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Blog In Travel Addicts

Raffles hotel, Singapore - a return visit

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By Johnny Summerton
Posted Mar 18, 2010 in Travel
A question of manners in "The tale of the overdone egg and the uncooked burger".
Now you're probably thinking that as this is a travel piece it'll be a rapturous review of what is probably one of the most famous names in luxury hotels in the world - Raffles in Singapore.
Well it's not.
"Been there, done that" so to speak, and if you're interested in taking time out to join me in a quick visit I made last year to Number One Beach Road, then you're more than welcome.
Lobby  Raffles hotel  Singapore
Lobby, Raffles hotel, Singapore
Instead this is purely anecdotal, illustrating how some tourists (mis)behave when abroad, with the focus being on those from my adopted home - France - and the country from which I hail, Britain.
And "the action", as such, took place as I made a return visit to Raffles just last week and featured two exchanges between guests and staff that left me with eyes agog, ears a-flapping and a fair measure of embarrassment.
The setting: it's mid morning around the rooftop pool and I'm recovering from a 13-hour trip, slouched over a cool drink in 32 degrees Celsius.
First up the French, who after all have a reputation for being among the most unwelcome when on holiday abroad as a survey of hoteliers carried out on behalf of the Internet travel agency Expedia.fr illustrated last year.
"I want some eggs," said a woman in heavily accented and gutteral English to the barman.
"Certainly madam. How would you like them?" came the smiling response. "Poached, eggs benedict, as an omelette or scrambled perhaps?"
"No none of those," replied the woman. "Just simple...How you say?"
"Boiled?" came the helpful suggestion.
"Yes boiled - three my-newts (French pronunciation remember). One for me and one for my friend."
"Very good madam. And would you like anything else with your eggs?"
"Just toast and some tea," she replied. "Earl Grey for both of us."
"Certainly madam. Just to recap then that's two boiled eggs, toast and Earl Grey tea?"
"Yes. That takes how long?"
"About 10 minutes," came the reply.
"No longer than that," snapped the woman in response. "We're hungry".
Um. Do you notice anything missing?
You know, the simple words "please" and "thank you" that most of us are taught from an early age help jolly along a simple request and aren't exactly difficult to remember.
It was a point I made to my "Nearest and Dearest" (N 'n' D, who happens to be French) as I smugly maintained that what we had just overheard was evidence enough that the French abroad have appalling manners and that their reputation as "arrogant and rude" holidaymakers was more than deserved.
As if to add weight to my argument, when the eggs arrived and had been downed there came the complaint that they had "Obviously been boiled for more than three my-newts as they were almost hard."
There was clearly no pleasing the woman.
But I was to eat humble pie somewhat a few moments later when a fellow Brit proved that he could be even more obnoxious when it suited.
It happened when he requested that local speciality, burger and fries "With no trimmings such as onions, tomatoes, cheese or any other similar muck, just some meat and a roll please."
"Well at least the man had had the good grace, if not the taste, to round off the whole 'order' with a 'please'," I mouthed across the table to my N 'n' D.
But my sense of smugness quickly disappeared when the burger arrived, as it was far from being to the man's satisfaction because "It's raw," he insisted. "Inedible (he actually said uneatable but I'll let that one slide) and I wanted it medium to well done."
The manager was called for. The man repeated his complaint that his burger hadn't been cooked as he had requested, and he went to great (and noisy) lengths to demonstrate that - as far as he was concerned - it was not just underdone but completely uncooked.
"Look at that," he said to the manager.
"Does that look as though it has been medium to well done?" he continued.
"No it doesn't," he said emphatically, not pausing for breath and pointing at the barman.
"He clearly doesn't understand what 'medium to well done' means. This burger isn't cooked properly and I can't eat it."
Apologies were made by the manager on the barman's behalf and the irate Brit was told that the kitchen would be asked to cook another burger "exactly as requested."
Sadly when burger number two arrived, it didn't meet the demands of the guest either, and as his grievance levels rose a couple of decibels so his manners deteriorated accordingly before he swore at the staff, accused them of not being able to understand a simple request and stormed off in a huff - burgerless.
Within the space of half an hour the hotel staff had been subjected to some pretty appalling behaviour by my fellow Europeans.
Was it, I wondered, simply that some people didn't know how to behave and as it costs a pretty penny or two to stay at Raffles, did that mean some guests thought they could afford to be downright rude?
And did the hotel's principle of pampering visitors and responding to their every whim and caprice encourage guests to give free rein to the very worst sort of behaviour.
I didn't, and still don't, have the answer, but one thing is clear. That old adage "travel broadens the mind" certainly doesn't apply to everyone.

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