I'm speaking of the Russian tourist, of course. First of all, contrary to all expectations and most suggestions from the statisticians (we use a wordplay to denote those, basically meaning "making-shit-up-ists"), I personally haven't witnessed a significant decline in the numbers of Russian tourists at our Black Sea resorts. Just on the contrary: they seem to have tripled for the last year. It could be that many are fleeing the wonderful utopia that they've been living under their beloved Dear Leader, I dunno. Or they could be just fed up with the horrible climate in their country. Or it's just that they prefer the more laid-back atmosphere, gorgeous food and the cheap booze over here. Or ultimately, their number might have remained the same actually, only their insolence and obnoxiousness has tripled, which creates that weird impression that they're everywhere now.
It's amazing how some people can behave very differently than they usually do, once they've found themselves on foreign soil. Especially if it's a country with more lax rules of conduct, like ours. It's almost as if the very act of landing at the airport automatically means they've pinned their Fatherland's flag on the new territory, and it's now theirs to conquer and rule. And everyone is supposed to be treating them as if they're some sort of royals. At the least.
So far, that sort of behavior used to be observed mostly in some English people, which is kind of understandable. Wherever those go, they tend to behave as if it's their colony - don't know, they could be taught that way from an early age. It must be written in their study-books. At some point you just get used to it and you stop paying attention to their demonstrations of over-confidence, or, let's call it with its real name, arrogance.
The more curious thing here is the way some tourists tend to behave when they arrive here, a behavior that sharply contrasts to their usual behavior back home. Yes, we've acknowledged long ago that our country tends to predispose foreigners to a more frivolous behavior (I've personally witnessed their rapid transformation, for example, regarding traffic rules - of which there practically aren't many here - in a few days' time they start behaving like locals on the road). This is coupled with copious amounts of almost-free booze. But that's not the point. Alcohol can do miracles, everyone knows that. It's not that. It's the attitude to people that changes.
Take a typical Russian family for example. Let's call them Sergey and Larissa. Say, they've bought an apartment in a holiday resort - that's nice, they're investing in our country. They come here every summer for their holidays - fine, that stimulates tourism and the economy as a whole. However, buying property in a minor foreign country is apparently related to some mysterious social status and adds a new aristocratic title to their profile, which I for some reason must have remained unaware of. But may my ignorance be forgiven.
That does not prevent me from being rudely pushed aside at the waiting line at the shop, or kicked to the back of the queue while attempting to board the tourist moto-train to the beach. Fine, I'll wait for the next moto-train... where an oversized Russian babushka would yell at me for standing in the way of her plans to populate an entire compartment with her innumerable offspring. Fine, I'll keep my nerve and move on to the next compartment. While doing that, though, I poise and think: look, they know I'll step aside. They actually expect me to. That's what their purpose is, after all. "We're clients, you're our servants. You live to serve us. One way or the other, we'll take what's ours. Because we're conquerors", one very vocal Russian lady told a colleague of mine during a particularly heated general meeting of a heavily Russian-dominated condominium - bringing my colleague to tears, and myself to silent rage.
It's all meant as a show of superiority - because they're a big aggressive nation and we're not, so they're supposed to be treated as golden hens... or the Golden Horde, depending on their particular mood. However, you might agree with me that one person's convenience should not come at the expense of another's. We're all here at the seaside, we're all paying for our holidays, so we should all be granted the same attitude and same privileges, as opposed to risking becoming tasty snack to some oversized, over-confident babushka. Is that not so? And does that not extend to any aspect of human relations, including international politics? Especially them!
Before you've concluded that I'm just complaining and I must be having some sort of personal issue with that particular nation, I'll assure you that this couldn't be any further from the truth. Just on the contrary. If you ever heard me talking of Russia and Russians, you might decide I'm half Russian myself. But the problem is, their attitude tends to change, depending on the setting. When I happen to go to Moscow, when they learn I'm from Bulgaria, they'd usually start with, "here's to you, brother!" They'd consider you their relative, they'd do their best to help you get around, feel comfortable, stuff like that. As a whole, they'd go to tremendous lengths to make you feel at home and among friends. Why, then, once they arrive here, does that instantly change, and instead of hugging me again, they'd push me off the moto-train (while it's moving, if possible)?
It could be that the huge crowds around our holiday resorts are too much for them, and they need space, aka Lebensraum? (heh) I tend to dislike big crowds, too. Or it could be that they've figured there are almost no laws and rules in this country anyway, so they've decided the basic rules of human interaction also do not apply? (But then again, what normal person would ever want to violate those even if they can?) Or they could be getting increasingly reassured by the apparent servile attitude of many of my compatriots, who'd do anything to please them, or at least remain silent and avoid direct confrontation, lest they be labeled inhospitable? (We're very sensitive on this subject, mind you).
Anyway. I proceed further to the nearby fruit & vegetable bazaar, near the resort center. I do my best not to look at the price tags, because most products are probably "Super-Duper-Eco-Biofood", and had been guarded by a special rare breed of armed pink pelican and a polar bear with sunglasses and an impeccable Oxford British accent. Or something. Don't care. I'll just try to buy some grapes and get out.
Upon approach, I hear only Russian speech. But that's hardly a surprise - we've already established that their numbers have tripled, or at least the impression of their presence has. But when I try to buy some grapes, I get a response from the vendor in Russian. Fine, no surprise. She must've thought I'm just another Russian tourist. So I try several times to start a conversation in Bulgarian, which is the local language after all. But no, the vendor keeps insisting on Russian. And I'm finally like, WTF? We've either run out of local vendors around here and we've started recruiting Russian ones in their place, or it's just that no one expects a local to come shopping here at this point, which renders the local language redundant? Or is it that the invasion has been successfully completed?
I mean, do not get me wrong. I do fully support the development of tourism in this country, and I'm convinced we've got a lot to offer, including in terms of satisfying even the most pretentious expectations. But the real question is, at what cost?
I cannot agree that the client is always right - in fact, often chances are that the client could just be an asshole. I also cannot agree that foreign tourists (or foreigners of any country that happens to be a world power) should be raised to such a pedestal that they'd become overly presumptuous, and get the impression that anything goes. Granted, we are known for our incredible hospitality and tolerance (the above-mentioned xenophobic elements notwithstanding), but I do believe we could still demonstrate that, without voluntarily turning ourselves into slaves to someone else's interests. And this, of course, is a parable we could take and learn from, as far as our international political standing is concerned. Perhaps that would help us be taken a tad more seriously.