Sunday, 23 December 2012

Travel journalism's failures

Anthony Bourdain
Have I said that technology is a crazy thing? Try googling 'Romania + Blog' and be amazed by the mixed bag you'll come up with. One of the first hits I got was this site:

As I happen to know Anthony Bourdain from the Masterchef television series, this raised my interest. Dipping into the all-out comment war was an eye-opener as well: split down the middle between Romanians who clearly hate the country and Romanians who hate Anthony Bourdain.

Ok, so the next step was obviously to watch the video, which you can do here:

What's the point of having a blog if you can't wag your finger at people? I'll take this moment to climb onto my little soapbox and criticise everything that show stood for. Shame on you, Anthony Bourdain. For a show about food, there was practically no food on show here.

Two foreigners stumbling through a country with nothing more than frequent mutters of 'hello' and 'cheers' would always produce something which needs to be viewed more as entertainment than a balanced report on a country's culture. Unfortunately, it's easier for countries which are self-assured and have nothing to prove to accept a few hits than those like Romania, which are still rebuilding themselves on every level.

Really, travel journalism is just cultural imperialism: stand on the outside, look in, scoff and maybe deign to hand out a compliment if one of the natives impresses you. I speak from experience here, because South Africa's tourism industry is built on the Big 5 animals and some iffy tribal dances.

Watching the show, I felt Romanians' pain, because it's a pain I share: as insiders we're allowed to criticise ourselves because we've earned the right, but when outsiders hit close to home by mistake and not through empathetic understanding, it stings.

Maybe one day I'll get a chance to film a couple of Romanian documentaries of my own, which I'll share here, just to set the record straight. Romania deserves better, and there's nothing better than disproving a smug [insert family-friendly expletive of choice]. Anthony Bourdain: thanks for another item on my bucket list!


  1. Oh man, I remember watching that. Crappy reporting aside, what actually really annoyed me about that whole episode is that he hired a RUSSIAN as his Romania guide. What a joke.

  2. Lol, his guide at least tried to enjoy himself, Anthony not so much.

  3. Bourdain documentary was badly made and several years ago, when the situation in country was worse, I recommend you the Michael Palin's one:

    Romanians are an unhappy people, but not because the country is bad, is rather because of their lack of intelligence. I live among them and I'm very happy. Btw, we have common interests, I'm thinking too for a job in travel journalism, I have some plans but nothing concrete yet. I'm thinking for some tv documentaries or advertising campaings about this amazing & unexplored country.