Foolish Tourist

A tattoo shop in Hoi An

It turns out there’s a fair number of people who will basically put gibberish writing into your flesh while you thought you were getting something else. Maybe the name of a loved one, or ‘mom’ or some such. There just aren’t Chinese characters that equate to to C-A-L-E-B or whatever your preferred word might be.

And there’s plenty of people who are taken in, sadly. We don’t always get tattoos at our most clear-thinking moments.

But luckily there’s no shortage of people on the Internet who will translate your foreign language tattoo… sorry mate, you’ve been had. If your tattoo has any meaning at all it’s S-U-C-K-E-R.

But all that got me thinking a few years ago when the time came to get a little middle-aged ink. What if I pre-empted the scammers? What if I punked a billion Chinese people by getting “foolish tourist” carved into my arm?

It has worked out well. Every so often in a shop or restaurant, or on the bus, I get this slight widening of the eyes, an uncomfortable fidgety glance. A few people have asked if I actually know what it means. Oh so gently. Some of my Chinese speaking employees don’t know what to make of it… the idea of a boss making fun of himself seems not to compute.

And more than that, remembering that I am, that we all are, nothing more than foolish tourists in this life provides an important perspective… should one ever be needed.

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