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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Real Tourists Live by Their Own Rules

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Oh my God, that girl is, like, licking his face!"

I have noticed that most people behave differently when they are taken out of their natural environment and transported elsewhere. As a college student in the United States, I found it appropriate to walk around a small upstate New York town taking big swigs from a beer bottle I carried publicly in my hand, defying the local ban. I had Foreigner Abroad Syndrome (or FAS), which, by lowering one's sense of accountability, makes one seemingly invincible to the rule of foreign law. (In fact, I could have been so busted.)

So no wonder that a young American woman with a cultivated nasal Ivy League sorority sister accent on a plane from Moscow to London thought that only her American traveling companion would understand the licking comment she made about me while I was, well, kissing my boyfriend.

(I immediately responded by announcing loudly that I spoke English. My boyfriend and I then kissed our way through her embarrassed silence for the rest of the flight.)

The sorority accent woman would have never said anything like this in her hometown. She was a victim of FAS. Naturally, I could have poked her eyes out when we were standing temptingly close in the line to passport control in London, but I didn't. In the end, she turned out to be invincible, too.

Ah, the little things we allow ourselves when we go abroad. We stare. We point our fingers. We make loud comments.

But there is a whole nation that seems to have none of this, as if they were still at home while traveling, as if a few square meters of their native land surrounded them wherever they went, compelling them to stare at the ground all the time and paste masks of boredom, superiority and disgust on their faces.

In Prague recently, I could point out any Russians just by the way they walk, always rigid at the hips, never looking up at the fairy-tale spires of Czech castles all around them. Their stern faces were unwilling to yield to the passionate tales told by their tour guides.

In a castle courtyard, they looked like they would rather be shopping. When shopping in Sachs or The Gap, they looked like they could get a better bargain elsewhere.

I wanted to come up to them and shout: "Come on, guys! Live a little! Piss off the Charles Bridge! Jump up and down, like excited little children! What did you come here for?"

Finally, as I was buying some huge live oysters from an icy oyster stand just off Old Town Square, I heard my native language.

"Oh my God, Seryozha, oysters! Let's get some, please. Isn't this wonderful? I can't believe it! Real oysters! We must buy some and eat them, please!"

I wanted to turn around and kiss her, this compatriot who took her eyes off her shoes for a moment and dove with abandon into FAS. (How many Russians have you seen sucking squeaky salty oysters off their shells, making those dear slurping noises, gulping the seawater with a twist of lemon — in short, enjoying life?)

Seryozha reached for his wallet.

My woolen glove was soaked with seawater. I gulped down the sea beast whole, spat out a lemon seed and then turned around to take one last look at my fellow FAS sufferer. She was jumping up and down, clasping her hands like an excited little girl.