Sunday, August 31, 2008

Authorised Or Unauthorised - Guided Tours in Hermitage

Travelling around the world eventually leads to situations where two cultures clash. This was especially evident when I was visiting the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, Russia with some American friends. We were standing in a very long line in a huge crowd to get our entrance tickets, when someone approached us suddenly. The "intruder" was a woman in her 40's, who explained that she could get us pass the crowd and into the museum and give us a private 1,5 hrs guided tour. She spoke good English and claimed to have a degree in Art History. Her services would have been charged only after the tour, so there was no risk of losing her in the crowd with the money and be left without the tour.

However, her proposal was instantly turned down by the Americans. Not because they didn't want a guided tour but because of the manner by which it was offered. Had the lady worn a label or an uniform which would have identified her as a member of the staff (or associated freelancer), had she stood behind the desk with all the information about the tour and it's conditions available we would have bought the tour. It was just way too suspicious for us to believe that she approached us "with good intentions". So the whole episode ended as a lose-lose situation: the lady did not get customers (she is probably paid by provision) and we didn't get a tour. Lesson learned: never underestimate the meaning of credibility when it comes to the interface between the museum and the culturally diverced audience. Small things can make a big difference.


Anonymous Anna said...

This lady is not an authorized guide to the Hermitage, akthough she does have connections to go in line-free. Basically there are several easy ways to avoid the Hermitage entrance line: either to hire a tour guide, who will be able to pre-arrange the entrance (easy to do with so many licenced tour guides offering their services on their personal websites), or to get the Hermitage tickets on-line through the official Hermitage website.

2:11 PM  
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