Monday, 5 March 2012


The second leg of my trip began in Porto, Portugal and I went with a friend. We went on a free walking tour by Pancho Tours Porto. Free tours in most European cities are common and they exist financially through tipping. Guests tip what they think the tour was worth and I think the idea is to get the guide to be the best he/she can be for every tour as the money depends on it. I think it is a challenging job keeping people entertained, happy, safe and to be able to talk for at least two hours. A great knowledge on the city's culture and interest in history is also a must. A passion and love for a city certain helps.

We were late for the tour because we thought the pickup time was 1120 hours from our hostel. Seriously, we ran up a hill (my friend's idea) just to be at the hostel at 1120 hours. Luckily, the guide agreed to wait for us when our hostel called him and again, we rushed like crazy. That was pretty lucky for us because most other walking tours were less personal than this. When we turned up, they had been waiting for us. Quite paiseh (embarrassing) la but a group of freshmen had been entertaining them and no one really noticed us join the group. The guide was also uber relaxed so we didn't feel too awkward.

On a foggy early morning in Porto along a river bank.
Porto is to the left of me and Gaia to the right, across the bridge
The height of the bridge = the vertical distance rushed in 15 mins
Part of the hill we had to climb in 15 minutes

Climbing up the many different stairwells on the hills in old Porto
There were three guides; Tiago was the leader and there were co-guides Lillian and Pedro. I think we all had the potential to get lost like little sheep so the guides kinda watched out for us and were there to answer any questions. Out of all the free tours I have been to, I think the Pancho Tours Porto was definitely one of the more personal tours I have been on. The guides were uber friendly and easy-going. Tiago kept us engaged throughout the tour with quizzes and was more than happy to answer questions that we had. Another good thing was Tiago would always give us a couple of minutes to wander close-by and take photos - major like! Lillian and Pedro recommended things for us to do and were friendly too.

So, my friend had several questions which she initially posed to me. Being a tourist myself, I could only speculate so I suggested she ask the guides. Eventually, during a period where we were wandering by the river banks, she managed to have a conversation with Tiago. Probably about why Porto looked run down and abandoned in some places and then, politics. At one point, she said, "People in Porto are confused!" and ended her sentence there. No further explanations. Nothing. Zilch. No attempt to further justify her statement. I was pretty shocked. I think the guide was pretty shocked, too. And puzzled.

He was left wondering why she said that. I was wondering why there was no further justification. For drama? To leave an impression? To see if we were smart enough to make a connection? It was quite funny. My opinion is my friend is unknowingly abrupt but has definitely toned down since I first knew her. The guide then seemed to recompose and asked why. She proceeded to say because every building which had been built for a certain purpose was no longer used for that purpose in Porto. Like, the town's prison was now a photographic gallery. And, I think they continued to have a debate as to why whilst I found something interesting to photograph.

Next, we had been walking down some stairs when our guide asked where we were from. He guessed we were Korean or Japanese. Fair enough seeing that I have only seen Japanese and Koreans around and we look Oriental anyway. Afterall, I certainly found it hard to distinguish Caucasians from one another when I was FOB. But, my friend shot, "I am insulted!". The guide was shocked again, I think. I was shocked, almost tripped down the stairs, choked and said, "Homaigod" all at the same time. But the guide did not seem to take offence; I was left wondering if it was the guide's relaxed nature or if my friend's bluntness and ignorance to other people's feelings and reactions that made the situation OK. Also, I think the Japs and Koreans are generally more polite to put things so bluntly but the Chinese... yeah, even polite Hokkien sounds rude.

If I was still 4 years old and said those things my friend said in front of my mother, I'd be guaranteed a nice scolding once home. But at the same time, I wondered if saying things that shocked would leave an impression and therefore make one memorable. And, leaving an impression and being memorable is certainly a desirable trait in the business world. However, I think there are also several ways to do so. One would be my friend's and the hotel concierge's way which is blunt, straightforward, effective and rather quick but risks offending/alarming. Another would be more subtle and kinder ways like how the group waited for us and did not make us feel awkward; like when Pedro was being uber helpful with things we could do and how to get there; and so on. I think either way is neither wrong nor correct but there are pros and cons, risks and benefits. To me, the aggressive way seems to be an art and maybe the gentler way comes more naturally to others like myself. Also, I have found people still remember me despite me feeling I have not made an impression or have been memorable.

Then, I also came across this which basically says what counts is actually the difference one makes between a first and last impression. And, I think this concept may explain why my friend - despite being abrupt in the first instance - came out OK at the end (or so I thought she was OK, anyway).

So, how do you make an impression?

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