What native guides and ex-pat guides can learn from one another

Things that native and ex-pat guides can learn from each other

By
Nikki Padilla Rivera
|
June 10, 2021
Nikki Padilla Rivera
June 10, 2021

The battle of native guides vs. ex-pat* (whether from another city or another country entirely) is a long-standing divide amongst local guides (as both are “local guides”). However I’d like to argue that each have their own unique insight.  There’s just as much value in touring with a native as there is touring with an ex-pat (see below) so to become the ultimate guide, we simply need to share those insights. If you manage a team, make sure you hire both natives and ex-pats. 

If you’re a guide, make friends with guides who are the opposite of you and be generous with your insights.  No one can take being a native/ex-pat away from you so you’ll only help yourself to share information.

Below find a list of the unique insights and perspectives that each group has.

*For this article I’m defining ‘native’ as someone born in the city they guide in as, for many cities, this is an important qualifier.  However, someone who moved to the city as a young child might also fit into this category.  It really depends on the local definition (for example, in NYC many New Yorkers have an idea of the number of years it takes to be a ‘true New Yorker’, and that number changes depending on who you talk to). 'Ex-pats’ (‘ex-patriots’, or immigrants) I define as someone who has moved from another country, or from another city/area (A Texan living in NYC might not technically be an ex-pat, but they probably define themselves as such). *

                            Native Guides vs. Ex-Pat Guides

What to ask your native guide friends:

First of all, if you are an ex-pat guide, please, don’t be ashamed of that.  Own it!  Being an outsider yourself means you can uniquely see the city from the same way your guests do and it’s a huge advantage. Instead of being aware that your guests are disappointed that you clearly aren’t a native by your accent, start off the tour by letting them know how lucky they are that they have someone who can culturally translate for them.  They also have the added bonus of being able to ask something they might have been embarrassed to ask a native (for example a negative stereotype).

How do locals really feel?

As travellers become increasingly interested/concerned with how their travel affects the local community, more will be curious about how locals REALLY feel about travellers and tourism. The native guides will be able to tell you how the feelings towards travellers has changed over the years, or if it varies across generations. And once you have this information don’t be afraid to communicate the true feelings to your guests.

What makes your city so great?

Presumedly, a native guide has chosen to stay in the city where they were raised (whether or not they lived elsewhere at some point). I’m always curious to ask native guides why they’ve chosen to stay, what makes their city so great?  Their answer might be something you haven’t considered, and a trait of the city that you’ll want to incorporate more into your tours.

What personal stories do your guests love?

I’m a huge fan of sharing personal stories.  My Grandmother was born in Little Italy in a traditional immigrant apartment building called a ‘Tenement’.  On one tour I gave of the area, we would pass right by her house and I would share with my groups a story about what her life was like while living there. I shared this story with other guides giving the same tour so that they could use it and it still had the effect of a personal story even when the guide said “My friend Nikki’s Grandmother was born right in this apartment.” Plus it’s kind of cool to think that my Grandmother’s story is being shared. Maybe your native friend grew up in the neighbourhood where you give a tour, or have family that did and can give you some stories that you won’t be able to find in history books.

What to ask your ex-pat guide friends:

What are common first-impressions of locals?

Natives, please ask your ex-pat guide friends what travellers’ impressions of locals are.  You might have an idea of the stereotypes out there, but your ex-pat friend will be able to share their own first-impressions when they first moved to your city. For example in NYC, travellers might be worried that New Yorkers will be rude to them.  As a native New Yorker, I personally know that New Yorkers are NOT rude (really!) and so never think to address it.  However a friend who wasn’t from the city told me that guests always asked him about this on his tours, which told me that they were curious, but didn’t want to bring it up.  So from that, I learned to always mention it.

What is most surprising/interesting about the culture?

As natives, we often take for granted things that are truly foreign to those outside our culture.  Sometimes the most boring routine can be fascinating to our guests. Ask your ex-pat friends for things that were surprising to them so you can make sure to include it on the tour. For example, in Italy, when you go to a local ‘bar’ (coffee shop) to order an espresso, you must first pay at the cash register, then bring your receipt over to the barista.  It’s a small thing, but causes a LOT of confusion for travellers who are used to first ordering their drink, then paying. I’ve found that many native Italians will not mention this fact to their guests on a tour, as it is so normal to them.  However by talking to their ex-pat guide friends, they can realize that this is actually a hugely helpful piece of information to give their groups when talking about coffee culture in Italy.

What are travellers embarrassed to ask natives?

Many guests are comfortable asking very blunt, or even rude questions.  However not everyone is and that means a guest might be avoiding asking a question because they’re worried they will insult the native (for example “Why is your city so dirty?”). I always recommend for native guides to ask their ex-pat friends about the most common questions they get asked on their tours.  It’s often different from the questions natives will be asked.  And you can make a point to address these unasked questions on your tours.



