Monday, 29 September 2008

Don’t bother with the signs


In work there have been numerous occasions where I have felt that the signs I have put up have had little or no effect. This was hammered home in true style today.

Visiting the Cathedral of San Marco is one of the “Must Do” things of any trip to Venice, every guide book, every guided tour, every recommendation is always to have a look around, and in every one I have seen there has always been the message that the cathedral doesn’t allow people to come in with bags, they have to be left in the cloakroom which is located about a minutes walk away from the cathedral.

To add to the information signs are displayed in Italian, English, German and French fully explaining. There are even signs which have images of a piece of rolling luggage with a line through it, a backpack with line through it and a shopping bag with a line through it.

In the process of queuing for the cathedral you pass at least three of these signs.

You would have thought that people would get the message, but no, at least one in ten visitors get to the front of the queue and get sent away to drop their bag off, and in a queue that can take the best part of an hour to get to the head off, that’s quite a serious issue.

About four people in front of me in the queue had a bag, we passed all the signs, no flicker, we passed the big visual one with lots of pictures of bags with crosses through them and a sign pointing to the luggage office, not a flicker, we get to the front of the queue and she is stopped by the cathedral staff on the door, after an initial attempt in Italian the, clearly weary, member of staff said “no bags” to which the woman erupted into a self defence saying that nobody had told her and they should put signage up to that effect if they wanted to enforce such a stupid rule. With a simple hand gesture the member of staff signalled to the line of signs, and the big colourful one. The response “you could have made it more obvious”

Perhaps she would have liked one posted the entire height of the bell tower which flashes in 25 different languages no bags with clear symbols, perhaps she wanted someone to spend their working life walking up and down the queue announcing, in every possible language, that bags have to be left in the office. Perhaps, she, like the countless thousand other tourists this year that will have missed the signs, needs to get to an optician sooner rather than later.

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Sunday, 3 August 2008

And this is the reason why everyone hates the Brits!


Before finally dropping off to sleep last night I overheard the guy in the room next door on his phone to friends (I would assume) back in the UK. He was, by his accent, from Manchester, but the views he espoused were similar to those I have seen from a number of Brits abroad.

He felt the area around Interlaken was not a very friendly place as they spoke German at you and that when he tried to make them speak English they would get rude.

Now, forgive me if I am wrong here, but Interlaken is in the German speaking part of Switzerland, and therefore the language they will naturally greet anyone (who they don’t know the nationality of) will be in German.

Of course the easiest way to deal with these natives who don’t realise “we beat them in the war” (small note of historical accuracy, Switzerland was neutral throughout both World Wars, but don’t let the facts stand in the way of a good rant) is to speak LOUDLY and S L O W L Y to them as everyone can understand English the louder and slower you speak it. It’s a known fact that in their everyday dealings the rest of the world speaks English, it’s only when tourists are nearby that they swap into their “funny lingo”

I won’t even go into the casual racism that he then descended into in describing the other tourists in the region, other than to point out that Interlaken has an international appeal and visitors from most parts of the globe, as well as a resident population drawn from a wide variety of nationalities.

His final closing comments were “I don’t know why they don’t like the Brits, We won the war, we gave them our language, what more do they want”.

It could always have been an elaborate hoax or wind-up down the phone to a friend, but the way in which it was delivered, and the tone in the voice, suggested that these were his actual views as if he was warning friends to avoid this bit of Switzerland.

I’m sure he is also exasperated when the annual surveys come out and rank the British as one of the least liked groups of tourists around.

Personally, I’m surprised that we don’t come top.

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