If Europeans had their own calendar the way the Chinese do, this would officially be the “year of the peddler.” I don’t know what it is about 2015 but the tourist situation has worsened. I’m not talking about fanny packs, Hawaiian shirts, and socks with sandals although that hasn’t changed much either. C’mon America! I’m talking about the peddler situation in the 500 foot radius (excuse me, the 150 meter radius) surrounding any major landmark. Maybe it’s just because I look super rich? Nah, that can’t be it. Whatever the reason, everyone and their nonna asked me to buy something from them. Scratch that. No one actually asked me as much as forced themselves or their worthless shit upon me. If you or someone you know sells useless crap outside of Europe’s most extraordinary monuments, please pay attention to the following public service announcement:
I don’t want to wear your friendship bracelet.
If you’ve been to il Duomo di Milano (aka that really big church in Milan) lately then this doesn’t need any explanation. Random men will come up to you, probably from behind and in large, threatening groups, grab your arm, and try to tie a ridiculous multi-colored string they try to pawn off as a bracelet around your wrist. “I give you!” Oh, a friendship bracelet for little ol’ me? That’s so kind of you! As soon as that piece of shit is tied up nice and tight they will demand payment for the gift they gave you. First of all, you had me at “grab my arm.” I don’t care what you offer, even a Nutella covered diamond wrapped in cash tied in a bow around a puppy, if you are a stranger and you forcefully grab me, I’m going to punch you. I DON’T WANT TO WEAR YOUR FRIENDSHIP BRACELET. How many times do I have to tell you? In both English and Italian! Ti odio. Non siamo amici.
Something to remember: This scam may be pulling double duty. Not only are these idiots trying to scam money out of you, they may also be distracting you so some other low-life can steal your wallet.
I don’t want to feed the pigeons.
These guys have another smooth move. They crowd you into a terrifyingly little circle, forcefully grab your hands, holding them so tight you can’t withdraw, and put a handful of corn kernels in your palm. A million pigeons call the cathedral in Milan home and these fellows must think they’re hip to the fact that tourists love to be covered in pigeons. Baby koalas, yes. Pigeons, no. This grosses me out beyond belief – do people really want those things on themselves? Like on their head and arms? You will get pooped on. Like, I love pigeons and all but a bird has shit on my face before and it’s not fun nor photo-worthy. At least not for me. I know plenty of people who’d love a photo of that.
These dudes act like they are doing you a favor. Like they are giving you something to feed the birds with, just what you wish you’d had at that moment because that’s obviously why you’ve traveled to Milan. Oh, thank you kind sir. I just got off an overnight flight and haven’t slept in 36 hours, please will you help the pigeons to shit on me? I so long to be covered in bird feces since it’ll be another nine hours before I can shower. Also, what cathedral? I didn’t come here to gaze upon one of Italy’s most magnificent churches. No, I came here to play with the probably lice infested birds that we have all over America. These aren’t even Italian birds for crying out loud. I DON’T WANT TO BE COVERED IN PIGEONS! I DON’T WANT YOUR CORN KERNELS! And this folks is how a guy got punched. If you walk up behind a girl, who was robbed the last time she visited Italy mind you, and forcefully grab her, you’re a damn fool.
Even though I already screamed at these jerks about five times to leave me alone, this still happened. Before I knew it, five guys were pushing against me on all sides. I was trapped. Or… should I say ‘pigeon-holed’? I screamed for them to back off but it didn’t work. One grabbed my hand just as I hit my boiling point. He held my wrist tight and forced a handful of corn kernels into my hand. I tried to pull out of his tight grip but this asshole wasn’t getting the point. In the process of flailing and trying to free myself I punched him in the face and sent his stash of kernels flying through the air and raining down upon a nearby tour group. I believe my exact words were, “I DON’T WANT YOUR FUCKING CORN!!!” Somewhere, a record skipped on a turntable, a plate crashed to the floor, and suddenly I had the nearest 100 people watching the situation unfold.
Something to remember: Nothing is for free, not even a tattoo of a Mexican drinking worm given out of the side of a van. Standard life advice, no? Also, don’t let strangers think it’s OK to grab you. Do I even have to say this? You should have learned this in kindergarten.
Disclaimer: Even though I hate these people more than I hate Italian public transit, I do pity them a bit. This of course did not happen until I saw the terrified look on his face when I punched him. But can they not find better way to earn a living? And pity or not, my personal safety comes before all else and if I don’t feel safe, someone is getting a black eye.
