to the best places and even give you a heads-up on certain situations and events.