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What Are Buddy Intros?

I just returned from my first R.S. tour (Best of Paris) about a month ago. Overall, I thought it was great. I was reading a thread about pros/cons of R.S. tours and something that kept coming up was “Buddy Intros” and “Bus Buddy Intros.” I’m curious as to what they are because a lot people (who otherwise enjoyed their tour) passionately despise them! Also, do a lot of tour guides still do them? Whatever they are, I’m glad our guide didn’t conduct them on the Best of Paris tour.

Posted by
556 posts

Hi Sara,

Some tour guides have a 'Buddy Intro' where you do a quick interview of your buddy to get to know them a little better and then introduce them to the group. It usually happens a few nights into the tour, as a way to get to know everyone's names. No every tour guide does this, as you noticed, since your tour guide didn't.

:) Glad you had a great time.
Gretchen

Posted by
5641 posts

This is not something RS invented, its a technique for ice-breaking that's been around for decades in professional training classes in the business world. Same for the "name-game" and just plain introducing yourself to the group - all things I've seen on RS tours. I don't understand why its a big issue other than some people are just terrified of public speaking.

Posted by
84 posts

I’ve been on 3 Rick Steve’s tours. Each one, this was handled a bit differently and seems to be up to the guide if and how they want to do it.

On one tour, after several days into the tour, our guide gave us warning that we would be “introducing” our buddy to the group. We were told a day prior, so we could think about what we wanted to say. I think the idea was to get to know your buddy and share some items about them with the group. We did this on the bus, during one of our longer bus days.

On one tour, after a couple days into the tour, we were in a park following a lunch break and we stood in a circle and someone said their name. The next person had to repeat the name and add their own, so on, and so on. Until the last person had to repeat everyone's names. I guess that's called the "name game."

We have also done the "two truths and a lie". Where we share two truthful things about ourselves and one falsehood. Our buddy then has to guess which statement was false. This one is actually quite fun, as people come up with some real interesting falsehoods and many of the truthful statements are quite interesting as well. We learned a lot of interesting things about everyone in the group.

No one is forced to participate, but everyone did on our tours. The guides keep it stress free and lighthearted.

Posted by
3444 posts

People hate this because they are uncomfortable with public speaking even if it is to a group you have been spending lots of time with. I found it to be fun and on one trip we even had more fun with it by making up things about our buddy that everyone else had to decide was true or not. Not every tour does it, and it is not like a history exam where you have to detail everything exactly about your buddy.

And for those who have not taken a RS tour and don't know what a "buddy" is, you are paired with someone the first day who is your buddy for the rest of the tour. It is someone you are not traveling with nor sharing a room with. The purpose is to have you check that your buddy is present when getting on the bus so no one gets left behind. Other than that, you are not required to hang with your buddy or have anything else at all to do with that person. It does speed up the bus boarding process.

Posted by
1669 posts

Public speaking is often ranked ahead of death, spiders, and heights as far as phobias go. Three out of four people have a public speaking phobia. Maybe some people are simply reticent and like to lay low. Maybe they're a bit shy. It's not complicated why many folks don't like the exercise.

Edit: We had to do the "name game" at a conference in Munich. I had come down with a stomach bug, was struggling a bit with jet lag, but didn't want to be "that guy" who didn't participate. Naturally, I did a poor job at remembering names. I felt like I offended people whom I just spoke with.

Posted by
21 posts

Thanks for all the responses! If public speaking is sometimes feared more than death, I suppose I can understand why some people would have such a strong opinion against it. But now that I know what it is, I personally wouldn’t let it dissuade me from going on a 2nd R.S. tour.

Happy Travels!

Posted by
8009 posts

Yes, please don’t let it hold you back from another tour!

I personally hate the Name Game/buddy intros/3 truths and a lie because I’m an adult and I can learn people’s names on my own. These all seem forced and silly. This isn’t the corporate world, we don’t need team building, we don’t have a project to finish.

I’ve also done 11 RS tours and only recall having to do these on maybe 3 or 4 out of 11.

