Saturday, September 11, 2010

An Inferior Species, Innkeepers?

“Americans come here to sleep. They think they know everything. They don’t give a shit about talking to us,” my husband complained a couple weeks ago. He was in a bad mood. A snippety guest had crossed his path and rubbed him the wrong way.

I do agree that many Americans have not fully caught on to the B&B concept. The B&B is a relatively new phenomenon here. It is not a motel. Part of the charm is being received in someone’s home and treated almost like a friend of the family. We do our best to ensure visitors enjoy their stay … but we are not maids. Once guests have taken up residence, we do not enter their rooms. I expect people to make their own beds, for instance, as would a friend of the family who came to visit.

Sven is right, though. It's not unusual for tourists to act condescending. What makes them feel so superior? Where does this idea originate? It makes no sense to me. My husband probably has more masters degrees than most of our guests. I don’t think the put-down is intentional, but this is perhaps why American innkeepers burn out so fast. No one likes to be treated this way.

Now, our guests from the UK are different. They embrace the opportunity to exchange ideas and to discuss the differences in culture. The husbands often wear unusual hats. They want to know about our lives and are happy to tell us about theirs.

At Chez Sven, we are fortunate to have lots of guests from Europe. I often join them during breakfast. Sven, on the other hand, connects with guests later in the day. He likes to hang out reading books in the garden and will engage people in conversation, for instance, upon their return from the beach.

This past week a couple from London stayed in Seagull Cottage. The wife had lived in Kiruna, Sweden, where Sven taught for 17 years. (Affinity #1.) She and her husband were the same age as Sven’s sons. (Affinity #2) Roy and Sven had jogging in common. (Affinity #3.) When Roy asked where to jog, Sven suggested the path around Dyer Pond, rather than Long Pond Road, a tip that made Roy’s jogging experience more pleasurable. Sven also appreciated the fact that Roy has a quick mind. (Affinity #4.) “First thing he did was look at our books,” Sven told me. “‘I’ve read that, and that,’ he said. He’s a man of letters.” (Affinity #5.)

My husband happened to notice Roy was reading Tony Blair’s memoir and joked, “Okay, you’ve got 15 minutes to read it. Then I need 15 minutes, too. Then we’ll sum it up together in five.” This gave Roy a good laugh.

Over the summer we have had some delightful American guests, too. Remember the fiddler sisters? And, the environmentalist who’s married to the restaurant manager, the man who had made reservations weeks ago for local restaurants and drew up a hit parade of the best-places-to-eat-in-Wellfleet-and-Truro before leaving? And, one of my all-time favorites, the young girl from Virginia, who taught me to make lavender wands? Rebekah always finds the best in people. She's patient. And, she's not against wearing funny hats herself. Three requisite characteristics for running a B&B. Maybe she'll grow up to be an innkeeper, too?