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5 Things I've Learned From Living in Tourist Towns

by Matt Hershberger Jun 10, 2016

I GREW UP IN SUBURBAN CINCINNATI, which, delightful cultural hub though it was, did not get many tourists. So when I traveled abroad, I was cheerfully oblivious to the tiny little things tourists do that infuriate the local people of touristy cities. I have now lived in several tourist-heavy areas (London, Buenos Aires, Washington DC, and the Jersey Shore), and I have discovered that there are things you learn living in a touristy area that you just don’t learn otherwise.

1. Always stand to the right, or be rightfully disemboweled.

I never knew, I swear. When I got on the escalator in the mall as a teenager, I would spread out, feeling the metal rub against my feet on each side, or maybe I’d hoist myself into the air to feel like I was flying down the stairs.

That changed when I got to London. I stood to the left once and was (justifiably) screamed at by a late commuter. Now, I hate my old self as much as that angry Londoner hated me.

Always stand to the right. Always.

2. Rush hour is not the time to go sight-seeing.

Are you here to see our lovely city? Great! Welcome! We’re happy to have you. Kindly do not clog the trains between the hours of 4:30 and 6:30. I know the White House is really cool, but it’s there always (we promise), and there’s no reason for you to be clogging up Metro Center with your dumb tourist shit while we’re trying to get home to cook dinner.

3. Not all of the homes here are occupied by vacationers.

Living on the Jersey Shore is exceedingly nice. I am a ten minute walk from the beach. I can sometimes smell the salty spray of the ocean when I wake up in the morning. And on particularly stormy days, I can hear the waves through my open windows.

But the curse is that the summertime does not belong to residents of the town. And now, thanks to Airbnb (and of course, actual B’n’B’s), any number of my neighbors may not be the neighbors I’m friendly with in the wintertime. They’re very likely Gym Tan Laundry bros visiting from upstate. And these bros always seem to make the assumption that it’s always party time at the Jersey Shore, and that we, like them, do not have to go to work in the morning.

4. Your bucket list spots are the spots we avoid at all costs.

When I first moved to DC, I figured I would spend a decent amount of time on the National Mall. It was, after all, a giant park that spanned a huge portion of the capital city.

This was squashed quickly. While there are occasionally some really cool events (as well as the random kickball league) on the National Mall, the constant hordes of tourists, coupled with the crazy protesters and that fucking anti-abortion van that’s always parked outside of Congress made it rarely worth it to spend my time in the shadow of America’s Great Monuments. I know New Yorkers feel the same about Times Square, and I imagine it’s how Parisians feel about the Eiffel Tower as well.

5. Tour guide jokes get really, really old when you hear them every day.

In London, I lived in a building that used to be the Providence Row Night Refuge, a Victorian homeless shelter for the poorfolk of London’s East End. That building, unfortunately, occasionally hosted at least two of Jack the Ripper’s eventual victims. That, coupled with the fact that the final Ripper murder took place right across the street, meant that every Ripper walking tour stopped just outside my kitchen window.

“Back in Jack’s time,” the guide would say, “This building served as housing for Whitechapel’s poorest and most destitute.”

Here, the tourists would gaze up into my kitchen to see me standing there in my ugly pajama pants, cooking noodles.

“Today, it houses students.” Pause. “Somethings never change.”

Everyone laughs. He moves onto the murder site.

I admit I giggled the first time I heard it. But after the fortieth time of being laughed at while I cooked my ramen, it lost some of its zing.

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