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Whale-sized Rudeness

This happened when I was in my junior year of college. My university offered a day trip for a whale watch about an hour from campus at a discount. My 3 roommates and I thought it would be fun to get away for a day and joined in. It was a rainy brisk fall day with a full boat on the ocean in Boston. The inside of the boat had booths to sit at and keep warm, but you could not see the whales from there. So, being that we were there to see whales, we stuck it outside for the majority of the trip. It paid off, we had great viewings and it was a blast.

By the time the boat was heading back, we were really cold from being outside in the rain for hours, so we decided to sit inside for the trip back. We went inside and found an empty booth. None of the seats were assigned and it was first come first served. It was a large booth that could fit 8 adults. After about a half hour, a woman comes up with her daughter and stares at us, obviously annoyed. We don’t know her, and let it be and continue chatting. She starts clearing her throat, and one of my roommates looks at her and thinks she is looking to see if she can join our table. The woman says (in a heavy accent – I know what nationality she is but don’t think it is a factor in the story), “This is OUR table, you need to move”. My roommates and I look confused, as there was nobody there when we sat, and nothing is assigned. One of my roommates replied “I’m sorry, but the seats are not assigned. There is more than enough room though, so go ahead and sit with us if you’d like.” This did not do. She was very upset and pointed at 3 other people, presumably her family. “This is OUR table, we had it on the way out, you need to leave.”

I at this point was really annoyed, why are we to not have a chance to sit? We were cold too and were very willing to share. I mentioned “There was nobody here and the table was empty so it means it is available for us to sit. I’m sorry, you can sit with us but we are cold and tired and need to warm up.”  She points at an empty soda bottle on the table and proceeds to tell us they left that there to “claim” the table and therefor it was theirs and we must leave. We explained that the bottle told us nothing other than someone was not courteous enough to clean up after themselves.

Seeing that we were not leaving, the family members sat in the booth with us and proceeded to give us the death stare. It was very uncomfortable and silent for a few minutes, and one of my roommates was just saying under her breath “lets leave”. I was ready to as well – it was not worth ruining a fun trip by arguing with strangers, but then the father of the family looks at us and says very loudly, “This is OUR table. We had it and left to look at the whales and came back and you STOLE it. You are VERY RUDE AMERICANS and obviously have ZERO EDUCATION. No wonder why Americans are viewed as rude and stupid. You are typical stupid Americans.”

I think all 4 of our jaws were hanging to the floor. Seriously? One of my roommates who is very sweet and usually very reserved lost it at this point. “YOU are rude for not willing to share when there are obviously not enough seats for everyone on the boat but we clearly all fit in this booth. We are here on a trip with our college, and are getting a wonderful education. If you view Americans so lowly, I suggest you vacation in another country. I’d rather sit out in the cold than to be insulted by someone who knows nothing about me.”  And got up and left. We followed. I hate that the family may have felt as thought they “won”, but the fact they insulted 90% of the people sitting around them by calling all Americans rude and stupid was good enough for me. When we left to go sit outside, the staring from everyone around was at them, not us.   0125-11
{ 47 comments… add one }
  • karmabottle March 14, 2011, 5:28 am

    How bizarre! I can’t think of any situation in which having sat in a public seat hours before qualifies as a reason for claiming the seat hours later. If they wanted to “reserve” it, some family members should have stayed seated to “hold” the table while the others left. People sure get possessive…

  • weasel March 14, 2011, 6:31 am

    I’m not American and I feel offended on your behalf. What horribly rude, ignorant behaviour! I wonder if there were some language difficulties and perhaps the mother had not understood that the tables could not be reserved? Still doesn’t excuse that appalling behaviour though.

  • Caper March 14, 2011, 6:37 am

    Unfortunately, what your friend said to them probably just went in one ear and out the other. Entitled people are like that, you know. Their kids will probably grow up to be the same way.

    I would understand if they left the seat for a mere 5 minutes, but they were gone for over an hour. Even then though, if it were only a few minutes – if the seat is not assigned, it’s not guaranteed to be there when they’re back.

  • Squashedfrog March 14, 2011, 6:55 am

    I wouldn’t have got up. This kind of thing makes my blood boil.

