When in Rome, take a hint and put away your selfie-stick, says Venetia Sherson.

At Diocletian's Wine House in Split, one of Croatia's most venerated eateries, the Italian visitor at the next table beckons the young waiter and asks conspiratorially - but loud enough for all to hear - for the ingredients of the sauce he has just eaten.

It seems a genuine inquiry. But when the waitperson replies, Giovanni announces, "Not enough tomato. Please tell the chef." When the main course is served, he repeats the performance, smirking at the sycophants seated at his table. "At what temperature was the lamb cooked?" The waiter's back stiffens slightly. "I believe around 180C." Giovanni flashes his teeth. "Tell him it should have been 160." He wipes a morsel of meat from his mouth, looks around for approbation; finds none and leaves no tip.

There is a common predisposition among older people - of which I am one - to believe the world is getting worse. I don't subscribe to that. But, as a traveller, my impression is that rudeness and discourtesy is on the increase among tourists. As far as I know, there is not a standard way to measure bad manners. But these are my bugbears.

Yes, I know it is tempting to have yourself in the frame with breath-taking spiritual places and great works of art. Resist the urge. Your face in the foreground will not enhance the splendour of the background. Especially, put away your selfie sticks. These wands of narcissism are dangerous to other visitors and an affront to those of us who like to stand and gaze without them. Fortunately the list of museums, galleries and monuments banning them is growing. Sticks are now not welcome at the Palace of Versailles in Paris, the National Gallery in London or even the Colosseum in Rome.


It can be annoying to be badgered by people touting their wares on the street or beach. But it's tough to earn a living. If a young woman proffers a menu for her restaurant, smile graciously and shake your head. If a man lugging his business on his back, tries to sell you a watch, kaftan or selfie stick, say "no" pleasantly. At a small cafe in Sulmona, in Italy, my companion shook his head when approached, reached in his pocket and gave the guy a euro for his trouble. Courteous, dignified and happiness on both sides.

If you have underestimated your travel time/ misunderstood timetables/ forgotten to validate your ticket or are just having a bad travel day, don't take it out on the locals. I witnessed an unpleasant altercation on a bus between a young man, who didn't have the right currency and the driver, who was quite reasonably explaining the rules. The young man threw a handful of coins in the driver's face and stormed off. The driver leaped from his seat to chase him. We remained captive until he gave up the chase.

It is only common courtesy to learn how to say "hello", "goodbye", "please" and "thank you" in the language of the country you visit. If you haven't a phrasebook, ask an English-speaking person, "How do I say..?" and try to make a reasonable fist of the pronunciation.

Yes, I know trains always run on time in New Zealand, coffee is always strong and hot, and everyone speaks English. But you're not in Aotearoa now, Dr Ropata. Phrases such as, "God, things are slow here" or "Why can't they just..?" or "These people are so" suggest you should have stayed home. And, my personal bete noir: Do not ever use the word "done" in the same sentence as "travel" as in "I've done Italy, Greece, France or Peru." Or "I did the Galapagos last year." Places should not be ticked off like items on grocery lists. A passport is not a licence to be badly behaved.