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Date: December 31, 2013 06:41PM
I guess I should preface this by saying that we go to small towns and stay for a week or more.
The vendors used to make me very uncomfortable. I didn't want anything they were selling.
My friend explained: Due to the enormous income disparity it's practically our job to pump some money into the economy. She taught me to have the beach vendors sit down, have a Coke, and pay them to tell us a folk tale or something about the local customs or history. Have them tell you about their family.
After she gave me that talk, I made a point of doing that and also tipping the gardeners, the room maids, etc. On her advice, I took cartons of pens and pencils to Mexico to give away. Nice ones.
The result: When I injured myself surfing and filled the hotel wastebaskets with bloody kleenix, the maids left me bandages, hydrogen peroxide, flowers, etc. More and more each day.
Each day on the beach, our friends, the beach vendors, waived and chatted even though we'd only paid them once.
We got invited to MANY birthday parties (and yes we'd bring a present) and one group threw us a New Year's eve party. We got lots of fabulous free food and an unusual, great experience. Also - RECIPES!
When I'd go into town and try to buy something, I'd give the clerk a pen. Service would skyrocket.
I'm not much of a writer (and I'm at work) but what I mean to say is that going to a foreign country is a lot more fun when the people like you - and it doesn't take much effort on your part. You also have a bunch of locals looking out for you.
One of my favorite exercises at the village market was to play "what's in your purse." The vendors don't have change and you don't want to buy 10 lbs of avocados. So we each open our purses and see if we want to trade junk. I got some cool stuff and they got a lot of pens and pencils.
If people make a mistake on your bill, it might be because they only have a 2nd grade education, not because they are trying to rip you off. They are frequently more worried about you ripping them off. Once they trusted me, they had ME figure the bill.