Monday, 24 August 2015

Keef halek?

As we got down from the flight and made our way to the visa desk we tried to notice the atmosphere in the airport. The first thing we noticed was the presence of only men at the airport, This was quite a contrast to the airport at Schiphol. We made our way to the immigration desk to collect our visas. My friend Anniek was first in a long row of students. The immigration officer looked at her, and without a word, started to go through her passport. Later he handed her back her passport with the visa without uttering a word. I went after Anniek and the change in attitude of the immigration officer was very apparent. He greeted me with, " Keef halek". Being familiar with this particular Arab expression I replied, "Good", wondering what had caused this change in attitude. He then later asked me what the students were here for, again with a friendly attitude. He then asked me whether I was Arabic or had Arab relatives. I replied that I did not, but he said he did not believe me and wished me a pleasant stay in Jordan. I was surprised but rather pleased that I somehow was accepted in the society, even though I was as much a tourist as my fellow students. It also made me realize that the appearance and body language of the tourist greatly determines how a tourist will be received by the host community.
One of the first questions people ask in a foreign land is,"Where are you from?".
This made me reflect upon on various stereotypes of different cultures and the impact it has on tourism. The stereotype is a mental structure, a prefiguration that selects and stores the information. Stereotypes can be considered as those patterns that influence our perception and response to certain issues. They have a strong meaning value, being loaded by feelings and marked by tradition (1). We were a group of international students, all studying in The Netherlands. When people would ask us where we were from we would reply, "Holland". I realized that this could have an impact on how we were treated in the country. There are existing studies that show that French tourists tend to interact less with tourists of other nationalities during the holidays, due to the difficulties of communicating in English (2). This may have lead to the stereotype that the French are "unwilling to mix". This may or may not be true but emphasizes how stereotypes develop in minds of people. I wondered whether there was also stereotyoes in the minds of Jordanians concerning Dutch people and how this would influence our interactions during the trip. I was eager to find out....

(1) Albu, Cristina-Elena. Stereotypical factors in Tourism. Cross-Cultural Management Journal 15(1) 2013 [Online] Available at:

(2) Doise, W., Deschamns, J.-C., Mugny, G. Psihologie socială experimentală. Editura Polirom, Iași. 1999