Do you think it’s OK to hang out in local homes to see how they live, treat kids like animals in a petting zoo, pee on people’s cabins and/or pinch just a wee bit of fur off a stuffed polar bear because your special snowflake will appreciate it more than the others? OK, fine you’re a pathetic (and surprisingly not uncommon enough) jerk who won’t benefit by reading further.
But we’ll assume you’re among the 99 percent of cruise ship passengers who aren’t part of the problem – which, among other things, has resulted in the security system at the local supermarket and kids whose first English is often learning to shout “no photos!” at tourists – here’s a reminder of things not to do if you don’t want to be one of “those” tourists (updated to include recent events):
• Kids are not tourist attractions: This probably gets more complaints than anything. Visitors have been known to offer treats and trinkets to tots like they’re petting zoo attractions, walk uninvited through kindergartens like they’re museums, and stalk teachers carrying the requisite rifles when outdoors. Just. Stop. Already.
• Neither is the “avalanche zone:” The gap in the community left by an avalanche last Dec. 19 is more than just the physical emptiness where 11 homes near the center of town once stood. It also took the lives of a two-year-old and a popular teacher/musician, and shook people’s assumptions about many of our homes beneath mountainsides. Obviously visitors will be curious, but don’t block the way of people still living them demanding they tell their stories. And if someone is offering paid guided tours, let the Visit Svalbard tourism office know.
• Free public wi-fi hotspots are not the place to download the latest “Game of Thrones” episodes: If you’re near the library surrounded by 80 such folks who are hearing the occasional streaming sounds of battle emitting from your computer, it’s a decent bet you’ll be in for a life-meets-art medieval experience.
• Do not rummage through people’s vehicles, wander through their homes, etc.: It’s unreal we have to mention this, but there are regular reports of it occurring.
• The walls of cabins, cultural monuments, skateboard ramp, etc. are not toilet shelters: We know about such incidents because of irate locals putting pictures on Facebook regularly. Considered yourself warned.
• If you need to buy a bunch of something to bring back to the ship, notify someone in advance: OK, it sucks the galley is short of bread, but coming into the supermarket and hoarding the entire day’s baking unannounced kind of massively screws things up for every other local and visitor in town that day. Communication technology is a wonderful thing and it usually works even in the High Arctic. Use it so we can plan ahead.