Only people of certain age will probably recognise the song reference in that headline – nerds like me will argue over whether it was penned and sung by the Beatles or George Harrison, our IP columnist Ben Cain will likely warn me to ‘exercise extreme caution’ when messing with an iconic song lyric possibly owned by Apple Corp, and younger viewers will simply just shrug and say, “That’s a stupid headline.”
But the essence of those lyrics resonated for me this week. I was on the number five bus* in Mount Maunganui’s main street on Monday afternoon when I realised something had changed – the sun was shining (and perhaps more importantly, the rain wasn’t … raining, and the wind wasn’t winding) and there was a mood on the street that said: “Here comes the sun, and I say … it’s alright.”
Although the sun was indeed shining, and moods seemed generally ‘up’, the game-changer was actually seeing cruise ship passengers again filling the footpaths and stores along the length of the main street – the first cruise ship of the season had arrived, and with it came sunshine and optimism.
To those who mutter under their breaths (and, cringingly, sometimes out loud), “Damn tourists”, I say, “Get over yourself you grumpy, small-minded so-and-so.”
I may be in a minority, but I don’t care: I love to see overseas tourists sharing our spaces; I love hearing foreign languages and strong accents on the streets and in the shops; I enjoy seeing the look of confused joy on people’s faces when they realise they don’t need to leave a tip, yet choosing to still do so; I love to see young people from France and Brazil doing the seasonal work for which there are not enough locals to cope; I smile when I come across groups of Spanish twenty-somethings enjoying the sunset and a few beers on the beach together (liquor bans not withstanding of course).
Remember, they are all spending money here, they are enriching the cultural landscape, they are opening our eyes to the richness of diversity and difference, and they are doing what so many of us have done in our youth – traveling abroad and enjoying the riches of other cultures, histories and lifestyles … often on a budget.
Although the focus of the government and the tourism sector has been on capturing the spend of the high-value international tourist, while simultaneously discouraging the youthful ‘backpacker’ market, I say, ‘let’s welcome them all.’
With all due respect, I don’t want New Zealander’s cultural interactions with non-New Zealanders to be confined to serving rich Americans in the VIP lounge at the airport and providing smorgasbords to busloads of tourists from China.
I want to see the kids from Germany bungy jumping, young Irish people working behind the bar, Aussie larrikins teaching my kids to snowboard and American teens raving about their Kiwi experience on TikTok.
These interactions are good for us. If we pride ourselves on our multi-cultural openness and acceptance, then let’s not in the next breath criticise the couple at the next table for speaking Spanish or make an off joke about the Nigerian neighbour not needing sunblock – let’s grow up and be more worldly; remember, it was not that many years ago the cool kids mocked the German backpackers for wearing Birkenstocks – now look at the cool kids feet and see who’s laughing.
To kick-off, here are two suggestions we could consider adopting to help change the bad reputation New Zealander’s have built for cultural dick-headedness:
Let’s not continue to make the same snide comment about the under-arm incident every time we meet someone with an Aussie accent – they really don’t even care about it, it was over 40 years ago, you’re being like the friend who always wants to remind you about the time you threw-up at the twenty first party, and it just makes you look like a stupid hick – please be more sophisticated New Zealand.
If you don’t want the tourists crapping under trees, don’t give them the binary choice of either staying at the Sheraton or not coming to New Zealand at all – just provide more toilets. And maybe consider extending the hand of Kiwi friendship even further by stocking them with free multi-ply toilet paper – you might be surprised, the kids in the camper van who flew internationally without defecating in the airplane aisle just might consider using them.
Au revoir, auf Wiedersehen, ciao, adiós, see ya lader.
BTW, Here Comes the Sun was written by George Harrison and was featured on the Beatles’ album Abbey Road in 1969. And for the uber nerds: he wrote the song while spending the day at Eric Clapton’s house.
*And yes, I am still persevering with public transport and loving it.