Tourists are 'bridge builders'

Any tourist visiting another country is a de facto ambassador of his country of origin. While he may expect hospitality in the foreign land, it behoves him to act in a culturally sensitive manner ("No clothes, no shame? 'Rite of passage for some' "; June 14). Otherwise, the tourist may bring disrepute to his home country and engender ill feelings in the local community.

All these could be avoided if travellers responsibly research the culture and beliefs of the places they wish to visit, and behave respectfully.

It is pathetic that nude antics at monumental locations are the expressions of a rite of passage for some. A rite of passage marks the transition from one phase of life to another. It is not performed in a cultural vacuum, for it has deep anthropological significance.

Certainly, no traveller ought to abuse the goodwill of the country which granted him entry. No tourist should give a bad name to others who genuinely appreciate the sights and sounds they experience in the foreign land.

The reported misdemeanour is appalling, and it is perturbing that such acts were committed by the educated. The comfort, perhaps, is that these incidents are the isolated few.

The core purpose of travelling is to enjoy and learn about a different culture. Tourists are bridge builders for the countries they come from to the countries they visit. We would do well to remind ourselves of this whenever we make an overseas trip.

Tan Tee Khoon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 12, 2015, with the headline 'Tourists are 'bridge builders''. Print Edition | Subscribe