Tourist Fatigue

Anyone who has lived here for over a month will have one sentence answers to a series of questions that every new person will ask, without fail:

  • Where are you from?
  • What are you doing in Cambodia?
  • What brought you to Cambodia?
  • How long have you been in Cambodia?
  • How long will you be in Cambodia? OR When are you going back home?
  • What’s fun to do around here?

As time goes on, our answers to these questions become more finely tuned as to avoid any further interrogation.  The holy grail of these interactions is one-word responses that leave a frustrating amount of ambiguity for the question-asker, overly enthusiastic to make new friends, and a retreat to the nearest expat bar for the question-receiver.

When you find yourself huddled in a corner of your apartment in the fetal position, you’ve reached critical mass, also known as Tourist Fatigue.  The term was coined by the one and only Sara Roxy who has spent most of the last 10 years living outside of her home country.

Cambodia is awesomely foreign for people who have never been to Southeast Asia.  Especially in Sihanouk Ville, the expats are laid back, the locals are friendly, and food selection includes fried crickets. You get great traveler’s stories of this strange, exotic land and share them from the comfort of your 4 star hotel.  But don’t get too comfortable, the fact that you could get robbed at any given moment creates an air of danger that goes along with any adventure story.  And, more importantly, contributes to great Facebook status updates.

But yeah, the people who live here are over it, dude.

We’ve met people. We’ve eaten crickets. And we’ve been robbed.  Several times.

We just want to make sure the staff doesn’t destroy our business.  We get excited when the local theater finally has a decent copy of Dark Knight Rises. And every day after work, we need to figure out what we need to get at the grocery store because our roommate came home stoned last night and ate all the food.

Don’t get me wrong, with cultural complacency comes brand new stories.  However, they’re not in the realm of “Look how weird Cambodia is, man!” They’re more like, “Did you see the new manager at Above Us Only Sky? He’s smokin’.”  or “Is Lionel at the police station?”

Sure, it’s up to the permanent fixtures to make sure visitors have a good time and tell their friends all of their adventure stories to come visit us in return. But tourists in Sihanouk Ville aren’t the rare unicorns their friends have been telling them they are.  They all have the same questions, and leave with the same stories.  Unfortunately, their take on the stories relies very heavily on us.

Next time, I’ll tell you about a run-in with a backpacker who was giving out flyers for one of Serendipity Beach Road’s more seedy establishments, wouldn’t leave me alone, and how I verbally owned him.

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About Tavie Crockett

Like "Davy Crockett," but with a "T."
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