I can see the possibility of a guide using them if a group isn't gelling but normally with the amount of talking and laughter that goes on during meals I’m thinking this would rarely be necessary.

I DO like the buddy system.

Posted by
503 posts

Pam, I agree 100% with all that you said about those silly, forced games. After spending 31 years in the corporate world and attending meetings where we had to do such nonsense, I hate having to do it an vacation!

Posted by
25 posts

I also agree with Pam. We did the ‘name game’ in Baden Baden and I hated it. It’s embarrassing when you can’t remember everyone’s name within a few days time of meeting each other and people were getting their feelings hurt. We also did the buddy intro on an Italy tour. Again, I didn’t see the point. It’s much more enjoyable causally getting to know people as the tour group progresses rather than having it forced on you.

Posted by
5641 posts

The alternative is to wear name tags, or to spend two weeks where people are guessing names, using the wrong names, or avoiding talking to anyone they haven't learned the name of. Yes some people will make the effort to go around introducing themselves to each other person, but most wont unless they are forced to.

Posted by
8009 posts

"The alternative is to wear name tags,"

I'd not really say so. To me it's not an either/or situation. You don't really need to know someone's name to talk to them. I'm not particularly good with names so I keep the list of participants in my purse during the tour. Even with the Name Game I don't always remember everyone's name. The toughest group I traveled with was on my Best of England tour where at least half were or had been teachers. Yikes. Those people had the names down by the end of the intros the first night.

BTW, I don't mind doing an intro session. That doesn't seem forced, it seems normal.

I also travel a lot with Road Scholar (10 tours with them) who use name tags. I usually wear mine for a day or so and then nope. I have it with me in case it's needed to show you are part of the group (museum entrance for instance) but won't wear it. I never mind repeating my name for anyone and I don't have an expectation that they will remember it.

Margie, I completely understand. One long time RS tour guide told me he would absolutely not do Name Game after he had one tour member burst into tears during it. He said he would never, ever set anyone up like that again. I loved him for saying that.

Posted by
6538 posts

I had them on my tour in 2011. To me they're an innocuous convention, and not worth worrying about (of course with some exceptions for those who are particularly/ unusually sensitive about speaking briefly in front of a group)

Posted by
25 posts

Thank you, Pam. We’ve been on seven R.S. tours to date. From tour experience, I do not feel that people need to be forced or they won’t learn each other’s names. That’s just plain ridiculous when you are in close contact with a group of people for 13-14 days. And there’s never been a problem repeatedly asking someone’s name because except for the few with exceptional memories, we’re all doing the same thing.

Posted by
13 posts

This is an interesting discussion...and one in which I believe there are 2 subjects being addressed.
One “The Buddy” introduction...the the other “The name game”.
My wife and I have been on 7 tours soon to be 8 and have had a wide range of experiences with both games.
What I can now state, a least from my perspective, both are elements within the culture of RS Tours.
I/we have seen both very positive and unfortunately a FEW very poor experiences for each “game”.
I now accept what RS and his guides are trying to accomplish and work hard within myself to participate and prepare effectively to a positive member of the touring group. Our recent tour guides have adjusted and modified both “games” in my opinion to be effective and safe for the majority of the tour members.
I have not seen a perfect “game” on our tours nor in my business career but will say I’m a “Ravening Fan” of the RS Company and it’s tours.
I’ve also learned , or learning more, the concept of FLOW ...along with a positive smile and attitude.
98 % of our tour members have been wonderful...especially when not pushed and given the opportunity to develop relationships at their own pace...and that includes knowing others names.
Everyone has their own style(s)...that’s why they make different color cars!
Enjoy the wonderful RS Tours and great people you meet!

Posted by
31218 posts

As someone else mentioned, I think this discussion covers two different subjects.

First there's the "name game". Based on conversations I've had on tours, most people find these a bit annoying but they only take a few minutes and that's the end of it.

The "buddy system" is a different concept. At the beginning of the tour each member is paired with a "buddy", which has to be someone they're not travelling with. Each time the bus departs, tour members need to make sure their "buddy" is on the bus so that no one gets left behind. This seems like a much quicker and more efficient system than having the guide count heads, and it works well. If there's an uneven number of people in the tour, the guide and the odd man are paired as "buddies".

