Criminal Intent with Guidebook

I didn’t hit send…yet. It occurs to me that petty as these folks are, she really could lose her job. But I share this story with you, NEV readers, in the form of a letter to the Graz Tourism Board.

Dear Graz Tourism:

I am an American, married to an Austrian. I was in Graz with my family yesterday – both the American side and the Austrian side – when we met one of your guides. We were walking around the city when your guide confronted my brother in law, telling him that I was not allowed to discuss the sights unless I was a certified guide! He told her that we were a family. Her response? “That’s what they all say.”

Schlossberg, GrazFurthermore, later that afternoon in another part of the city, she confronted him again, stating that if I wanted to take groups around the city, I could join the guide certification program. She did not believe that the group was, indeed, my family. She told my brother in law that it was “not allowed” to learn about the city privately and to then share that information with others. She told him that studying a guidebook and using it as a source for a tour of the city was also “not allowed.” Again, she reminded my brother in law that private guiding was “not allowed.”

Note that my brother in law, my sister in law, and my niece – with us that afternoon – are all residents of Graz.

This kind of behavior speaks very badly for the city of Graz and the guide services. First, it implies that the history of the city is not available to anyone who wishes to learn about Graz. Is history now privately owned? It also implies that those wandering Graz on self guided tours are committing some kind of crime, rather than simply enjoying the sights of a lovely city. And it does nothing for the image of the city’s certified guides, who appear snobbish, insecure, and rather rude.

The guide we encountered was more interested in lecturing my brother in law about our “suspicious” family behavior and my need for credentials than she was in offering her services as a guide to our group. Instead of telling us our behavior was not allowed, could she not have said, “Next time, why not hire a guide?” and given us a business card or a brochure? Additionally, how was our conversation any of her business?

I work as a freelance travel journalist and I take a special interest in the history of my adopted homeland. I write about Austria frequently and I recommend sights and services to my readers. And, like any American living abroad, I have guests – friends and family who fly over to visit this beautiful land. I will continue to show them around Austria and share my knowledge of Austria with them.

What I will not do is behave as though it is illegal to discuss Austrian history and the sights of Graz. And I will certainly not recommend that my guests or readers hire a guide from your service. They may be certified and knowledgeable, but the behavior we experienced? Unforgivable.

This confrontation with the guide is now our family souvenir from our visit to your city. Is that not a terrible shame on Graz?

PM, NEV Tours

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15 thoughts on “Criminal Intent with Guidebook

  1. The purpose of being a guide is to give people an informed impression of the city, and I guess in a way she did her job, but what a job. Sheesh.

    I would send the letter. They can’t know how she’s doing unless they’re told. I would tell them.

  2. Hit send. Reminds of being lost in Salzburg my first trip there when I was 18 and asking directions in English (not speaking any German) and one guy we asked responded in perfect English “This is Austria, we speak German here” and then walked away without helping us.

    Why do we always remember the bad stuff when there were also so many great things? (I did like Austria..although i haven’t been back since I was 18!)

  3. Just wow …

    Press send … much as I hate that someone could lose their job, she was plain nasty no matter what country she lived in. Unfortunately Austria already has the stain of neo-Nazism on it without adding someone like her to ‘impressions of Austria’.

  4. You can send it, nothing will happen to that tour guide. No one is punished in Austria for lack of or bad customer service. Austrians generally go to great lengths to annoy others with statements of what is “not allowed”. One time this woman almost pulled my arm off because I was on the sidewalk with my bike. It was a wide sidewalk, and I had gotten off my bicycle to let her pass. Apparently that was not good enough so she pulled my arm and started yelling at me for being with a bike on the sidewalk, which is “not allowed” :). I would say that tour guide had a bad day and decided to take it out on your brother in law….I guess the Terminator was right when he forbid Graz to use his name commercially, they wouldn’t have let anybody talk about it anyway 🙂

  5. Before you send it, cc the certification board for tour guide, the city council and whoever is in charge of local tourism in Graz and then click the send button.

  6. I agree with both Zwiedawurzn and Karan. Send it everywhere you can. The guide service probably won’t care a bit, but they should still know how they’ve come across and how they’ve made you feel. Sending your letter to the certification board, the city council and anyone else involved in tourism may have a little more effect, so send it there too. The guide service is going to look out for themselves, not you. They want everyone to use their service, because that’s how they make a living, period. What the guide did is probably their policy, and she was probably just doing her job. The others are going to be more inclined to listen and to care about how tourists see and experience the area, because they want those tourist dollars for the whole community instead of just one business, and they want those tourists to visit again and to tell other people how great it was so they visit too. Sadly, money makes the world go round.

  7. Sent it is, comrades! To the Tourism Board and the two services that provide the “certified” guides. I’ll post the reply, if/when I get one, of course.

  8. i am an indian and hail from the beautiful state of Kerala,which is known as ‘God’s own country’in india .times have changed it seems. i had the privelege of staying in Graz for six months from september 1987 to march 1988 on official duty.Every austrian i met went out of his way in helping me and my friend Sridharan during our entire stay . on two occassions the young austrian students with whom we picked up a conversation in coffee houses would not allow us to pay, saying that we were their guests. I still remember the smart lady in the bank who would enquire about my wife and children whenever i went to the bank.we had only pleasant experiences at bank,post office, restaurants,shops,even on streets where we asked for information and never experienced any bad behaviour from any body . The behavior of the guide appears to be an odd incident and this need not be considered as the basdic nature of most of the austrians because austrians are very pleasant and hospitable people in my experience.

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