Yeah, I’m talking to you in the tour group. And to you with the backpack traveling solo. Haven’t you ever read up on travel ethics??
One of the biggest things is that you shouldn’t give stuff to kids! Let me say that again a little louder…
DON’T GIVE STUFF TO KIDS!
I know, I know, they’re cute and all. How can you resist those needy looking faces, especially when they try out a little English on you. “Hello.” “My name is” so and so. Yes, it’s nice and charming and all, but you should NOT reward them for this!
If that sounds cruel to you than I’m sorry, but there’s a very good reason why you shouldn’t do this. Guidebooks will tell you that it encourages begging, and that’s true. But it gets worse than that. Take Midyat, a city in Southeast Turkey with a charming, honey-colored old town. It’s very pretty to look at…so long as you can enjoy it while being constantly assaulted by seemingly nice children.
But these kids have learned a new English word to complement “hello” and their names. “Money.” And that’s what they want from you. Heck that’s what they expect from you, just by virtue of you being a foreigner.
These kids are aggressive. Some would not let me pass. Others would follow me around yelling “Money! Money!” at me. One even hit me after I tried to get him off my backpack that he was clinging on to. What started as a seemingly innocent exchange, where they all crowded around me to say hello, had turned aggressive.
I don’t so much blame these kids for this behavior. I blame you, fellow traveler, who gives stuff to these kids! Why in your right mind would you ever give kids money??
But it’s not just money. It’s any physical object. Candy, pens. Oh yes, pens seem popular. A kid in Hasankeyf who insisted I take his picture then asked me for a pen. I didn’t have a pen, but even I did, I would not have given it to him. Clearly he learned this expectation from somewhere and I was not about to contribute to the problem!
Do you see what you’re doing to these kids? You’re making foreigners equal handouts in their eyes. Yes, you want to give a good impression of foreigners, but not one of expectations. You should convey that foreigners are friendly, warm people. Not friendly warm people who give you stuff!
It might seem harmless. What if I just give a pen to this kid? Then the kid expects it from the next one. And the next one. And the next one… These are impressionable young minds we’re talking about here!
Want to help? Make a donation to a community or aid organization or give something to the local school. That’s a pretty harmless way to make a real impact that doesn’t turn kids into little monsters that accost other travelers.
So please, think about the long term results of your actions when you travel. Others will thank you for it…