Foreign Exchange

9 11 2011

An old story, and a quick one.

In about 1995 we travelled to Kenya. Due to an engine failure halfway across the Indian Ocean, a diversion, a nineteen hour wait at Perth airport followed by a mad rush to make sure we still made all of connecting flights in Africa, we arrived in Kenya exhausted, jet-lagged and generally very sub-standard. (The story is expanded here.)

We were met at the airport by a very enthusiastic young guide called Fred. Fred and the driver Sam accompanied us from the airport to the hotel in Nairobi, then, realising how exhausted we were, left us to our own devices.

The hotel was amazing, an old colonial building that had been renovated. Wood panelling covered almost every wall. Gin and Tonics were available on request (for the anti-malarial qualities, don’t you know). The uniformed porters carried our luggage into our hotel room and lurked discreetly while we remembered that we needed to tip them.

I should explain, for any non-Australian readers, that in Australia, tipping is not obligatory or even the norm. Australians travelling overseas often struggle with the concept of tipping – when to do it, when not to, how much to give, what if you only have large notes on you, what if it was bad service, etc etc.

So we, in our befuddled brains, tipped the porters a handful of nice crisp Kenyan Shillings – about 20 Shillings in total, and went to bed.

The next morning as we battled the tipping dilemma again over breakfast, we had had enough sleep to mentally do the currency conversions – Kenyan Shillings to US Dollars, US Dollars to Australian Dollars – and were horrified to find that we had in fact tipped the porters a matter of a few cents. They of course had been too discreet to say anything at the time.

Needless to say the service was not so good there after this incident – I suspect word had got around about the really stingy Australians. We were pleased when Fred and Sam came and picked us up and took us out on Safari.

If you liked this post you might also like some more travel posts…..
Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Notre Dame
French menus
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
The Louvre
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Streets of Paris
Arc de Triomphe
Napoleon’s Tomb
Galeries Lafayette
Versailles

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