Tag Archives: tourists

Day 35: Mean Girls Guide to Oxford Tourist Identification (Pt. 2 of 2)

On “Day 34” I laid out my case for categorical identification of people I’ve spied on the sidewalks of Oxford.  It’s rather like bird watching, only with human beings.

Since then, I’ve become a local hero.  Well, actually I was just validated by the bartender at the college pub plus one other person…but it was a wholehearted validation, to be sure.

Well, they listened to my theory for about five minutes and then put in their own two cents for about 55 minutes.  But I think they agreed with me.  Yeah, I’m pretty sure they did.

I had just finished my EU Law final.  The professor says, “Hey lets go grab a drink before I go to Brussels.” So we go downstairs and start making small talk.  The entire rest of the class has had hours of pub time with this guy, but since I don’t frequent the pub I’m not exactly sure what to do.

The bartender chimed in with some banter and helped out a bit.  I asked the prof how many students he teaches each year.   And then – not knowing what else to talk about – I just sort of blurted out my tourist identification theory.  One hour later, the bartender and the professor were still talking about their own categories and having a jolly old time.

So, I suppose the moral of this little intro is that there is an audience for just about any type of writing.  And, I know at least two people now who have spent years of personal energy also fighting the mobs on the sidewalks.  Therefore, since I’ve now been personally fortified let’s finished this thing out, shall we?

We’re on category nine.  BTW – my brained is conditioned for life on the phrase “number 9.”  The Beatles and the 1970s backmasking scares have been imprinted my psyche for evermore.

9.  I threw this one in here because I’m still a “Friends” fan.  In honor of Joey’s famous not-so-manly man bag, here are the “Man Bag Dudes.” The big guys wear larger ones, the small guys wear smaller ones.  But most all the tourists, the male students and any dude with a Euro look falls into the “Man Bag Dude” category.

I actually think they are really practical, and can’t see how you would get around town much without them.  But I tell you true – there aren’t many back in Oklahoma.

Man-Bag Dudes
General tourist groups

10.  This next category earns the “Most Annoying Thing on the Sidewalk” award.  I’ve been a member myself, and I’ve struggled to get around them while NOT a member.  It’s the “General Tourist Group” category.  I could write an entire post on the behaviors indicative of this phenomenon.  But I won’t.  I want to stay in a happy mood today.

Women-wearing-hijabs group...

11.  Next on the list is the “Women-Wearing-Hijabs Group.”  I’m adding this category because it is a distinction I don’t see much in Oklahoma, even at our universities.  If you look at demographics from various geography websites, you’ll see that Oklahoma has such a negligible Muslim population it is listed as 0%.  In the UK, there are 2.4 million persons of the Muslim faith.  So, I thought my friends back home might be interested in seeing that pink must be the “in” color this year!

12.  This next category (see above) is another power group.  I call them a power group because they stick together so tightly that you just have to sort of flatten your back against the wall and let them walk on by.  These are the “female student groups.” Generally entrenched in a deep conversation, they represent a populous force in the sidewalk.  As genteel as the business crowd is, these are the opposite.  Spot them early, and look for exits in case of emergency.

13.  I’ve already written about the Oxford cyclists.  So I’ll just reiterate that they are many.  They are legion.  They are everywhere.

14.  We’re getting close to concluding.  However, there are two other groups I feel are noteworthy. In our EU class there has been a good deal of discussion about the still-ingrained class system within the UK.  My bartender conversation I mentioned earlier also included a discussion about what we in the U.S. call the “transitional year” – – or the first year at a university.  Like it or not, Oxford encompasses a student body who represent an enormous amount of wealth.  The joked that the students learn one thing during their transitional year: “Okay – you’re rich, but so is everyone else…so get over yourself!”  Along this line, I’ve noticed a sub-group around the streets that I’m classifying as the “Eurocratic Student Couples.”  It’s interesting in that those who seem the most richly dressed and stay to themselves are frequently “coupled up.”  I’m not sure why…but it is a distinction that I’m calling valid until proven incorrect.

15. I’m going to wrap up my groups with an outlier.  In research, an “outlier” is something that doesn’t fall within the larger groups of data.  There are a few around, but not many.  In general, they are the individual older male tourist, or perhaps professorial, sidewalk folks.  There is a female counterpart, but they are even more rare.  This last photo is of an outlier gentleman I first saw during the pouring rain on Day 24.

I have to tell you that he got my attention because he was so incredibly kind.  He smiled at every person in the room, tipped his hat as he did, opened doors for people, waved at people…he eked warmth.  I later saw him in the post office, and then again once walking into a clothing store.  If I see him again, I’ll just introduce myself and tell him he made it into my blog.  Who knows…maybe HE has his OWN categories of those he meets on the streets.  I can tell you one thing, though – I’ll bet he’s nicer to them than I.

As I end my Day 35 post, I am realizing I have a new goal.  Next time I walk out onto the busy sidewalks of Oxford, I’ll try and put my invisible touristy-professory hat on and be nicer to those I meet.

After all, I think being an outlier is a really good thing.