  • Enna March 14, 2011, 7:04 am

    That’s rude. All they could’ve said is “budge up a bit please.” If there were a load of coats etc there then that would be clearer however if they still managed to all sit down there was clearly room for everyone. Next time stand your ground and don’t move. Say “there’s room for everyone, no need to be selfish, childish and greedy,” or in this case prejudice. I liked the way they were told they should vacation somewhere else.

    When I was on a train a lady sat next to me and then I saw a lady with a baby in a carry-seat and a suitcase. I waited for the lady sitting next to me to get off the train which allowed me to move to another seat where I had room for my holdall (the overhead shelf was a bit crammed). I made eye contact with the mother before I moved and smiled so she knew that I had waited to vacate my seat so she could sit with her baby. Unfortunaty a man sat down on the chairs first. I looked at him not in a “death stare” but glanced back at the mother and baby to get his attention to look at them – she still moved her suitcase to the chair to sit down next to him and when he saw the baby in carry chair on her lap he realised what he had done, got up and said “Do you want this chair?” and moved to another one.

    Now if I am in the same situation again I would say “does the lady with the baby want these two seats?”

  • Kai March 14, 2011, 7:14 am

    Seriously, an empty coke can shows that the table is claimed? I guess every seat in the local food court must always be claimed then.

    Ugh. I like their comment though that the can only showed their lack of consideration of cleaning up after themselves. Though I wish they hadn’t given up the table; the family will indeed have believed they ‘won’.

    The OP is right. If all you are going to do is insult the ‘locals’ when you go on vacation, why vacation there?

  • Runia March 14, 2011, 7:32 am

    First off I do think that the lady was in the wrong here. However, leaving was a pretty stupid thing to do, since in the rude lady’s eyes it was an admission of guilt. And probably an encouragement to act like this in the future, since it works to get her what she wants.
    On another note, “I’d rather sit out in the cold than to be insulted by someone who knows nothing about me”? I’d be pretty annoyed if I had to sit out in the cold because my friend is a drama queen who can’t handle a person staring at them.

  • badkitty March 14, 2011, 7:45 am

    As an American, I’m well-aware that we are not always viewed abroad as being particularly bright or courteous (some well-traveled bad apples have ruined our rep), but I will NEVER understand why you would visit a place if your intention is to insult the locals, or why you would even WANT to visit the home of people you obviously think so little of. Good on you and your friends for leaving when you did rather than fulfill this deranged tourist’s wish to trade insults with locals – she can do that at home for free.

  • 1st-Time Mommy March 14, 2011, 7:47 am

    I find it very classy of the OP to not have mentioned the offenders’ nationalities. It seems that, particularly for a group of young college students, the OP and friends handled the situation as well as possible.

  • AS March 14, 2011, 8:35 am

    I have been on those Boston whale watching boats. It really is hard to see whales from inside, and it should be worse when there is rain splashing on the windows. When we went, people started out by sitting around some tables; and by the time we were returning, everyone was all around the place. Though, one thing I’d say in favor of the tourists is that maybe in their home country, the system works so that if they occupied the seats first, it belongs to them for the rest of the trip even if they are not sitting there for a while. Though, that doesn’t pardon their rude statements, it might help the OP to see their point.

    That being said, I think everyone should learn to respect the people of the country they are visiting, even if they are not happy with the country for some reason. Unfortunately, this type of misguided opinion that these people have is quite universal, though people are seldom as rude as to accuse people of being stupid or whatever the stereotype. It is behavior like these from a small group of people that gives a bad reputation to everyone else in that country/culture. It is nice of the OP to say that the nationality of the people is not important. I wonder how many people in the boat would have thought that these people are behaving like this because they are from so-and-so country. I am an international here in the USA, and it is so annoying when someone tells me that people from my home country are . I also have such a hard time trying to convince some of my friends from my home country (many staying in USA too!) that Americans are not what Hollywood depicts them to be.

  • Amanda March 14, 2011, 9:20 am

    I, too, have been on the whale watching boats in Boston, and while I had perfectly pleasant trips, I’ve had many friends have similar stories from whale watching tours.