Posted by
9183 posts

Each time the bus departs, tour members need to make sure their "buddy" is on the bus so that no one gets left behind.

What happens if you don't because your mind is on something else and your buddy gets left behind. Do you get kicked off the tour? Responsible for any extra expenses for that person to reach ths group? Taken to the public square and ostracized by your fellow tour members for not doing your "job"?

This seems like a much quicker and more efficient system than having the guide count heads, and it works well.

A tour director can count 28 people in 15-20 seconds. See how long it usually takes to do a buddy check with everyone reporting in. A good tour director will have the count done before you even say "buddy check"

I have been on three RS tours. On two I saw people visibly upset because they had to play "the name game". On one a couple of people just walked away. When it was my turn, I said "My name is Frank, our guide is XXX and these are my fellow tour members." It always got laugh and a few head nods.

Just like summer camp but with virtual kool aid.

Posted by
1862 posts

On the lighter side:

Some 10 (or more)years later after our RS Heart of Italy tour, my "buddy" and I still exchange Christmas cards, and the personal note I include always starts with "Buddy check!!"
He and his partner also visited Nashville last year, and we enjoyed catching up with them over dinner at our home. They are great, bright, well-travel guys!
I got lucky in the "buddy department."

Posted by
174 posts

I don't have a problem with the Intros on the first day of the tour
(Side-note: I wish there were more activities on the first day; really, a "14-day tour" is only 12.5 days at best. I know, it's to give people a chance to arrive in time, but most people arrive at least a day before anyway.)

My problem with "name games" isn't the game itself, but the amount of time it wastes. I think there are other ways to boost the comraderie. Thankfully, I've only ever had to do a "name game" on one of my tours [ back in 2011... the alcohol was more plentiful and included back then... or perhaps the great Patrick Vidal just spoiled us ;) ]. It wasn't so much a "name game" as it was sharing 3 interesting facts about your buddy. So rather than the panic of trying to remember all the names, you actually learned things about each other and that helped with bonding and conversation later. I thought that was fun, but then again it was my first tour so I wasn't as in the know as I am now.

I agree that fear of public speaking is a big reason for one to hate these games. However, in defense of the company, a European vacation requires you to be an extrovert (at least if you want a meaningful interaction with Europeans and their country). Therefore, if we're going to be out there meeting locals, ordering in restaurants, and figuring out busses, we should be able to get through a name game.

Between long bus rides and an essentially wasted first and last day, the last thing I want is to spend a gorgeous Tuscan evening playing a name game.

Posted by
8009 posts

"What happens if you don't because your mind is on something else and your buddy gets left behind. Do you get kicked off the tour? Responsible for any extra expenses for that person to reach ths group? Taken to the public square and ostracized by your fellow tour members for not doing your "job"?"

As a solo traveler, I like for someone to notice if I'm there or not. I look for my buddy because often they are another solo traveler and I know they will look for me. On my last tour in April we were loaded and ready to leave and nope, my buddy wasn't aboard. I called out to the guide and the guide-in-training went back to look for her and yes, she had gotten turned around when we left the restaurant.

To me buddy checks take less time as most people locate their buddy as they are boarding or gathering. It takes seconds to do. When the guide calls "Buddy Check" I rarely see other tour members not paying attention. I've also been with other tour companies where the guides count and even the most skilled ones took longer than 15-20 seconds.

Of course, I know FrankII posted what he did as a conversation starter. Or ender. Or....

Posted by
3444 posts

So there are actually 3 items in this discussion at this point:

  1. Buddy system. It is faster to do the "buddy check" than for the tour guide to count to 28. No one has ever missed their buddy on any tour I have been on by being distracted. In a couple cases both parts of a buddy pair were missing, so it is not perfect. The tour guide, and some of the other tour members, did notice in those cases and no one was left.

  2. Name Game. This is where everyone stands around in a circle and has to name everyone back to the start of the circle. Hate it simply because I have never been good at names and am only getting worse.

