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Genuine Friendliness

Goa is renowned for the friendliness of it's inhabitants. Is this a myth? Or is it true?

Let me clarify, at the outset, that Goa is a tourist area and that tourism is a major source of income for the state at all levels, from the government, to the hotels, and onwards down to the humblest street trader. This fact should be aligned to the fact that the selling/bartering gene swims very strongly within the Indian/Goan gene pool. Everyone will try to sell you goods or services.

This having been said, there is an inherant good naturedness about the way that this is done. The process starts with people learning your name. When you first arrive, everyone will ask what your name is, and where do you come from. You only have to tell them once, and they remember. When I ventured out in the morning I was greeted, every few yards, with 'Good Morning, Iain, will you look in my shop today?'

I think the secret is to operate on the principle of 'If you need it, buy it'. Yes, I needed sandals, and shorts. I also had a denim jacket and a pair of jeans made. Obviously, you have to haggle over everything. The initial price quoted will be outrageous. They are very sophisticated salespeople. This means that they will quote outrageous so that you will feel successful when you negotiate a price that is about a third, to a half, of the original quote. Trust me, you are still overpaying, but the guideline you should use is 'Am I happy to pay this price for these goods'? I am one that believes that both parties to a transaction should be happy with it. That way, you spread your money around a little bit, and they are happy, and you are happy. Even the traders that you don't use, recognise that you are playing the game, and hope for better luck next time.

In terms of drinks/food service, I am a believer in tipping. Not excessively, I use a guideline of around 10%, but unless service has been bad, I do always tip.

The hotel bar/waiting shift No 1. The guy in the waistcoat "Eric" was a target for all the young European girls. And, come to think of it, their mothers as well!

I don't tip out of pure generousity. There is a large degree of self-interest involved. After about day 2, I never had to look for a table in the restuarant. One would be found, to my liking, and freshly laid up with clean cutlery. I didn't have to queue for coffee, and toast, at the breakfast buffet. Breakfast was brought to me. All for the sake of adding 20 rupees (28 pence) whenever I had a 200 rupee bar bill. As I said, spread (a little) money around, and everyone is happy.

The hotel bar/waiting shift No 2

Having established your local credentials, and having established that you are, to a greater or lesser extent, interacting with the local economy, the friendliness of the Goans is very warm. They can't do enough for you in terms of advice on pricing, or places to go. I was invited to go to a local (non-tourist) bar. The day I left, virtually everyone I had met made a point of seeking me out, and wishing me a safe journey. Even Jay, the taxi man, who had delegated my journey to the airport to his deputy, Sam the Man, made a point of phoning me up while en-route, to wish me well.