I appreciate that RS tours allow a lot of personal interaction, and group connection, but the can become overbearing, and I quit these tours because of this. Everyone wants to know your job and what you do, and all the details of it, and why do you do that job vs. something else? Also why do you live where you do? I live in Seattle area, but choose not to live in the city, so they want me to explain why I don't live in the city, blah, blah, blah. Then I had to go over all this again with each group I had lunch or dinner with. Be prepared....
Just part of group travel. I guess the alternative is everyone keep to themselves like a Greyhound bus.
Just start asking the questions first:
To where have they traveled previously? What has been their favorite destination so far? How/why did they decide to take this tour? How does it compare to others? What's on their bucket list for future travels...or bucket list non-travel related goals? Do they have (fill in the blank depending on age) grandchildren/children/pets (dog, cat, etc.) If they have photos, you will be dear to look a them. What are their hobbies? What is the funniest thing that has ever happened on one of their trips?
Ask those questions in a small or large group, and trust me, all you will have to do is listen.
People love to talk about themselves..........so engage them before they engage you :)
If you don't want to hear about anyone's travels, life, etc., don't ask........focus on what the group saw that day and what is ahead....what are they looking forward to seeing, what did they like best about yesterday? There are so many ways to lead the questions away from you and your life.
If you really want NO interaction, avoid groups and group tours. Group tours and group travel is NOT for everyone.
You could always just wear a sign around your neck with the answers..... seriously JUST KIDDING.
Sounds like you made the right decision to stop going on the tours. I respect that. Typically tours attract people who like the interaction. But, likely you felt as though you were going thru the vacation version of "speed dating."
People who are not comfortable answering personal questions can just say so. There've been a few on our tours that chose not to share - nobody cared. Ice-breaking is standard practice in business and social interactions in society.
I've never met anyone that inquisitive in all the 5 RS tours I've taken. Wow, you must have a wingdinger of a job that people are that interested in multiple questions about work. (?) On the last tour I took people were talking about--in no particular order--travel, TV shows, airports, Justin Trudeau, and the brand of running shoes they like.
Perhaps the group thing is just not for you.
Thanks all for your consideration and understanding. This is really about my memories of 2004 France tour which was bad because of the customers. Loud, obnoxious, and didn't bother to read the program. Toni was our guide...I'm sure she would agree if she could remember it. I'm saving up for Greece tour....starting all over again!
I'm glad your going to give the tours a second try, we did the Greece tour in May and it was awesome. We had great people to tour with although one person out of the group chose to complain about everything from food to lodging to where we went and I was impressed how the group just kept having a good time and by the end our tour even that person had to admit that they had a great experience. I'm fortunate that my job requires that I meet new people on a daily basis and I find the open, accepting culture that the Rick Steves adventures facilitates to be energizing. Please, place a trip report on the forum after your Greece tour to let us know how it went!
Scott, it sounds like you had one bad experience. I'm glad you're trying again. One of the things I've liked about the RS tours is that for the most part, people don't ask too many personal questions. I've never been asked why I live where I do, or if I have kids, or why not. Seldom have we been asked what we do for a living. And if people do ask, they then drop the subject after getting a polite but "That's not why I'm here" answer.
Sounds as if you had an odd group.I 'd be very surprised if you had a repeat of that experience.
I've only been on two Rick Steves tours, but neither involved those kinds of questions or any uncomfortable conversations at all (except for one fellow whose politics, about as far from mine as possible, were on his sleeve and on his lips frequently).
What you are describing is ordinary social interaction. You're obviously not comfortable with that and I don't think you will enjoy group travel.
My tours have had very enjoyable conversations during every interaction! I think most groups will discuss what they hope to gain from their tour's sites and what they are experiencing on their free time on the tour. We spent quite a bit of time comparing options for our free time and how to best get there and dining options. It's human nature to wish to talk about oneself more than to listen.....so steer conversations towards the other participants! Ask questions...people will volunteer to speak and you might wish you had the spotlight after all!
Everyone is different and if you didn't like the small talk, you didn't like it. While I have found some groups more open or closed with regard to activities, I never had problems with either the small talk or getting enough me/alone/down time. On every tour there are people I gravitate to and a those I don't, but that is also the case in my life. I generally enjoyed talking more to those where we share interests and experiences. In addition, I am often interested in what jobs people did, where they live, blah, blah, blah. So, thanks for the warning, I will be prepared to make pleasant, polite conversation and small talk with group members on my next Rick Steves (or other company) tour.
