Rod Cuthbert

Author Rod Cuthert

Being a frequent traveler has its memorable moments, and one of them occurred recently when I had the chance to dine at a well-known Georgian restaurant in Moscow, Russia. It was a great meal, and the restaurant’s location combined with the balmy summer weather provided the perfect opportunity for a late-night stroll through the streets of the Russian capital. All in all, a great evening.

Back at the hotel I Googled the restaurant to see what else I could learn about it, and was flabbergasted to read some of the nonsense that “reviewers” had posted after their own experiences there. Which got me to thinking: how often does a reviewer’s opinion have nothing to do with the establishment, and everything to do with the reviewer’s naivety, narrow-mindedness and lack of real-world experience?

I started looking at reviews for some of the hotels and restaurants I’d enjoyed recently. And I got some pretty rude shocks. Hotels where I’d found everything to my liking were roundly derided as having poor service and lax standards, while my favoured restaurants were often seen as being second-rate.

Digging a little deeper, I found the problem was most evident in those cases where US-based reviewers had opined on international establishments. I found myself generally agreeing with the collective wisdom of Brits, Aussies and other domestic-market travellers, but was often sharply at odds with US reviews of my favourites in Europe and Asia.

As I read more and more of these negative reviews I saw a pattern emerge. Now, you’d better brace yourself for some pretty outlandish statements coming up here; and none of them supported by any detailed research or opinion polling or any of that scientific stuff. But you decide. Here’s a summary of my thesis:

  • Of all the major western, developed nations, America stands out as having a population that, in comparison to others, doesn’t really travel overseas that much
  • Having said that, Americans love to share their travel experiences, filling sites like Viator, TripAdvisor, IgoUgo and others with literally millions of opinions about everything
  • These two ingredients often combine into a potent mix that oozes stupidity, ignorance and, sad to say, mean-spiritedness

Here’s what I mean. A reviewer who says of a Moscow restaurant that “the servers were surly and unfriendly” clearly doesn’t realise that in Moscow the brusque manner of people in customer-facing roles is not seen as a negative by the locals; far from it, in fact. They would describe it as a “no nonsense, matter of fact” approach, and by comparison would have great disdain for the staff at your local TGIF, probably thinking them “transparently false.”

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