Opinion: Lessons in Tourist Etiquette

I am fortunate enough to have grown up in a place where people actually want to spend their summer vacations. Even President Obama has carefully chosen my home, the island of Martha’s Vineyard, as his vacation destination during his terms. The population of Martha’s Vineyard expands exponentially from Memorial Day until Labor Day, and then it becomes a ghost town in the winter seeing as a significant amount of businesses close for the season.

Photo courtesy of Scott Tidlund / Flickr

Photo courtesy of Scott Tidlund / Flickr

Year-round residents, otherwise known as islanders, bear the brunt of the dismal winter months with absolutely nothing to do only to get run over by tourists coming off the ferry at the first sign of a good beach day. While tourists bring giant suitcases stuffed with cash to our “mom-and-pop” stores, my father’s included, and basically allow our community to stay afloat financially, the island seems to sink below sea level each summer under the weight of the bloated population. I deal with these people on a daily basis at my job in the center of town, and I have a few things to say to them to which natives of  every tourist destination can relate.

Dear Summer Tourists,

Let me start off on a note of understanding. We’ve all been tourists before, I get that. There are, however, some essential etiquette guidelines to be observed in order to be a good tourist and not make the natives angry. Because if you make the natives angry, they will attack––i.e. “No soup for you!” Yes, we own the restaurants.

Speaking of restaurants, don’t get mad if your order takes longer than you’d like. Do you see how many people are here? If you plan on coming to one of the most popular eateries in town, it’s going to be a wait, and you should know that before saddling on up to the place like you own it. A word of advice: asking if the food is ready yet won’t make it come any faster.

Photo courtesy of Simon / Flickr

Photo courtesy of Simon / Flickr

Secondly, be respectful of your surroundings. Walking in the middle of the road isn’t alright. This isn’t Pennsylvania Avenue: this is a real road with real cars. While we’re on the topic, do you know what is not a real car? A moped. They’re terribly slow and terribly dangerous because they ride in the middle of the road at 25 mph. Passing mopeds is a must if one desires to get  anywhere on time, but with the insane summer traffic it becomes extremely difficult to do so safely. Do you know who drives mopeds? Tourists drive mopeds. Be smart: drive it back to the rental store.

Next up: an especially frustrating topic. Although nauseating, it makes sense to wear one’s new Martha’s Vineyard t-shirt here. You “heart” MV and you’re proud of it, but please, please, please, leave the Nantucket sweatshirt at home. It’s akin to wearing a BU shirt at BC. The irksome part is that there is no way you could have bought that here, so you would have had to think to yourself during the packing process, “Yeah, bringing this article of clothing to MV is a good idea.” That was an awful idea. Tourists are known to have awful ideas, like wearing socks and sandals.

Photo courtesy of Clay / Flickr

Photo courtesy of Clay / Flickr

I could write a book on tourist etiquette, but I’ll leave you with a final suggestion. Be nice to us and we will be nice to you in return! Arguing over prices– like most beach towns, we’re only open for three months a year... how else will we make a profit?– and being rude to employees will get you nowhere. I hope we can get along these last few weeks, but that mainly depends on your attitude.

Here’s to a great rest of the season!

Sincerely,
Maddie Webster

Managing editor. Lover of history and all things 1960s. Lives by the lessons of The Rocky Horror Picture Show: "Don't dream it, be it."

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