Sign Up Today

The battle of native guides vs. ex-pat* (whether from another city or another country entirely) is a long-standing divide amongst local guides (as both are “local guides”). However I’d like to argue that each have their own unique insight.  There’s just as much value in touring with a native as there is touring with an ex-pat (see below) so to become the ultimate guide, we simply need to share those insights. If you manage a team, make sure you hire both natives and ex-pats. 

If you’re a guide, make friends with guides who are the opposite of you and be generous with your insights.  No one can take being a native/ex-pat away from you so you’ll only help yourself to share information.

Below find a list of the unique insights and perspectives that each group has.

*For this article I’m defining ‘native’ as someone born in the city they guide in as, for many cities, this is an important qualifier.  However, someone who moved to the city as a young child might also fit into this category.  It really depends on the local definition (for example, in NYC many New Yorkers have an idea of the number of years it takes to be a ‘true New Yorker’, and that number changes depending on who you talk to). 'Ex-pats’ (‘ex-patriots’, or immigrants) I define as someone who has moved from another country, or from another city/area (A Texan living in NYC might not technically be an ex-pat, but they probably define themselves as such). *

                            Native Guides vs. Ex-Pat Guides

What to ask your native guide friends:

First of all, if you are an ex-pat guide, please, don’t be ashamed of that.  Own it!  Being an outsider yourself means you can uniquely see the city from the same way your guests do and it’s a huge advantage. Instead of being aware that your guests are disappointed that you clearly aren’t a native by your accent, start off the tour by letting them know how lucky they are that they have someone who can culturally translate for them.  They also have the added bonus of being able to ask something they might have been embarrassed to ask a native (for example a negative stereotype).

How do locals really feel?

As travellers become increasingly interested/concerned with how their travel affects the local community, more will be curious about how locals REALLY feel about travellers and tourism. The native guides will be able to tell you how the feelings towards travellers has changed over the years, or if it varies across generations. And once you have this information don’t be afraid to communicate the true feelings to your guests.

What makes your city so great?

Presumedly, a native guide has chosen to stay in the city where they were raised (whether or not they lived elsewhere at some point). I’m always curious to ask native guides why they’ve chosen to stay, what makes their city so great?  Their answer might be something you haven’t considered, and a trait of the city that you’ll want to incorporate more into your tours.

What personal stories do your guests love?

I’m a huge fan of sharing personal stories.  My Grandmother was born in Little Italy in a traditional immigrant apartment building called a ‘Tenement’.  On one tour I gave of the area, we would pass right by her house and I would share with my groups a story about what her life was like while living there. I shared this story with other guides giving the same tour so that they could use it and it still had the effect of a personal story even when the guide said “My friend Nikki’s Grandmother was born right in this apartment.” Plus it’s kind of cool to think that my Grandmother’s story is being shared. Maybe your native friend grew up in the neighbourhood where you give a tour, or have family that did and can give you some stories that you won’t be able to find in history books.

What to ask your ex-pat guide friends:

What are common first-impressions of locals?

Natives, please ask your ex-pat guide friends what travellers’ impressions of locals are.  You might have an idea of the stereotypes out there, but your ex-pat friend will be able to share their own first-impressions when they first moved to your city. For example in NYC, travellers might be worried that New Yorkers will be rude to them.  As a native New Yorker, I personally know that New Yorkers are NOT rude (really!) and so never think to address it.  However a friend who wasn’t from the city told me that guests always asked him about this on his tours, which told me that they were curious, but didn’t want to bring it up.  So from that, I learned to always mention it.

What is most surprising/interesting about the culture?

As natives, we often take for granted things that are truly foreign to those outside our culture.  Sometimes the most boring routine can be fascinating to our guests. Ask your ex-pat friends for things that were surprising to them so you can make sure to include it on the tour. For example, in Italy, when you go to a local ‘bar’ (coffee shop) to order an espresso, you must first pay at the cash register, then bring your receipt over to the barista.  It’s a small thing, but causes a LOT of confusion for travellers who are used to first ordering their drink, then paying. I’ve found that many native Italians will not mention this fact to their guests on a tour, as it is so normal to them.  However by talking to their ex-pat guide friends, they can realize that this is actually a hugely helpful piece of information to give their groups when talking about coffee culture in Italy.

What are travellers embarrassed to ask natives?

Many guests are comfortable asking very blunt, or even rude questions.  However not everyone is and that means a guest might be avoiding asking a question because they’re worried they will insult the native (for example “Why is your city so dirty?”). I always recommend for native guides to ask their ex-pat friends about the most common questions they get asked on their tours.  It’s often different from the questions natives will be asked.  And you can make a point to address these unasked questions on your tours.