Obviously, when people come from abroad to our Yoga and Ayurveda retreats, they are tourists. We even take them on guided tours or send our taxi with them to show them the beauty of this country. It is the definition of ‘tour guides’ and ‘tourists’ – but I still insist that we are different. Different from the usual ‘tour guides’ of India and with this experience, also our ‘tourists’ are much more than just that. Today I would like to explain you how this thought came up in my mind and why I think it is like this.
One day, a close friend of mine brought a person to the Ashram whom he wanted to introduce to us. As my friend knew that we often have guests who would like to see the Taj Mahal and other sights in nearby Agra, he thought of us when he met this man. He was a government-certified guide.
Being a certified guide, he seemed very professional at first: a fixed rate for a day in Agra, for a single person this much, for a group of ten people a certain amount for more people another amount. He could explain about history, figures, stories and simply everything you could wish to know.
I agreed and told him a fixed price was great but we have one condition for every trip with a guest from our Ashram: we will pay you and you should not ask the person who is going for sightseeing for any extra rupee.
The answer was: ‘Oh, I will not ask, that is fully fine, but you know, when you are out there with someone, explaining and doing your best, it is normal for them to give something! Everybody gives something and what can you do in such a situation?’ Yes, well, they practically stuff the money into your pockets, right?
It is absolutely not like this! A lot of our guests have done this day-trip and while some people may feel like giving a tip, most people don’t, as they have already paid a package price for the car and the guide! It just shows that you are expecting exactly this: that someone gives you a tip, otherwise you won’t do your job properly!
I told him that we don’t have the culture of giving tips in our Ashram. In fact, we ask our customers not to give money to our staff members! A lot of people contribute to the experience they have here and if they only tip the masseuse or the driver, the kitchen staff or the gardeners will not be considered. We are very much in favour of equality and that’s how we rather give them a bonus on their salary from time to time. Anybody can add to the amount which we save for them for such occasions!
I know however that normal tourist guides really do expect to get extra money – directly or indirectly! They will either straightforward ask for it or they take visitors to shops of friends where these charge a fortune for cheap souvenirs and then pay the guides a big commission for bringing customers into the shop.
Tomorrow I will tell you how this man was absolutely no difference here – and how exactly we make a point that we are actually very different!