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Mind Your Manners in Tunisia (Or Pay The Ultimate Price)

Traveling
to other countries can be a harrowing experience. When you are
unfamiliar with the culture of a particular area, you will often find
yourself questioning everything you do. You will constantly ask
yourself “Is the action I am about to take offensive Will it upset my
host?” A simple gesture like stroking the mustache of a man you’ve just
met, or sitting on the lap of a wheelchair-bound child might be
perfectly acceptable in one country, while in another it might be
grounds for a knifing.

Traveling
to other countries can be a harrowing experience. When you are
unfamiliar with the culture of a particular area, you will often find
yourself questioning everything you do. You will constantly ask
yourself “Is the action I am about to take offensive Will it upset my
host?” A simple gesture like stroking the mustache of a man you’ve just
met, or sitting on the lap of a wheelchair-bound child might be
perfectly acceptable in one country, while in another it might be
grounds for a knifing.


 
This is the sort of thing you
have to worry about in Tunisia. Danger lurks behind every corner. Many
of its residents would sooner hurl an unpeeled pomegranate at you from
behind a parked car than say “good morning”. So please, read on for my
tips for surviving a Tunisian vacation.

Never Ask Where You Are

More TunisiaWhen
visiting Tunisia your first instinct may be to stand in the middle of
the sidewalk outside the airport with a disgusted look on your face
while saying aloud, “Where the fuck am I?! Is this Morocco or
something? Unbelievable.” Sentiments such as this, while common, are
actually considered to be extremely rude in Tunisia, and by expressing
them you risk death, or worse.
 
So play it safe: If you DO
find yourself in a place you suspect may be Tunisia: keep quiet. Root
through a dumpster for a newspaper or discarded matchbook which might
reveal your true location. Also: Do not go to the police (unless of
course you fancy being sold into white slavery).
 
 
 

The Giving & Receiving of Gifts  

GiftwrapThe
giving and receiving of gifts is strictly prohibited within the borders
of Tunisia. This is an ancient custom stemming from a time when the
first King of Tunisia (King Tunis) was given a present which contained
firecrackers and pastries. When he opened the present the firecrackers
went off, burning the pastries in such a way as to render them
inedible. So Tunis declared that from that day forward no gifts of any
kind should be given. The breaking of this law was to be punishable by
forcible sodomy and/or horse trampling for the duration of the day.
 
So
those Tunisian visitors who feel it necessary to present someone with a
gratuity (or those who wish to accept one) would do well to step over
the border into Algeria. Tunisia is quite small so normally it’s only
three or four steps anyway.
 
 

Greetings & Salutations  

The DukeWhen
greeting a resident of Tunisia (be it opium smuggler, corrupt
politician, or duchess) “Sir” and “Madam” just won’t do. The Tunisian
government has established a number of very specific titles you are to
utilize when speaking to a Tunisian. They are as follows:
 

Younger Men: Consulate

“If
you would, Consulate Armhiem, I can hear the showhorses gasping from
here, be a dear and open the stable doors immediately to allow them
some air.”

Older Men: Directoriat

“Directoriat Hamzapour, I notice you’ve grown quite a large mustache, it accentuates your figure immensely.”
 

Women: Mistress

“Ah…I
am so very pleased to meet you Mistress Jiszwale, I will now kiss your
navel and the surrounding areas, if your suitor should allow it.”
 
 

Dealing With The Help 

Street UrchinSurprisingly,
even the poorest of people you meet in Tunisia will likely have their
own servants. These people (commonly known as Warf Rats are the lowest
of the low in Tunisian society; a lower-LOWER class, if you will. There
is a separate set of 5 rules you must abide by when dealing with Warf
Rats, so listen carefully.
 

Rule 1

Never look a Warf Rat in the eye.
 

Rule 2

Never
offer a Warf Rat food from your hand. If you must feed a Warf Rat, you
should do so by making a clucking noise with your tongue while flinging
leftover food off your plate and onto the floor. Warf Rats are
notorious scroungers, and large numbers of them will quickly scurry
into the room and begin fighting over the scraps while you and the
other guests look on with bemused detachment.
 

Rule 3

Contrary
to what their names may implicate, Warf Rats hate the water! Don’t get
a Warf Rat wet; bad things will happen. Have you ever seen either of
those Gremlins movies? If not, I would advise you to watch them right
away. It doesn’t have anything really to do with the Warf Rats, I just
think they’re neat. In number 2, one gremlin gets killed in a paper
shredder.
 

Rule 4

Sexual
advances towards a Warf Rat are strictly prohibited. However, if a Warf
Rat approaches YOU with the obvious intent of bedding you, feel free to
break yourself off a tender piece of rat-bone. Hell yeah.
 
 

Haggle With The Shopkeep  

Shop TunisianIn
Tunisian shops, you must haggle. There is no way around it. If you
attempt to pay the full marked price for an item without haggling, the
shopkeeper will suddenly fly into a blind rage. He will shout classical
Tunisian curses at you. He will swat at you with a rolled up newspaper
or magazine. He may even drive you out by glancing around his store,
saying “This floor must be swept. Never have I seen such filth.” and
then aggressively swishing a ponyhair pushbroom at your feet until you
have been driven backwards out into the streets, at which point he will
then close and lock the door. If this occurs, stay out of the shop and
do not come back. Being driven from a Tunisian shop in this manner is
considered to be a lifetime ban.
 
But thankfully all of
this can be avoided if you simply agree to barter. It is not so
difficult, really. Here’s a sample of the type of conversation you
might encounter when bartering.
 

Customer: I find this ancient stone tablet quite lovely, and would like to initiate the purchase of it.
 
Clerk: Indeed it is a wonderful item.
 
Customer: How much would you be willing to accept for an item such as this?
 
Clerk: I would be willing to accept no less than fourteen dinar for that particular piece.
 
Customer:
This price is outrageous. I would no sooner pay fourteen dinar for this
than to place my head into a waste receptacle which had recently been
filled with fresh droppings. I will offer you 10 dinar, and no more.
 
Clerk: I reject it. I reject your offer categorically on the grounds that it is offensive to me.
 
Customer: You will issue no counteroffer?
 
Clerk: I
say once again that this item’s value is 14 dinar. This piece holds
much sentimental value for me; I would be greatly pained if it were to
go for less.

Customer: I
find your failure to yield to reason to be even more repulsive than
your appearance. Even now, I can feel the bile rising in my throat. I
will increase my offer 13 dinar, which is the whole of what I am
willing to offer.
 
Clerk:
I find your desperation to be endearing, however, as I had previously
stated I will not allow this piece to cross the threshold of this shop
for less than 14 dinar. I will discuss it no more.
 
Customer: If this is the way you are choosing to behave, then you may keep this worthless trinket. You disgust me, you worm.
 
Clerk:
Begone from this shop, half-caste. Crawl out and back into the gutters
in which you were spawned. I step deliberately on the graves of your
long-dead ancestors, and if your harlot of a mother were here I would
expectorate in her eyes and mouth.
 
Customer: I bid you good day, Consulate.
 
 

So
that should give you some idea of how bartering works in general. The
most important thing to remember is that not every attempt at bartering
will end in a sale. Anyway, I think you’ll find that sometimes the
reward is in the experience itself!
 
Thank you for reading this guide on Tunisia. I wish you good luck your travels.

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