    I think that quite often people on holiday lose all common sense. They go somewhere new, freshly warned of the many ways in which they will be taken advantage, and they have both heightened alert and willful ignorance. I lived in Washington, DC for several years, and I was always amazed by the extent to which a new location could throw people off their bearings. It’s funny because when you go to an unfamiliar area of your city, you try to assimilate. When you go somewhere for vacation, you do everything possible to stick out (e.g., wear fanny packs, funny hats, cameras around necks, etc.), and quite often, you find that you have the best experiences when you assimilate instead.

    Here, the locals explained nicely what the tourists could do to assimilate, and rather than do so, they made rude comments about the country as a whole. No matter where you go, if you do that, you will be thought rude.

  • Lauren March 14, 2011, 9:30 am

    That happened to my mum once. Only with her it was a ‘Happy Meal’ toy or similar, in a cafe. I don’t recall the ending of this story, but my mum was really, really irritated by the event.

  • RP March 14, 2011, 9:36 am

    I’m not sure that it matters whether or not the rude tourists thought they had “won”. Depending on the length of the trip back and how cold it was outside it may not have been a battle worth fighting. Sure, staying would mean that the rude tourists aren’t able to use bullying to get their way but that still means being insulted the entire trip back. The friend didn’t think it was worth spoiling the entire day and I can’t really fault her for it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do think it’s worth standing up on principle and I do get that “giving in” to people like those tourists encourages their poor behavior because being rude and insulting gets them what they want. However, this was a special day trip not a regular commute on the bus or weekly trip to the local coffee shop. I can see someone not wanting to let rude people ruin the memory of a special trip if they don’t have to.

  • Shalamar March 14, 2011, 9:46 am

    I once had a similar situation at a social. A drunk fellow stumbled up to me and demanded that I get out of “his” seat. Considering that (a) there was nothing on the chair to indicate that it was his – no coat or anything – and (b) there were literally dozens of empty seats all around us, I made the mistake of thinking he was joking, and I laughed. He got VERY angry and threatened to hit me. Nice!

  • SHOEGAL March 14, 2011, 10:04 am

    I don’t believe that an empty soda bottle saves the table. When I cruised recently, a towel on deck seats was enough to save your spot at the pool for the entire day – people really respected that towel – even though seats were limited and everyone had the exact same beach towel from the cruiseline. I wouldn’t have blamed anyone for moving my towel and sitting there especially after I had been gone for an hour or so.
    I think these people were exceedingly rude for insulting the students especially since they did absolutely nothing wrong or rude. It is ignorant to judge an entire nation of people based on the bad behavior of a couple of individuals. Not all Americans are rude and stupid. Some are – evidenced by the stories on this site but not everybody. One thing is for certain though – you can find rude and stupid people all over the world.

  • L. March 14, 2011, 10:18 am

    So… the rude people won. All verbiage aside, they got what they wanted. Rude people usually do. *sighs*

  • gramma dishes March 14, 2011, 10:22 am

    I wish the OP and her friends hadn’t moved.
    Rude Tourists: one — College Students: zero

  • Typo Tat March 14, 2011, 10:30 am

    You girls shouldn’t have walked away. Being all huffy and indignant gets you nowhere.

  • Ashley March 14, 2011, 10:58 am

    I find it slightly ironic that they were calling the Americans out as being rude, when they themselves were not making their own country look so great either.

    As for the seat thing, if the seating is not assigned, don’t assume you are getting your seat back. Period. Hell, one time I was on a plane WITH assigned seating, and I somehow managed to lose my seat in the five minutes it took me to get to the bathroom and back. Some people just don’t care, assigned or not. It’s unfortunate really.

  • Meghan March 14, 2011, 11:15 am

    I’ve also gone on a whale watching tour out of Boston (and as the OP describes the boat, it sounds exactly like the one I was on). The interior of the boat does not have enough seating for every group to get their own table. I went in summer, and on the way out, many people were on the exterior part of the boat, enjoying the fresh air, and waiting to see whales (and dolphins!). On the way back, most people went inside to find seats. My poor BF got seasick when we went, so he took a spot in a booth, and barely made it outside to see the whales. On the way back, I sat with him, and people joined our table (a lovely couple from Mexico whose company we really enjoyed – and who we were happy to give tips about great non-touristy places to go during their stay in Boston. Just another reason to be nice to the locals). The crew actually made a point of telling people that seats are not assigned. If they had left coats in the booth, or bags, or anything other than a single piece of garbage, I might see their side. But you can’t leave seating in a place like this and expect people to be mind readers and know that you want to sit there. You leave it; you lose it. When I went, because I kept coming in to check on the BF, I noticed that people were moving all over the place and sitting in different seats. This group had zero reason to think the booth was theirs. Count me among those who question people who hate Americans deciding to vacation in the birthplace of the American Revolution.

