An Unexpected Request

26th November 2017
When we travel to different countries, I always endeavor to respect their culture and wishes. I feel that as foreigners in their country we are ambassadors and, and such, our behavior reflects upon us and our country.

But there are times when I wonder about their requests.

Not too long ago while traveling in Switzerland, we had lunch in a small cafe then decided to walk around and look at the stores. We saw a gallery that was featuring a German artist and decided to go inside. After looking around, we decided to forego going upstairs and headed towards the door. A lady approached us and mentioned that there were more paintings on the above floor. Before we could thank her and say that we were leaving, she asked us to take our backpacks off and carry them in front of us.

What?

She went on to say that, with everything going on in the world, people would feel better if we carried them. While her explanation made no sense to us, we explained to her that we were just leaving anyway, wished them luck with the exhibition and walked out the front door.

While I'm sure she thought her reason made sense, it really didn't to me. We were carrying my camera equipment in our backpacks, which I would have gladly shown her had she asked. I understand that given the times that we live in, seeing what we are carrying would put them at ease...and I have done it before.

The rest of the day, I paid particular attention to people as we strolled by with our backpacks. No one looked warily at us, or shied away. Since we were talking a mixture of German and English, they could easily figure out that we were tourists.

But I do wonder how many other people visiting the gallery - if any - she asked to do the same.