I've only been on one RS tour. While I was asked what I did as a career, no questions went any further because I gave a two word description that most people had no idea what it meant, because I've never liked speaking about my work when not working (and because I'm retired and do many things now), and I'd just turn it around with a question to the person asking, although I don't think I ever asked what people did. It is a way a lot of people try to start a civil conversation. However, you can converse as much or as little with the group as you want. No one cares. You can be with the group as much or as little as you want as well. I liked my group, but I had also been prepared to put my noise cancelling earphones on and disregard them all had they not been such lovely people. It is not an either/or, it is all in degrees. Just counter with a brief answer and ask about that person's life, or put on your headphones...which is a little difficult at the group meals only...but you don't have to go to a lot of those either. However, people are looking for a way to connect, often because they perceive solo travels as lonely...incorrect, but perception is everything sometimes. Maybe you would do better on a My Way tour?
...one person out of the group chose to complain about everything from food to lodging to where we went....
Being a constant complainer is one way to avoid having to interact with your tour mates. We were on one overseas tour where one couple complained about their terrible business class flight to those of us who flew economy. And that was just the starting point of their complaints. The group pretty much tried to avoid interacting with the complainers and created cohesiveness amongst the rest of us.
I've been on several Rick Steves tours. I socialize less than most of the people on tours, and that suits me. Table conversations are the main interaction times for me. On one tour a woman started complaining about her husband on day one. I asked her how long she had been married---30 years! I told her if she had complaints about him she should tell her husband. After another day I noticed she had stopped with the complaints. I think nobody encouraged her. On my last tour this spring, by mutual agreement we did not talk politics. At least not in the group. It was nice to have a vacation from that!
I have been on several RS tours solo and have found the tour members to be friendly. The only subject that I hate is politics. I refuse to discuss it because it is my vacation and want to enjoy it.
I thank everyone for their input. I'm not a grump and had no problems with anyone on two previous RS tours. I guess it's just the last one where things went bad (as described above), and that put me off. I'll take it as a learning experience and move on.
It's called small talk. You don't have to give detailed answers, or any answers at all. These type of questions seem more sincere than simply talking about the weather or how uncomfortable your plane ride was. The entire group could just sit there and stare at each other instead.
I have no trouble talking about what I do for a living. There is a lot of it I can't talk about, so I just leave that out. On 10 RS tours, no one has ever pried into my life to that point you describe.
I find it interesting when people say they do some specific thing for a living because I find a lot of those things they do interesting. I don't pry or give them the 3rd degree about it, but if they seem to want to talk, I will continue the conversation. It is just part of learning who it is you are traveling with and maybe helping future conversation on the trip if some of the tour members find they have something in common.
You could always make something up. ;)
Seriously, it's just a habit and a way for people to try to get to know each other. It makes for a nicer tour, I think, if you make that effort.
But if you don't like the questions people ask, I agree with those who suggest that YOU ask the questions of other tour members. Maybe jot a list of things you'd truly like to know:
Have you taken other tours?
Which was your favorite?
Do you have a favorite country/city/tour/food?
What's your favorite book/movie?
There are lots of ways to break the ice. I agree it's hard at first, but I always end up wishing I'd asked more questions and started sooner, in order to get to know my tour mates.
I am a very quiet person. That doesn't mean I'm shy, and I am not reticent to talk at length if necessary. But as a general rule, I prefer to listen more than I speak in a group of other people.
But the back/forth polite questions thing is pretty much the norm for most group activities of this sort. I agree with what many others have said - be prepared to turn the conversation to the other person with a question or two.
And OP - have fun on the Greece tour! Glad to hear you're going to give it another go!!!
I have been on four tours and have never had those kind of issues. On our recent tour, I think I knew what some people did but the last thing we talk about is work. Where you live is just a question like where are you from. You say Seattle and no one would be phased.
Most people that take RS tours are social. As a teacher, I have no problem talking in front of groups or strangers. In fact, I relish every opportunity. On the GAS tour I lost my voice for a day and my husband (joker that he is) said the tour was relieved. I guess I like to talk.
I probably would have asked you how you like the weather in the north west! I have no problem with tour mates asking me what I did for a living. I would answer without hesitation. I too can't talk specifics but sure can generalize a bit. When people find out I live in Santa Barbara, I always get questions about how is it there or it sure is nice there.
Icebreakers are wonderful and usually harmless chitchat that helps people feel part of a group. I don't get easily insulted or put out.