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Coffee House Culture House Daily

Spectator competition: make the case for sugar, fags and a sedentary lifestyle (plus: how not to curry favour with US customs officials)

23 August 2014

9:30 AM

23 August 2014

9:30 AM

The recent challenge to come up with misleading advice for British tourists travelling abroad produced a postbag that was infused with a spirit of sadistic mischief. As usual with comps of this kind there was an element of repetition. A fair few of you echoed Basil Ransome-Davies’s wise counsel about that ‘quaint British custom’ queueing. ‘Let go of your inhibitions,’ he suggests, ‘and take part in the enjoyable free-for-all of a waiting line in, for example, a French post office.’ There were also several variations on Sean Haffey’s ‘The only state in the USA where marijuana is legal is Florida. However, it is mandatory to declare drugs at Miami customs and courteous to share a sample’, and on this unhelpful tip from Barry Baldwin: ‘American airport security is the world’s most relaxed. Crack a joke about bombs in your suitcase and they’ll be falling about.’

The winners are printed below and earn a fiver per snippet.

G.M. Davis
Respect the libertarian tradition in Barcelona with the popular greeting that urges Catalans to ‘live free’ — ‘viva franco’.
It’s considered lucky to take a drink from the famous Manneken Pis statue in Brussels.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel can make entering the country a difficult and protracted affair, but a $50 ‘gratuity’ for an obstructive official will smooth the way for visitors.

W.J. Webster
Don’t be afraid to take a selfie with the ‘Mona Lisa’ in the Louvre. The spirit of Marcel Duchamp is still alive in the attendants there.
Italians are proud of their cuisine and how far it has spread. So take some tins of spaghetti in tomato sauce as a simple welcome gift.
If you have any old European currency in the back of a drawer, take it with you. The euro is still suspect across the EU in many minds so staff will be doubly grateful for tips in the reliable original coins.

Adrian Fry
If attending the Samuel Beckett Festival in Enniskillen, audience members are required to act as prompts in the event of any pause.
When visiting India, show respect by drinking exclusively from the Ganges.

Bill Greenwell
Join the daily rockabilly session at Jerusalem’s wailing wall.
In Rome, purchase red noses before visiting the Circus.

[Alt-Text]


Rob Stuart
Gay Pride in Moscow lasts all year round.
Pot noodles, cheese strings and oven chips are almost always available ‘behind the counter’ in Italian restaurants.

D.A. Prince
In a French restaurant always insist on seeing the Australian/New World wine list, which is normally under the counter and kept exclusively for locals.

Basil Ransome-Davies
A French sommelier will appreciate your insider’s knowledge of wine-related idioms if you commend a taste with ‘pipi!’ (‘perfect!’).

Sandra McGregor
Italians love children and most of their major galleries have at least one room set aside where children can have a hands-on experience; not only touching the paintings but adding embellishments in crayon. Curators will be happy to point it out.

Chris O’Carroll
In Mexico City, the señoritas will swoon for you if you have the manly courage to vault the barrier and run across the ring during a bullfight.

John O’Byrne
The most public-accessible toilets in Rome are located in the Quirinal.

Nicholas Hodgson
Eaux de vie, cordials and liqueurs are popular digestifs: try asking for an entente cordiale or, at smarter restaurants, a préservatif.

Brian Allgar
The Trevi fountain in Rome is there to help tourists. Locals fill it with small change, and if you’re short of cash for a coffee or a sandwich, just dip in and help yourself.

Tim Hedges
Try Venice’s new gondola-sharing scheme.

Katie Mallett
When visiting the Grand Canyon it is traditional to drop a stone over the edge for good luck.

Michael Jones
When on autoroutes, always ignore the pay signs. Those are only for French citizens. Drive straight through and wave a Union Jack.

Your next challenge is to submit an imaginary feature from a newspaper’s health pages extolling the benefits to wellbeing of something traditionally thought to be bad for you (150 words maximum). Please email entries to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 3 September.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


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