The Non-Lost Tourists

If you spend a lot of time walking around Amsterdam it is inevitable that at some point a tourist or a group of tourists will ask you for directions. They seem to have a habit of getting lost in cities that they are unfamiliar with and requesting directions. It’s one of their defining characteristics in fact.

Some people might find it strange but I actually enjoy giving directions to tourists. It gives me a warm feeling inside knowing that I have helped someone while putting my knowledge of the city to good use.

I was recently presented with another opportunity to do my bit for mankind and help those in need of directions when my wife and I were approached by a group of five Russian sounding tourists on the streets of Amsterdam.

“Excuse me. We are lost. Where is Van Goth Museum?” The female leader of the group asked.

“Er…” I quickly looked around to get my bearings, “It is that way.”

I pointed in the direction of Museumplein and was about to expand upon this information with a full set of directions but before the words ‘left at the end of the street’ could leave my lips I was suddenly cut off.

“No! It is here!” She insisted sternly and stared me directly in the eye.

I was a little taken aback by this response. The smile fell from my face and my finger stayed in the air, mid-point, as I tried to process her strangely hostile reaction. Was she in denial that she was lost? Had she not just declared in her opening stamen that she was lost? Did she not understand the definition of lost? Was this some sort of test? I quickly looked around to check but there were definitely no museums in sight.

I quickly decided that the best thing to do was to show her. I finally lowered my arm and reached into my pocket for my phone, “I’ll look it up for you.”

“No. Here is map,” A map was suddenly grabbed from one of her associates and thrust into my hands before I could open Google maps.

I glanced at my wife. She looked just as puzzled as me. The man who had seconds ago been holding the map simply looked un-phased, as if this kind of thing happened all the time.

“Right… well… we are here,” I paused for a second as I pointed to our location on the map. She did not shout at for making wild accusations so I continued , “and the Van Goth Museum is here.”

She seemed satisfied with my answer this time. And by that I mean she was not satisfied with my answer at all but she did seem to believe it this time. The map was grabbed back out of my hands, something that might have been a thank you was mumbled (it also could have been a rude word in Russian) and the group started to walk off, back in the direction they had come from.

My wife and I continued our walk towards the tram stop, trying to work out what had just happened. We had no clue.

At the tram stop another Russian sounding woman approached us, “Excuse me? This tram? Dam square, yes?”

“Yes,” I replied, deciding it was best not to argue.

15 responses to “The Non-Lost Tourists”

  1. Jason B says:

    While I haven’t had quite the experience you did, one of my proudest moments was being stopped and asked for directions, and actually knowing the correct way to tell the tourist. I finally felt like a local. Of course, for every 1 time I know the way, I probably get asked 5 times how to get to some obscure place that sounds something like “de hozgbijuitplein”

  2. Breigh says:

    Oh man I still can’t believe that story. It had to be some sort of language issue on their part or something. So weird. I swear you never know what kind of weirdos you are going to run into in Amsterdam.

  3. Alison says:

    Nyet! How strange! Ah, tourists; giving other tourists a bad name since time immemorial! ;)

  4. Anneke says:

    It was a test! By… either the Russian mob or the city of Amsterdam. They will contact you shortly. *tumduh*

  5. dragonlady says:

    Like you I love it when I’m in London and a tourist asks me the way to somewhere. I can usually help. But if someone asks me for a street near where I live I can’t always help. I’ve lived here 34 years and I still don’t know the names of all the roads. I can find my way around but I just don’t read road names.

  6. Lovely story – I wonder what was lost in translation and what was really intended after all.

    What about the tram? Was it going to the Dam Square? Or was it in damn square? :-)

  7. Stew says:

    I was back in Amsterdam at the end of last year, just visiting and on the third day I was stopped in the street and very politely asked where the red light district was. To start with I took it as a compliment that I looked like I knew the area.
    I’ve stayed in Amsterdam a few times before so I was able to point the man in the right direction and carry on with my own visit. 20 minutes later someone else asked me the same question… then about an hour later..then again..
    I think I must have been asked directions to the exact same location about 6 times that day.. I stopped taking it as a compliment and started wondering why people assumed I knew where it was!
    I don’t get lost in Amsterdam anymore, Utrecht on the other hand is a totally different story. :)

  8. julia says:

    Every time I travel the tourists annoy me.

    I am frequently asked for directions. I try to hide how happy it makes me.

  9. Jules says:

    I love living in Nijmegen. I haven’t met a single tourist yet, Russian or otherwise :-)

  10. kiki says:

    NO! This did not happen! Other thing happened! Tell me what happened! Tell me on blog!

  11. Invader_Stu says:

    Jason B – I’ve had that a few times as well. They never seem willing to repeat it do they once they realize you are not a native speaker.

    Breigh – Of course not. There is always a chance of running into me :p

    Alison – I think my reaction to the other lady at the tram stop proves that as well.

    Anneke – I’m ready Don Anneke.

    Dragonlady – I’m the same. I can point out where things are but if they ask for certain road names I have no clue.

    Unexpected Traveller – Luckily it was going to Dam square but even if it was not I wonder if I would have told her.

    Stew – I’ve had that happen to me so many times as well. I’ve even had people ask me if I know how much it costs. Why do they think I would know? I even had one guy start telling me how he had just broken up with his girlfriend and was going there for some loving.

    Julia – Happy that it annoys you?

    Jules – Give it time… give it time :p

    Kiki – Your impression of the Russian is spot on :p

  12. French Bean says:

    LOL!!! That would just be *too* odd if that happened to me in Dijon.

    Non-Dijon Tourist: “Where is the Maille mustard store?”

    Me: “Down Rue de la Liberté.”

    NDT: “No! It is here!” (accusingly points at map)

    Me: (looking at the finger’s position) “Yes, very good. That IS Rue de la Liberté. Now, just go there, dummy.”

    Oh dear. I think I’m turning into a rude Frenchwoman. :-P

  13. Wendi says:

    Awwww, you said “my wife.”

  14. Aledys Ver says:

    Indeed, that was a “Lost in Translation” moment, I think! I wonder if they are still arguing with the kassa bediener at the Van Gogh Museum, that it is NOT the Van Gogh Museum! :D

  15. Invader Stu says:

    French Bean – That means you are becoming integrated :p

    Wendi – That was her reaction too :)

    Aledys Ver – I wonder if they are still wondering around Amsterdam and I’ll pump into them again later.

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