  • Louise March 14, 2011, 11:42 am

    “We explained that the bottle told us nothing other than someone was not courteous enough to clean up after themselves.”

    That made me laugh!

    The rude family may have come from a culture in which youths defer to their elders. So because the OP and his/her friends didn’t immediately apologize and move, they are the rude ones because, in their eyes, EVERYONE knows that you defer to older people, even random ones on vacation. I personally think that whole mind-set is inherently rude, especially when it comes to first-come, first-served seating. What the father said was incredibly rude, and I agree with everyone who says that if you don’t like Americans, you probably shouldn’t go on holiday to the one country that is positively teeming with them.

    I wouldn’t have moved, but I’m stubborn like that. I think the OP and his/her friends acted pretty gracefully, a lot more gracefully than I would have in college.

  • Thel March 14, 2011, 11:44 am

    Congratulations for handling the situation very well and for not mentioning the nationality of the offenders. People are rude, not nations. Though I wouldn’t have left, as these very special snowflakes probably thought that they had “won”.
    Even if claiming tables was the done thing in their country, once it was clear it was not the case there, they should have adapted and shared the table with OP and friends. Their rude behaviour was inexcusable.

  • Alexis March 14, 2011, 12:38 pm

    Pigs are pigs, no matter where you’re from. My guess is that these people spend a lot of time at home being offended by all the ‘rude’ people around them. I hope they never come back.

  • Brenda March 14, 2011, 12:43 pm

    I would have ignored the death glare and stayed at the table. But I’m much older than the average college student and have learned to ignore that type of ignorant behavior displayed by the tourists.

  • Xtina March 14, 2011, 12:52 pm

    The family’s actions were rude in ANY language and I seriously doubt that leaving an empty, unmarked bottle on a table signifies the seat is taken no matter what country you’re in! I would have stood my ground with those people just to make the point that I had done nothing wrong, smiling and being as polite as I could just to drive them mad. The whole rant about rude Americans was devised to be hurtful and drive the OP and her friends off, and it worked.

  • Ista March 14, 2011, 1:28 pm

    OP and her friends were much more gracious than I dare to believe I’d have been.

  • DGS March 14, 2011, 2:09 pm

    A sign at one of my favorite resorts by the pool reads: “Towels do not reserve seats. People reserve seats”. In a location without assigned seating, it’s first come, first serve. I wish the OP and her friends hadn’t moved – the family was clearly in the wrong, and they were the ones being profoundly rude. They could have shared the seats with OP and her friends; or, they could have moved on and found other seats, but they chose to be nasty and try to make a “point”, which only led to them looking foolish and boorish. Shame on them, no matter what culture they might be from, as rude is rude in any language.

  • ashley March 14, 2011, 2:26 pm

    @Runia I respectfully disagree with your last statement because the OP didnt have to follow her friend out into the cold, she couldve stayed put right where she was in the warmth and it doesnt sound like she minded anyways. The OP’s friend was absolutely right to defend herself and wasn’t being a drama queen at all.

  • Allie March 14, 2011, 2:48 pm

    I would have quite happily ignored them and carried on chatting happily with my friends. I bet they would have eventually given up and left to try pulling their schtick on some other table before long. If my husband were with me, he would have ripped these people a new one (on the other hand, if he was with me, they probably wouldn’t have pulled this to begin with. They probably just thought the students looked like an easy mark). It’s sad that there are people like this in the world.

  • Typo Tat March 14, 2011, 3:17 pm

    @SHOEGAL – You do realize it’s also pretty rude to “reserve” what you know is a limited spot, and then go away for hours?