(Note: December 8, 2010 – when we transferred sites, several of our photograph links got broken.  I lost the photo of this man, unfortunately, so I don’t think I’ll replace it with something else.  I’ll just sit with the memory of him. RDK)

Day 34: The Mean Girls Guide to Oxford Tourist Identification (Pt. 1)

Tina Fey once said, “If you want to make an audience laugh, you dress a man up like an old lady and push her down the stairs. If you want to make comedy writers laugh, you push an actual old lady down the stairs. ”  She attributes that quote to Catherine the Great.

She also wrote, “In Washington, officials from the National Rifle Association met with a group of high school students. There were no survivors.”

Fey penned quite a bit about her experience as an adolescent girl in junior high and high school.  This subject matter helped inspire one of her greatest big screen successes entitled “Mean Girls.”

A classic scene from the movie basically demonstrates the “great humor rule” that if you just say out loud what everybody already thinks, all of the sudden it becomes funny.  I’m talking about the “Cafeteria Seating Chart” scene.  In it, two students explain to a new girl from Africa why she doesn’t want to sit in certain places in the cafeteria.  They go to great lengths and detail about the sub cultures of their high school population.

I was thinking about this seating chart as I was walking down High Street on Day 34.  I realized that in my head I had started labeling people I saw, based upon my four week experiences of covering the same territory on a daily basis.  I also realized that when I started mentioning these categories to my friends in the program, they then became “reality.”  Not all are Tina-Fey-Funny, but most all ring very true.

In lieu of an indiscernable map I might scribble out, I’ve posted and labeled my “Mean Girls Guide to Oxford Tourist (and locals) Identification.”  That way, if you ever come here, you don’t have to do this yourself.  You’ll thank me later.  So…you’re welcome.

Oxford local business population...

1.  The first group is the local business population.  The men wear suits, the women generally wear suits and low-heeled shoes.  They walk down the sidewalk as if nothing really bothers them and are a minority population among the tourists and students.  These sub group is harmless; you can walk past without fear.

Walking designer label ads

2.  The second group is the “Walking Designer Label Ads.” Great numbers of the young male students wear Tommy Hilfigar, Abercrombie & Fitch, etc. on a daily basis.  The female students generally show their designers by the pattern or label on their handbags, but sometimes their shirts or jeans as well.  The only danger with this group is tripping over a cobblestone if you focus too much on trying to read a designer logo unfamiliar to your brain.  Viva la Labels!

3.  Next is a power group.  These are the middle aged tourist couples. Judging from the bags they carry around after all the shopping they do, Oxford loves these people.  I’d like to know whether they, or the students, contribute the most to the economy.  I have noticed American gender-specific behaviors such as the males standing with their backs against a wall in the shop, while the female peruses store after store.  If you know me, you know it pains me to write that observation, but it’s true.

Middle aged tourist couples

The picture takers

4.  Ahh…the picture takers. Things get really comical during the day when thousands of people are trying to dodge, duck or dive or dip (yes, those are the four D’s of dodge ball) out of the way of thousands more picture takers.  This task is impossible, of course, so I would venture to say that photos people take home from Oxford include people jumping out of their way, and many, many shots include OTHER picture takers.

5.  Consider now, the young lovers. Honestly, it’s pretty hard NOT to consider them, as they are generally making out quite energetically in the alcoves, in the alley ways, next to their college entrances or right in the middle of the sidewalk.  Kisses are more public here, I suppose…lots of them.  The older people just smile, nod and walk on by.  There’s probably a day dream with an Italian accent in the heads of the passers by…”Ah, l’amore, l’amore….”  Notice the people grinning in the photo?  That’s because the couple had just stopped practicing their kissing, right in front of the group.

Young lovers
The fashionistas

6.  The fashionistas – towering along on 5 inch heels, checking their hair, adjusting their designer shades or posing by the street signs.  People in Europe generally dress a step or so up from “us Okies,” but the fashionistas know it.  And, they want YOU to know it too!

7.  The next type are “student tourist groups.” Pictured here are a group of female students who can’t speak English.  They are practicing giving a passer-by their “I’m lost, can you help me?” card.  The yellow backpacks are Cambridge student groups, and the other is a common scene as well…the sponsor is barking orders, “Meet back here in 2 hours!  Two hours, okay? Got that?”

"Can you help me?" - Student tourist groups...

8.  After the student groups come the “Local Blokes.” Blokes is a term not necessarily used for class or category, but I’m using it because when there is a group hanging out together after work, that word is one of the few that accurately describes the rowdy, rambunctious and infectious laughter.  The story telling really does get quite entertaining.  Pictured here are just a couple examples of the “Local Blokes,” or blue-collar locals I see every day.  The first towers over the heads of his peers and rides his bike to work.  The second is my height, talks very quietly (except during the after work fun) and looks tired all the time.

Tall, motorcyle-dude local bloke
Quiet, weathered local bloke

I’m going to wrap this entry here, because I am now halfway finished with my Mean Girl report on Oxford inhabitant typeologies.  Yes, there are seven more!  Day 35 will include the cyclists, the “Man Bag” dudes, the “Female Student Scarf Crew” and more.  Now can you see why I didn’t want to draw you a diagram??