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Macedonians Behave! Tourists are coming

May 22, 2012

The Macedonian government is into massive campaigns. Sometimes it is to advertise how hard it is working, which we all know it does 24/7, but mostly it is to tell its humble citizens the difference between right and wrong, and most importantly educate Macedonians how to behave, as they don’t seem to fit the high standards of the government.

They range from messages to help a girl in your neighbourhood who is attacked, (as if that wouldn’t occur to anyone prior to seeing this video) to videos about how you should not throw out garbage bags from your terrace on the 5th floor, how you should greet your neighbours, to elaborate, gruesome videos about the effects of different kinds of drugs, to puzzling videos with massive scenes showing the might of Alexander the Great and what happens to traitors who question his strategy.

Dozens of promotional videos and different campaigns have been done since 2006. They include: “Open your heart” (basic social skills surely?) “Say no to drugs” (five videos about four different drugs and one that shows you’ll have a lovely life if you don’t take drugs) “Macedonia Timeless” (campaign for CNN, advertising Macedonian wine, food etc) and a campaign to inspire people to start businesses etc.

Countless euros later we come to the icing of the cake. Many of the aforementioned promotional videos have been ill-thought, absurd and offensive but none has been as disturbing as the government campaign on tourism that went viral on Thursday.

In six one-minute videos, an “Australian”, a mockery of the late Steve Irwin, presents viewers with several Macedonian endemic species such as a bed and breakfast owner, a Macedonian alpha male and a taxi driver. Two videos are devoted to a lakeside waiter, one to a open market trader.  To top it all, the final video is of a “Training centre for tourists heading to Macedonia”, which features what looks like a military training centre, where people wearing T-shirts reading Survive Macedonia are awoken at 3am by brass bands and told they need to get used to the noise in Macedonia.

Each video, after it portrays Macedonians as rude, thieving, aggressive and lazy, is followed by a message from the almighty government: We must not allow this to be the picture of Macedonia.

You think? One, it is completely unclear who this message is for in the first place.

The videos are in English, with subtitles in Macedonian and the wise end messages from the government are again in Macedonian. So, is the government in fact telling Macedonians that they are rude, aggressive and lazy thieves, or are they addressing potential tourists? Come to Macedonia – we won’t allow you to have a shower, you’ll never be able to catch a waiter, you’ll get ripped off at the market?!

How such messages could have any positive impact is beyond me. We have all had our fair share of “experiences” in Ohrid but that is not the entire picture for Ohrid, or the entire country for that matter. To generalize like this, and concentrate on a few bad apples is outrageous and unfair.

However, I doubt that the creators of this campaign put any serious thought into this or realised the true damage they are doing. As the “creative” minds behind this campaign had no clue about what they were up to, the government had a duty to step in and prevent this embarrassing, insulting and foolish adventure.  Or did they just transfer yet another business to a friendly company, no questions asked? All paid by taxpayers’ money, of course.

Now these videos are out there. The government should not be surprised if they have only ended up feeding the same stereotypes they attempted to stigmatise.


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