  • Elle March 14, 2011, 5:30 pm

    So, let them think they “won.” Having to “win” a confrontation like that or “teach them a lesson” or even “proving a point” can all lead to the slippery slope to the point where you’re behavior devolves into something no better than theirs. Removing oneself from the source of irritation is definitely a “win” in my book.

  • Pinkwildrose March 14, 2011, 6:09 pm

    The OP and her friends reacted with grace, and I understand why they might have preferred to leave than continue on in what could have become a very ugly confrontation. I hope they didn’t catch cold from being outside.

    I do wonder, though, at the intelligence of the tourist family. From a safety perspective, picking a fight on a boat doesn’t seem to like a good idea, what with there being nothing but a railing between a body and a very cold ocean. I’m not suggesting that the OP and her friends would have resorted to violence (they seem far too classy for that), but when I’m in a foreign country, respecting the locals seems like a good idea.

  • Wheelchair Bling March 14, 2011, 6:27 pm

    I’ll bet in whatever country those people came from, everyone rolls their eyes and tries to escape whenever they appear on the horizon!

  • PrincessSimmi March 14, 2011, 9:22 pm

    What’s the bet the matriach of that family will be on Mother In Law Stories in a few short years?

  • Miss Raven March 14, 2011, 10:21 pm

    Team “Don’t Move.” While I applaud the OP and her friends for remaining graceful and non-confrontational, I don’t think it’s a matter of letting the family think that they had “won” or not. It’s a matter of refusing to kowtow to bullies. After OP and friends had argued their “case,” and had made all the valid points needed to be made, offered to share, and after the two groups were sharing the table (which could apparently fit them all), the matter should be considered resolved.

    I think the best thing to do would be to continue to enjoy yourself with your friends. The father was a schmuck and it would be best to just ignore him. His self-righteous, insulting rant was designed to get a rise out of the girls, and it worked. The proper response, for me, would have been no response at all. And if he continued to get louder, angrier and more insulting, the worse he would look and his family by association, while the OP and her friends would continue to be blameless. My guess is either he would have felt smug after his comment and then shut up about it, or he would continue to escalate against the complete lack of reaction from the girls and eventually would be confronted by someone else, ideally an employee or tour guide.

    These sorts of people absolutely cannot stand to be ignored. Multiple bonuses: You keep your seat, you keep a civil tongue in your head, you continue to chat happily with your mates, Angry Dad doesn’t get to the satisfaction of pissing you off/driving you away.

  • Calliope March 14, 2011, 10:22 pm

    Elle is right. As much as it pains me to let people like this “win,” it’s often preferable to remove oneself from a situation like this before it escalates, and I comfort myself with the idea that nasty people never really “win” in the end. I think the OP and her friends handled this impeccably.

  • Maryann March 15, 2011, 12:26 am

    So glad they were only visiting. May it be hoped they won’t be tempted to return.

    This reminds me of an experience I once had. I was in a parking lot in a shopping center and I noticed someone had abandoned a shopping cart behind someone’s car. This is not common around here, and it’s the sort of thing I don’t ignore. I was going to return my own cart and I started to take the abandoned cart with me. Just then the owners of the blocked car returned. They were a young couple with foreign accents. I smiled at them and said something to the effect that I couldn’t believe someone was so rude, and I’d get the cart for them.

    They had been speaking English so I knew they understood me, but the woman ignored me totally, the man didn’t look at me, didn’t thank me, just muttered about what a bunch of rude pigs Americans are, then got into the car, started it up, and barely waited for me to be clear before they were gone.

    The irony was obviously lost on them.

  • Chicken March 15, 2011, 2:55 am

    I’m from Boston, and we have a fun little phrase I’m fond of repeating in these instances, ” Move your feet, loose your seat”. Once the other party became rude and or started yelling I would have simply gotten a member of the staff and let it go. If they chose to sit down and give me the “death stare” I would have ignored them. I wouldn’t have had a hissy fit and left to sit out in the rain.

    The OP handled the situation correctly, her friend did not.

  • Cat March 15, 2011, 10:27 am

    I have to vote with those who feel you should not have moved. You allowed them to sit with you. They were warm; you were warm.

