You know what the problem with the human race is? Bad blood caused by cultural misunderstandings. Take the case of Ms Anna Faris, the pretty blond actress who went to New Zealand to star in a biopic about Yogi Bear. During her stay in that serene sheep-sanctuary in the South Pacific, she saw some local men making suggestive body movements, which she interpreted as an invitation to play ewes and rams. Offended by their bawdy presumption, she made a public statement to the effect that Kiwi men were vulgar louts.
Stung by her harsh words, the New Zealand Tourist Board felt obliged to defend the integrity of its menfolk, denouncing Ms Faris as an “incredible stoned bimbo”. This led to a cycle of recriminations and counter-recriminations in which a large number of stoned bimbos, both credible and incredible, cancelled their holidays to New Zealand.
The sad thing about this affair is that the men Ms Faris encountered were not making indecent suggestions to her. What they were doing was the haka, a Maori war dance partaken by Kiwi men of all races, involving an extravagant display of arm-bending, groin-cupping and tongue-wiggling manoeuvres. Admittedly, in most human societies this would signify massive sexual incontinence and the propensity to hump anything with a pair of hind legs; but in Polynesian culture, it is merely a way of showing respect to your rivals before clubbing them senseless. Not so different, in fact, from the chest-thumping we gorillas do before having a friendly sumo bout.
The New Zealand Tourist Board has quite rightly apologised to Ms Faris. Anyone who works in tourism knows that you never retaliate when visitors make a fuss. If a tourist insults us in the Congo, we turn the other arse-cheek.
A couple of years ago, we responded sensitively to the complaints of a Welshman whose foot had been bitten off by a crocodile. It was entirely his own fault, of course, but we nevertheless made arrangements for his wound to be treated. I even listened sympathetically to his whining as he lay in a hospital bed.
“What kind of tourist resort allows crocodiles to prowl about in rivers and snap the feet off guests who happen to be using the facilities?” he asked in an aggrieved tone of voice. “I'm not happy about this, Bananas, it's ruined my ruddy holiday, make no mistake!”.
“You have every right to be disappointed, Mr Fiddler,” I replied soothingly. “Before you leave, we would like to offer you a complimentary tin of crocodile meat so your worthy foot may be avenged. They say it tastes like ostrich.”
This gesture of goodwill mollified the Welshman to such a degree that he kept in touch with us after returning to Pontypridd. Here is an excerpt from a recent email of his:
“…It's not too bad, really, my prosthetic foot is made of fibreglass and can kick a rugby ball 100 yards. They call me Footless Fiddler at my local but you get used to the banter. I screw it off before going to bed...”
Does that sound like a satisfied customer to you?
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