  3. Three items of interest. You chat with someone, maybe your buddy, and then have to tell the rest of the group 3 interesting things about the person you talk with and they do the same about you. I don't mind this one as you do find out some really unique things about your tour members.

I have noticed that it seems like the longer a tour guide has been with the RS company, the less they do these things. Had one who said "You are adults, if you want to know someone's name, ask them!" So hope you never get a tour guide on their first tour because you will do all these things and more!

Posted by
5641 posts

Actually, the original question was not about the Buddy System or Buddy Checks, it was about Buddy Intros. That's where you talk a few minutes to your new buddy, learn something about them, and then introduce them to the group. Its a standard ice-breaking trick to help remember names, not a test of intelligence. They wont kick you off the tour if you dont instantly know everyones name. There are some people who just can't ever get the names right. That's OK too. Sometimes there are more than one person with the same first name, so it helps to sort that out.

It also helps the tour leader. I'd much rather someone be able to say to the tour leader "look! Stan just fell into the Grand Canal" rather than "look! the short fat bald guy just fell in that un-named body of water". At least my buddy will know.

Posted by
31218 posts

"What happens if you don't because your mind is on something else and your buddy gets left behind."

Once the group is back on the bus after a stop, the guide reminds everyone to do a "buddy check" and this always seems to be done within a very short time. Due to the verbal reminder from the guide, I've never seen anyone forget because of distraction or whatever.

I've been on tours where the guides count heads, and this always takes longer as people are sometimes shuffling between seats or to chat with other members of the group. Based on my observations, the guide sometimes has to count two or three times to make sure h/she has the right numbers. The buddy check is more efficient.

Posted by
9183 posts

I was on a tour when two people were almost left. Day 2 and the two missing people were "buddies". They were both traveling solo. The guide yelled "buddy check:, everyone said their buddy was there, and the guide said to the driver lets go.

I was in the back and did a head count--force of habit. It took me about 15 seconds. I realized we were short two and yelled "we're missing two." The bus stopped and we saw the two walking towards the bus.

And on another tour, my "buddy" was so busy talking to another passenger that when the guide yelled "buddy check" she never bothered looking for me or responding. She was too busy chatting and showing off her purchases.

So, if I didn't yell out and the two were left, who would have been responsible? And if my buddy didn't respond and I was left, who would pay to get me to the next destination? And is the extra 10-15 seconds you all claim it takes to do a head count over the "buddy system" really going to have an impact on the tour? What are we talking about...a minute a day.

What flavor is the kool aid?

As for the "name game" and all its versions--I think they are silly. If you really want people to bond on tour, let them meet each other. They will. Have you ever noticed what goes on when tour members congretate for the first meeting? They naturally start talking to each other.

Of course there are those copiously taking notes during the introductions so they can learn everyone's name to master the name game.

You see, when I pay a lot of money for a tour, I don't expect to have to work to help run that tour. Isn't that what the "guide" is being paid to do?

Posted by
3444 posts

I feel the Buddy Check is more of a redundancy to assist the tour guide with insuring everyone is there. I know the guides, at least on the trips I have been on, are counting heads while everyone is responding to the Buddy Check. Neither way is perfect. I don't look at it as working.

Who is responsible for getting the missing person caught up? Good question. I would think it depends on why someone is late.

I was late getting back to the bus on one tour (minor medical issue requiring unexpected pharmacy stop) and I had to throw myself in front of it to get them to stop and let me back on. My official buddy was in the hotel for the day due to her own medical situation. Not happy, but the guide bought beers so all was (mostly) forgiven.

Posted by
174 posts

Seems like a good compromise might be to have a Buddy and a "back-up." Two buddy checks, one for your regular, and one for your back-up. Only takes an extra fifteen seconds.

That way the odds of missing someone is cut down, especially if, for some reason, both buddies are not on the bus for whatever reason.

Posted by
3035 posts

I was just on a tour with a different company. Each time we boarded the bus, I saw the guide doing a count. How long does it take to count to 24, or 28?