I don’t want to go to a club via a meeting point.
I’m guessing Barcelona has a rabid club scene? Now I’m not positive but I heard a lot of talk of “Want to go to club?” and “Hurry. We go to club. We meet on corner and take bus.” and “We pick you up at meeting point.” Ummm… HELL NO. This has “sex trafficking operation” written all over it. Don’t these people know that here in America we have the movie Taken and Liam Neeson’s particular set of skills? If I wanted to go to a club, I would get the address and pay someone to drive me there. (So rich.) Directly there. Like, right up to the front door probably. There’s no way I’m going to be picked up at a “meeting point” in Spain by a bunch of men who aren’t even Spanish. Just no. So much no.
Something to remember: This one should be self-explanatory. If this sounds like a good idea to you, you probably should travel with a guardian, wearing a leash and a tracking device.
I don’t want to buy your coccaine.
I managed to spend a lot of time in Europe without anyone trying to sell me drugs… until I went to Barcelona. Mind you, this was the same guy who tried to lure us to a meeting point. “You want coccaine? How much? How much you want?” But then when we tell the guy to leave us alone we get called “bitches.”
Something to remember: Hello?? Have y’all not seen Locked Up Abroad? None of this sounds awesome.
I don’t want to join your threesome, Superman.
Ladies! Look out for the Superman of Barcelona. THIS guy, who clearly spends a lot of time practicing his “Blue Steel,” is looking for you.
Have you seen the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona? Well, Scarlet Johansson and some other actress are in a restaurant in Barcelona drinking wine and disagreeing about stuff when Javier Bardem walks up and the conversation that follows goes like this:
- Juan Antonio, Sexy Spanish artist man: “I’d like to invite you both to come with me to Oviedo.”
- Vicky, prude: “To come where?”
- Juan Antonio: “To Oviedo. For the weekend. We leave in one hour.”
- Christina, lies about her eye color: “What? Where’s Oviedo?”
- Juan Antonioooo: “A very short flight.”
- Vicky, aka Captain Obvious: “By plane?”
- Christina: “What’s in Oviedo?”
- Juan: “I go to see a sculpture that is very inspiring to me. Very beautiful sculpture. You’ll love it.”
- Vicky, proving blondes really do have more fun: “Oh right. You-you-you-you’re asking us to fly to Obiedo and back?”
- Juanito: “No, we’ll spend the weekend. I will show you around the city. And we’ll eat well. We’ll drink good wine. We’ll make love.”
- Vicky, who doesn’t actually have a stutter: “Yeah. Wh-wh-who exactly is going to ‘make love’?”
- J A: “Hopefully the three of us. I’ll get your bill.”
- Vicky: “Jesus. This guy doesn’t beat around the bush. Look, señor, maybe in a different life.”
- Señor Juan: “Why not? Life is short. Life is dull. Life is full of pain. And this is a chance for something special.”
The next scene shows the three of them on an airplane flying to Oviedo. I think it’s safe to assume that Spanish predators have also seen this movie and think that it must work exactly the same way with all American women.
One night in Barcelona my friend and I were walking down the street and were approached by ‘guy’ (above) and the following real-life conversation took place:
- Weird Superman wannabe whose accent is clearly not Spanish: “Ladies! Have no fear, Superman is here!”
- Me, clearly the Vicky: “What do you say when you’re not wearing that shirt?”
- Superloser: “I also have Batman.”
- Me, thinking: I would have preferred Batman.
- Him, probably on his 25th attempt of the night: “Ladies, I want to take you both back to my house and the three of us will make love.”
- My friend and I: paralyzed with laughter not helped by the fact that we had just watched that movie.
Does this ever work on people? If it does, I’m embarrassed for you. There is too much scary shit happening and too many sociopathic weirdos who like to chop people up to be wooed in a foreign country by anyone less than Batman himself.
Something to remember: People act extra creepy when you travel without your husband.
I don’t want to buy a selfie stick.
I have a deep rooted hatred for selfie sticks that began with watching a couple try to take a photo of themselves at Fenway Park during a Red Sox game. They stood in front of us with their backs against the dugout facing a barrage of judgmental onlookers and holding out a long metal rod. My dad was like, “What the…?” and so we watched the scene play out… until this idiot couple had taken 35 selfies in an attempt to get one where they don’t look douchey. Again, I am so embarrassed for you.