    After offering to allow them to sit with you, talk among yourselves and ignore the rude people just as you would not try to understand a babbling toddler. Do not reply as they are trying to get a rise out of you and the payoff is your commenting back to them.

  • Michelle P March 15, 2011, 10:41 am

    It’s easy for all of us to say, I wouldn’t have…you should have… when we weren’t in the situation. The OP and her friends handled it very well. Yes, the family may have felt triumphant, but the girls were the “winners” in the end.

    @Chicken, where do you get that her friend had a “hissy fit”??
    @Runia, where do you get that her friend is a “drama queen”??

  • Psyche March 15, 2011, 12:55 pm

    My father has problems with people who leave their seats when we go to Barnes and Nobles. They don’t leave a personal item on the chair, get up, and then get offended when my father sits down. Once an old guy screamed at my father that he was saving the seat my father was sitting in for his wife. My father calmly told this man that the whole idea of saving seats had gone out of style in elementary school. He left in a huff.

  • Wink-n-Smile March 15, 2011, 1:35 pm

    Don’t kowtow to bullies, especially if it means spending even more time outside in the cold and rain, and catching a cold.

    “I’m sorry you feel that way, ” followed by chatting amongst yourselves while you ignore the family would have been the next step. If they complained again, then one of you (whoever was on the end seat) should have fetched an employee to deal with the situation.

    Of course, the employees should have dealt with it as soon as the guy started getting abusive.

  • LS March 15, 2011, 3:41 pm

    Where I live in the US, if a beverage has a napkin lain over the top, it is usually a sign that the seat is still taken. (This is becoming more common now that patrons have to smoke outside.)

    Then again, a not-empty beverage, a pen, book and some looseleaf papers, and pair of sunglasses did not deter one gentleman from taking my table.
    A simple, “May I have my seat back, please,” sufficed effectively.

  • Geekgirl March 15, 2011, 4:04 pm

    It’s not just an American thing. I was once on a boat trip in England – a sort tour around the bay thing. There weren’t enough seats for everyone, and everyone was just sort of fluid, wandering around the boat as the mood took them. I did have a seat, got up to look at the view and when I got back my seat was taken – which was fair enough, I’d left it.

    After a while of standing up (and after being asked to leave one seat so a woman could put her child’s pushchair there – but that’s another story), a woman got up, and after a few moments, I sat down in her seat. She was gone about twenty minutes, and when she got back, there I was, in ‘her’ seat.

    She glared at me. She sighed and huffed repeatedly. She made loud remarks about how she did have a seat but someone stole it. She wasn’t elderly, she wasn’t disabled, there were no assigned seats, and everyone was getting up and down from seats at random. Plus there were only ten minutes left of the journey.

    She spent the entire ten minutes making loud remarks to her family about how rude some people were, stealing other people’s seats. But I’m afraid I was stubbornly deaf to her heavy hints

  • Chicken March 15, 2011, 9:30 pm

    @Michelle P,

    In response to your question:

    The OP’s friend did not need to make any sort of a statement or leave the table, rude staring never hurt anyone. I feel she threw a “hissy fit” as I call it by further engaging the tourist family and then walking out. What were her friends supposed to do? They could continue to sit there and have to deal with the fall out from her comments, or follow her outside into the cold and the rain. She effectively made a decision for the whole group that resulted in all of them being even more uncomfortable. There was no need for her comments, except to help soothe her bruised ego when someone she’ll likely never see again called her dumb.

  • --E March 16, 2011, 5:30 pm

    It’s stories like this that make me glad to be middle aged. When you have enough of these sort of experiences, you learn what I call the First Rule of Life: do not engage with the crazy people.

    I will allow that perhaps in whatever country the people came from, there is a different custom and back home the table would have been considered “theirs.” But after the initial explanation, that would have been the end of the discussion for me. They could sit or not as they liked; it wouldn’t be my problem.

    People getting huffy and calling me rude always get a smile from me in return. Getting angry with them will be pointless, so if I can’t just ignore them, I arrange to be amused instead.

  • Chelsey March 18, 2011, 10:06 am

    Ugh. I agree with what the OP’s friend said. If you already have a negative view on a country and it’s people, then DON’T vacation there and expect them to treat you like a king.

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