The “team building” activities stem from the corporate world, but have penetrated education, as well. When I was a teacher, and more or less required to participate, found them artificial and infantilizing. I would not put up with participating when on a trip that was not only voluntary, but one for which I had spent big bucks.

Posted by
743 posts

We have also done the "two truths and a lie". Where we share two truthful things about ourselves and one falsehood. Our buddy then has to guess which statement was false. This one is actually quite fun, as people come up with some real interesting falsehoods and many of the truthful statements are quite interesting as well. We learned a lot of interesting things about everyone in the group.

We did this one on our just-completed Scotland tour (while sipping wee drams) and pretty much everyone in the group had a lot of fun with it. But we had an exceptionally fun bunch!

I think we did something similar on our first tour in Paris, though maybe not the "lie" part. On our three tours, we haven't had to play the Name Game, and it certainly wouldn't have been necessary.

Posted by
815 posts

Are there really adult people who get their feelings hurt if someone can't remember their name?

Posted by
9183 posts

And I've seen it the other way when someone doesn't remember a name during the "name game" and feels totally embarrassed. For some, that can be traumatic. Why would someone want to pay thousands of dollars only to be traumatized? Why would a company treat their passengers that way?

There are ways for people to learn their fellow tour members names without putting them in possibly embarrassing situations or wearing name tags.

Posted by
12 posts

I do like the Buddy System, but I'm one of those people who absolutely HATE buddy introductions! I've never experienced Two Truths and a Lie, but I know I wouldn't like that either. I'm uncomfortable speaking in front of a group and stress about even the thought of having to participate! I've got pretty good recall, so the Name Game is marginally better for me. Thankfully, though, I've had two guides who had their own take on the these activities. One had us play the Name Game - but we, as a whole group, repeated names as we proceeded around the circle. It was very non-threatening - and no one's feelings were hurt! The other guide simply suggested that we sit with someone at a group lunch that we hadn't had an opportunity to interact with. This happened around Day 4 of the tour. Again, it was a comfortable way to get to know another tour mate.

Posted by
874 posts

I’m from a large family. On any given day my own mother calls me three different sibling’s names before she lands on my name. My brothers and sisters have the same experience.
So for some of us, this stuff is no big deal, and we just roll with it. But I suppose for others it’s more painful.

I have no issue with the buddy system. It’s worked well on the RS tours I’ve done. As another poster wrote, I view the name game as taking up time. And as yet another poster mentioned, my last two trips have been with long-time guides and neither did the intros or name game.

Posted by
57 posts

I don’t mind the buddy checks, but I loathe the name game and similar games. One tour we had to do 2 truths and a lie, and one of the participants was so flustered she drank massive quantities of wine to get through it, at the same time my extremely shy adult son was having an anxiety attack. I finally told the guide he couldn’t do it. We are all adults and can get to know each other and names as is comfortable for us. I don’t see why it needs to be forced. I agree with the poster about the time waster of the name game as well. I think these sort of things are no big deal for certain people but really hard for others, for very little benefit, so why make people go through it. Last tour I was on, guide said no name game and we all cheered, literally everyone cheered. then a couple days in, she had us get in a circle and say our name and the origin of the name, quick and helped us remember people’s name.

Posted by
1571 posts

I’ve done 10 RS tours and I think the buddy system is a good idea. I don’t mind introducing one person to the group but I don’t like the name game at all. I can’t remember 20+ names and it makes me very anxious when this comes up, just dread it. My approach is to keep a copy of the official list of names and jot down notes as each person introduces themselves on the first night.

Posted by
108 posts

First of all, I hate the name game. As far as intros go I can take it or leave it. On our last tour the guide hinted at an buddy intro and the group rebelled and most said they weren't interested. We never heard about it again. I think the buddy system is a good idea but the rest is nonsense.

