It is very easy to get trapped into believing a misconception. We are all guilty of passing on information without checking it every so often. It’s not just understandable, it’s universal. In light of this, however, it is also important to remember that just because we have always believed something doesn’t mean it’s right. And when you’re traveling, the information you have to work with can make a huge difference to how your trip goes. With this in mind, I have compiled a (hopefully) helpful list of some of the world’s most visited cities and common misconceptions surrounding them.
This, the most visited city in the world, is thought of by some as a lawless metropolis filled with slimy single male tourists up to no good and a population desperate to scam them for every penny they’ve got. The truth is that while Bangkok may have a Red Light District, as many cities do, this only a very small part of the city as a whole. The beauty, architecture, food, art and culture of this destination have made it popular with many demographics. This includes solo travelers, groups and families. This is not to say that Bangkok is flanked by pearly gates – but show me a large city without a seedy side and I’ll show you the children’s cartoon it came from.
There is such a huge misconception surrounding Paris that it has its own name. Paris Syndrome is best known for affecting the city’s Japanese visitors. I am certain, however, that they are not the only ones who reel in shock when they realize that the pink-washed, quiet, cobblestoned city from the films, the one with wide open streets, gentle background music and impeccably dressed locals is, in fact, a city. A large, international city, where people work and drive and do business every day. It is noisy, fairly gray, and frequently wet. Once you accept this reality, however, you will be able to find the real city behind all of the cliches. After all, there is a reason so many people fall in love with it – but much like falling in love in real life, you have to see it for what it really is.
New York City, USA
It’s a little difficult to choose a misconception here. Western popular culture is oversaturated with fictional depictions of this city. The main ones seem to be that everyone in the city is angry, and that so many people get murdered on a nightly basis that you’ll be tangled up in crime scene tape every time you step outside. Now, New Yorkers are not famed for their friendliness. This does not mean that they are hostile, however; mostly they are just in too much of a hurry to stop to exchange pleasantries. You are as likely to find the same percentage of helpful/unhelpful/friendly/angry people as you would in any other city. As to the murders… well, New York has recently reached its lowest crime rates since the 1950s. So maybe all of those gritty tv detectives should start moving elsewhere.
This city is famed for being absurdly expensive and full of wacky trends. People picture tourists having to take out a second mortgage just to afford some weird, fancy new food or gadget. Japan’s price reputation, however, actually stems from an economic boom it enjoyed in the 1980s. It is now far more affordable, although perhaps not as inexpensive as some other East Asian cities. The visual cliches of those crazy trends in food and drink, as well as futuristic light-lined city blocks and robots on every corner, are also overblown. Trends? What city doesn’t have them? They can’t get much weirder than those giant waxed mustaches I seem to be bumping into all over the place at the moment. You may see certain areas in the city that feature dreamy technology and neon designs, but others are quite old-fashioned.
It’s hard to pick something objectively for this one, as I used to live in London. However, the main misconceptions I have encountered from travelers have been along two lines. One, assuming that it rains all the time. As in, asking if “we ever see the sky”. (Yes, we do.) Second, those pesky movies and tv programs featuring royalty or the peerage. Yes, you can enjoy the historic buildings in London, and soldiers in snazzy red outfits. But don’t ask everyone you meet if they’ve “met the Queen”. High teas are reserved for very special occasions. If anyone under the age of seventy says “jolly good” then they’re almost certainly being ironic.
The problem with imagining that the city is filled with lords, ladies and butlers is that you can forget the reality of city life. London has a relatively high crime rate, and wandering into the wrong area at the wrong time of night can be a very dangerous thing.