Dubrovnik has a new mayor since recently and this one started off with some pretty bold ideas about a few of the major tourism related problems in the city. The latest idea is a program called “Respect the City” which aims to influence behaviour of our foreign guests who are often at times seen acting or appearing less than decent in our historical city centre. The whole idea of this “Respect the City” project is supposedly to educate and remind our guests that Dubrovnik is partly a living museum and one should adhere to certain rules of conduct here. Already last year we've had new rules within the city by which you are prohibited to walk around in swimwear within the historical centre. There certainly seems to be a lot of interest taken from mayors of Croatian towns about our guests showing off too much of their naughty bits. We've had similar ideas from the mayor of Hvar – another very popular destination on the coast, as well as some other places.
On one hand, it is understandable we would like to keep our most beloved and cherished spots, like the UNESCO protected Old City of Dubrovnik, free from exposed butts and unwarranted naked torsos. On the other hand, I dislike any decency law by default as they are inevitably reminiscent of church laws which I don't care for outside of the walls of the religious buildings they originate from. Besides, the whole thing is an exercise in futility for a very simple reason. Respect cannot be taught or forced, it has to be earned.
Guests that travel to foreign countries with no respect for local culture and customs (and we do have our share of those I'm afraid) will not suddenly start developing respect because someone reminded them about it, so they are beyond our reach anyway. However, those who are respectful and reasonable will act accordingly regardless of the rules and regulations, that is unless we locals don't show them differently by our own example. If we want people to respect our city, we should start acting like we do ourselves. Otherwise, this is simply a case of “do as I say, not as I do.”
Not to come off as being overly negative, which is something I am often accused of; I will give not one, but two ideas on how to deal with rowdy or indecent foreign guests.
One way could be tied to marketing of the actual destination. Instead of asking guests to behave through signs and flyers, we simply inform them that Dubrovnik has very active social network accounts and by entering the historical centre they are agreeing we can post their pictures online. One of the city’s social network pages could be completely dedicated to what are guests are up to while visiting the city. Here we could do the usual photos of people dressed up and having fun, but we could also do the people at their worst. Passing out dead drunk, going around with their sunburnt butts exposed, yelling and causing all sorts of havoc. It could be a detriment for acting in such ways and it could generate more buzz about Dubrovnik. By the way, if you think photos or videos of people embarrassing themselves don't generate attention, you are not visiting the same Facebook pages as I do.
Second proposal is much bolder. I am struggling with the details, but it would have to be a form of penalty for misbehaving. Perhaps those who walk around almost naked could be identified and put in the spotlight somehow. For example, they could stand on top of the stairs leading up to what is locally known as the Jesuit Square. From there they could walk through the city and we could have someone from the city government walking alongside them to let the public know about their misdeed.
They could shout out something concise and internationally easy to understand. The word „shame“ for example. They could ring a bell of some sort as well. Local people and other guests worried about exposed flesh could gather around and voice their displeasure with the individual, perhaps flinging a few tomatoes bought from the local open market at them. This way, everybody wins. City government gets to employ someone to ring the bell (they like creating jobs), the troublemaker gets punished, people offended by bikinis get to reprimand the culprit publically, and local vendors sell overripe produce that would otherwise go to waste. If the project generates enough interest over time, we could even sell tickets for the front rows.
No need for anyone in the city government to thank me. I am just happy to help.
Bozidar Jukic, AKA The Restless Native, is a Dubrovnik local with too many interests to name them all, with writing being at the very top of the list. He is a lover of good food, music and film, and a firm believer in the healing power of laughter. His professional orientation is towards tourism and travel so it comes as no surprise he spends most of his time alongside Mrs. Jukic running their own local tour company. Their goal is helping travellers from all over the world get a more intimate experience of Dubrovnik and what it has to offer. To find out more about their work, visit their website or Facebook page.