Posted by
4525 posts

The "buddy check" system is a good fast way to make sure everyone is on the bus or in the lobby or wherever before departing for somewhere else. Sure, the guide can also count, and probably does, but may be distracted and busy with something else. Your buddy is supposed to be someone you're not traveling with or not even likely to hang out with, to minimize the chance of two buddies being away together. I was a solo and my buddy, luckily for me, was the tallest guy in the group, travelling with his wife, who was someone else's buddy. Bad idea for two solos to be buddies unless they don't like each other and will stay apart. ;-) Unsolicited advice: if you're skipping a stop or activity, tell not only the guide but your buddy so he/she doesn't worry about your absence.

We did the name game, around a circle, it took awhile and was no help to me as I'd learned all the first names by then (second full day of the tour). I agree with others about "two truths" and other such silly exercises -- we're going to be as sociable as we feel like, most of us will get along well thrown together in a different culture but with common interest in a particular kind of travel, and if not, c'est la vie, we'll be going home soon. I enjoyed all 27 of my companions, some more than others but all were pluses for my experience, and I hope I was for them.

Posted by
14225 posts

Like rim, I was on an RS tour where on Day 4, the guide had us in a circle and we had to explain how we got our names. It was very interesting, gave us some insights into some of our companions and cemented first names for many of us. On another RS tour, the guide did the name game, but all together. We went round the circle three times, together saying each person's name, so no one was pressured to remember or embarrassed if they didn't. I don't know how much this helps others; I'm bad at names, so trying to learn 25 in 5 minutes is way beyond my ability. On my only other RS tour, there was no name game.

I was on a non-RS tour last year and the guide had an interesting variation on the buddy system - she designated for each of us a "hen" and a "chick." I guess the idea was to eliminate the possibility of both buddies being left behind. It was confusing to people and pretty unnecessary since there were only 12 tour participants, by the middle of the second day, we all knew each other and whenever anyone drifted, someone in the group knew where they were.

That buddies can both go astray just proves that no system is perfect. From my experience, the buddy system is more efficient than guide head counts. And if someone is missing, you know immediately who it is.

Posted by
1669 posts

Having played this game several times in various situations, yes, it can be embarrassing if you can't remember certain names, especially if those people remembered yours and maybe you've even had a conversation with them.

If it's just 12 people then give me a few days and I've got it. 25 and no chance, my friends.

Posted by
5 posts

We've been on 9 RS tours and have done the name game once, buddy intros a couple of times and 2 truths/1 lie twice. In general we hate all of these gimmicks. Within a few days everyone knows everyone's name without silly games. What we've found is that at least 25% of the group never interview their buddy and makes up stuff during the introductions - although this did create some humor the last time with people claiming their buddy was in a famous rock band and other nonsense.

The buddy system, which is an independent check of who is on the bus, or ready to leave a site or the hotel, works really well. It's saved groups from leaving others behind many times. It's helpful for single travelers to know that someone is on the look out for them when it comes time to rendezvous for the next step in the day's events.

Posted by
627 posts

I feel the Buddy Check is more of a redundancy to assist the tour guide with insuring everyone is there. I know the guides, at least on the trips I have been on, are counting heads while everyone is responding to the Buddy Check. Neither way is perfect. I don't look at it as working

On one tour the guide didn't seem to really buy into the RS buddy check system, nor was he counting heads. At one remote restroom stop we piled onto the bus and left; only by luck did someone notice a lady (not his buddy) was not on the bus and we stopped a few hundred yards down the road.

As for the "name game", apparently RS is a big proponent and requires it. Rumor has it that some guides tell the group "if anyone asks, we played the game" and leave it at that, not that I'd know from personal experience ;-)

Posted by
73 posts

I agree that it's not the Buddy Intros themselves that I had a problem with, but the amount of time it took. On my tour we were asked to stand up and introduce our buddy and tell some interesting things we had learned about them. This was done about the fourth day into the trip one night after dinner. But going through this with 25 or more people takes a lot of time. This was a day many people who had been in Europe a week before the tour were juggling doing laundry at a nearby laudromat with joining the group for dinner. Several of those people skipped Buddy Intros and their buddies felt left out because there was no one to introduce them. I will say it did help me remember people's names and interests which did increase the amount I interacted with them during the tour. It would have helped if the details for each person were limited somehow. Some people are not shy and talk too much.