The photo above was literally just me, trying to take a picture of the damn church and look how those jackasses ruined it. Do you really need four of the same dudes in the exact same space? Is this some sort of gang? Or how about the photo below? Two separate parties just trying to look at a castle but instead getting harassed by the selfie stick boys. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! That’s the number one rule of sales and marketing, no? The couple on the left, I can almost guarantee you, has no idea what a selfie stick is or how to use it. What did you say, son? Sophie’s sick? Who the heck is Sophie, you twit! … No, dear. The young man asked if we wanted any shelled peas. … Oh, well no thank you. I’ve already seen that movie.
Something to remember: Selfie sticks can also be used as weapons against strangers who grab you.
I don’t want to buy your crap.
The specific ‘crap’ I refer to includes:
- your teeny mouth whistle
- your toy that shoots in the air and lights up
- your ball of goo that goes splat when you throw it on the ground
Seriously, what is this garbage? And why is this hawked outside of some of Europe’s most historic sites? Is there NOTHING more site-related for these people to sell? Postcards? T-shirts? Plastic gladiator shields? Do they actually make enough money off this crap to support themselves? I’m a 31-year-old woman/lady child – am I really your target market? Do you know what a target market is? I have so many questions!
Something to remember: If you buy from these people, they will just keep doing it. Do you really need a glow-in-the-dark toy at the Vatican? Souvenir-shop responsibly, travelers.
I don’t want to buy your crap at a “special price.”
Oh, really? Special price just for me? It must be my lucky day! Of course I’ll buy your overpriced whateveryoureselling. In fact, give me two! Wow, special price, I can’t wait to brag about this to my friend who paid twice as much for her friendship bracelet.
Something to remember: I hope you’ve already figured out that the special price is a complete and total lie. But go ahead and feel free to make up lies of your own – always works for me.
I don’t want to tour the museum of ham.
I don’t even know what to make of this. Even though I avoided this at all costs, I still accidentally ended up inside Barcelona’s Jamón Experience. The Jamón Experience consists of a ham restaurant, ham store, museum, and some other weird stuff centered around Barcelona’s love of ham. Don’t get me wrong, the stuff is good, but somehow we ended up in the basement of this place which turned out to be a ham museum. A museham? If the scene pictured above isn’t enough to make you crouch in a corner and call for your mommy I don’t know what is. The whole basement was dark (except for the lit up solid gold ham legs hanging from nooses) and there wasn’t a soul around. A single door led into the museham and needless to say we didn’t care to find out what was on the other side. But could it be anything other than graphic videos of pigs being slaughtered by masked butchers in rubber aprons with a Pantera soundtrack? No gràcies.
Something to remember: Go with your gut. If it feels creepy, it probably is. Especially if it’s a museum dedicated to cured pig carcasses. And anytime nooses are involved.
I don’t want to drink sangria out of a 3-foot straw.
More often than not, we found ourselves drinking by the liter. Nothing about my beers shocked me but my friend’s sangria always came with not one, but two ginormous neon straws. Like, they were three feet long. Why did we see this everywhere? What is the point of this? Do people think this is quirky? Is it traditional Catalan custom to sit your glass of sangria on the ground and drink standing fully upright?
Something to remember: If you put the two three foot long straws together you get an impressive six foot long straw with which to drink your adult beverage in the most juvenile fashion.
I don’t want to cause a scene at the train station.
But my friend does.
Sometimes when a strange man reaches into your purse you are forced to cause a scene. That’s just life. After being robbed in Italy I have lived with a sense of uber-paranoia. Especially while spending time in Barcelona, a pick-pocket’s paradise. My purse locks. A man at my hotel told me to wear my bags in front of me because people will run up behind you with machetes, cut your shit off and run away. Huh???? I totally understand though. I actually met some cops in Barcelona and absolutely no shits were given about anything.
One particular day, my friend caught a guy with his hand in her purse while it hung across her body. Fast forward ten minutes… the jerk thought we boarded the previous train and came through to our area following a couple of girls with shopping bags, waiting to pounce like a starved hyena. He caught sight of us and froze while I explained to the girls that he followed them in and was trying to steal their shit. My friend sees what I’m doing and before I know it she’s going around to all the people in the train station pointing him out and yelling “Thief! Thief!” It worked enough to get him to the leave the station but probably just to another one where he hopefully slipped on a banana peel and onto the tracks.
Something to remember: Be vigilant! I can’t stress this enough. Europe has a lot less violent crime than we do in America but no one will hesitate to swipe your purse/wallet/bag of corn kernels when your mid-blink. My advice? Keep your important stuff on you and just fill your purse to the brim with tampons.
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