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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Interesting Travelers aka Gypsies question #1: Are there Travelers in the US or Canada, and if so, how do they differ from those of the UK?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26801points) August 6th, 2011

Off of this question here, and led to a refreshing subject I did not know about. Having never thought there were still Travelers in existence, really I wondered if there were truly Travelers in other places? A while back, I watched The Riches, on FX. I figured the series was more hype than reality, so I found the documentary on the UK Travelers more credible. The Travelers in the FX series where more stereotypical of what you hear Travelers were; crooks, thieves, grifters, conmen, etc. Let see how well the Collective knows about Travelers and their differences. How do Travelers differ here in North America, if there are any, than those across the Pond?

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13 Answers

jca's avatar

When I went to Ireland about 6 years ago, we saw travelers in trailer homes by the side of the road, in little communities. From what I heard at the time, they’re called tinkers because they fix pots and pans.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@jca From what I heard at the time, they’re called tinkers because they fix pots and pans. Over there did they have the reputation of being honest people, or more like is said over here, of being people you would hide your silver candle sticks from, or would cheat you blind if you didn’t watch them?

Berserker's avatar

’‘Gypsies’’ are a nationality. They get treated very poorly in some parts of the world, and many still travel around, usually out of necessity and survival more than anything else. Lots have a fixed place to live though, and they’re found all over the world.

We have drifters and travelers in Canada, as I assume there are in America, too. Despite whatever nationality, there are some people who live on the road, traveling from city to city, usually through hitchhiking, jumping trains or working just enough to buy bus tickets. It’s not usually something these people do all their lives though, unlike some Roma or other people with similar lifestyles.

MilkyWay's avatar

I have some gypsy friends back home, and they’re lovely. The typical gypsy stereotype is that gypsies are theives, my friends are not.

jca's avatar

Tinkers in Ireland had a bad rep. Here in the US I heard there are travelers, which is what we call them. I heard they come into a town and offer to work on your house, for example doing roofing or driveways, and that you should never employ them. They say because it’s not a legit business, if the work is poor, you have no way to get it corrected, since they’ve moved on.

The_Idler's avatar

In the UK they have a reputation for drinking, fighting, stealing, mugging and doing really shitty drive-ways for unsuspecting fools.

Millions of pounds worth of damage per year is caused to schools, offices and especially railways, by thievery of copper cables, almost exclusively by travellers, who are very strongly involved in the scrap metal business.

The Irish ones are sometimes called tinkers, or derogatorily ‘pikeys’.
We also now have Roma gypsies.

Generally, they are regarded as a criminal class of parasites, seeing as you can’t really make a living by foraging fruit and weaving baskets in this country any more, and also the fact that violent and property crime happens to balloon by several hundred percent whenever they turn up.

They are very insular and usually refuse to integrate into settled society, a fact not helped by widespread discrimination, and this means they have serious problems with under-education, short life-expectancy, in-breeding and also resentment from the settled communities, due to their use of free facilities and services provided to them by a government to which they pay no tax.

Obviously there may be plenty of well-meaning people born into that culture, but it’s difficult-to-impossible to get by without resorting to parasitic activities at the expense of the local settled population.

The ideals of their culture are fundamentally incompatible with the socio-economic “system” of the established population, leading to inevitable conflict.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@The_Idler In the UK they have a reputation for drinking, fighting, stealing, mugging and doing really shitty drive-ways for unsuspecting fools. If their work is shoddy, why do people hire them? They know they can’t get it rectified once they move on. Where do they get all the money for their over-the-top weddings and such?

Millions of pounds worth of damage per year is caused to schools, offices and especially railways, by thievery of copper cables, almost exclusively by travellers, who are very strongly involved in the scrap metal business. One thing I hate is being a Stat Nazi, but how does one know that since the Travelers will get the heat, it is not other people looking to make a quick buck in hard times?

The_Idler's avatar

Well, because they’re unsuspecting fools. They also get their money from ‘a variety of means’.

Hard times in the UK doesn’t translate to the kind of economic conditions Travellers live in. The social security system is well developed and effective at preventing the vast majority of the unemployed from resorting to crime (obviously at considerable cost). It just wouldn’t be worth the effort or the risk for almost anyone, except travellers. You also have the point that because stolen cable is such a problem, scrappies are being held accountable for accepting it, and you are not able to weigh in a ton of cable you ‘found’, unless you were very good friends with the scrappie.

In our line of business, we come across a lot of disused or unusable cable, which can be ‘diverted’ away from management, to provide a full English and a few pints for all the workers at the end of the job. This way, I know about the scrappies that won’t ask too many questions. They happen to be of Tinker stock. I also know of plenty of cases, when working near Traveller’s sites, of the cable we buried one morning being gone the next! Not to mention tools and other materials…

Also, the damage/profit ratio is so massive (i.e. the cost to repair is many many many times the profit from the scrap) that most people would consider it extremely immoral, and not worth the criminal record for getting caught, an issue which is irrelevant to Travellers.

RareDenver's avatar

I was discussing travellers with some friends the other day and it does seem that here in the UK they are the last minority that it is socially acceptable to ridicule. The TV show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding went under the guise of documentary but really was just a vehicle to allow people to laugh at them and was produced purely for it’s titillation value.

We have 3 main traveller communities here, the Irish Travellers, the Romani Travellers and the New Age Travellers

Most of my experiences with Irish and Romani Travellers has been negative. New Age Travellers not as bad but I’ve only really been around them in any numbers at music festivals.

The travellers depicted in the movie Snatch were spot on in my opinion.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@RareDenver The TV show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding went under the guise of documentary but really was just a vehicle to allow people to laugh at them and was produced purely for it’s titillation value. Now you have me slightly discombobulated. Were the Travelers in “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” real Travelers or not? Where they the typical real Traveler or just handpicked because they promoted a stereotype the film makers wanted to promote? If the whole documentary was just a ruse to poke fun at a certain group of people were they disingenuous to us the views of their inside joke?

RareDenver's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central travellers are notoriously secretive so it’s hard to judge just how representative the ones shown on the TV show were. In addition nearly all of them were women, most of the men had asked their faces to be blurred out. I think it was fairly obvious though that the TV show was meant more for entertainment than education.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@RareDenver I think it was fairly obvious though that the TV show was meant more for entertainment than education. Maybe if I were from the UK, I might know that. There is not a visible or definable Traveler community anywhere near here. What I see I have to take at face value because I have nothing by which to compare it. If I made a documentary on urban street life featuring mostly African American youth, what I said about the street hierarchy, drug trade, how they treated women, etc one would have to take at face value if no such thing existed in their nation, or region. If they had nothing real to compare too how would they know it was inaccurate? It would be as if someone made a movie about what actually when on in the Iraq war. If you were not there, all you have is what snippets came by way of the news. Those who let out the footage could show you the worse to make you think it was more horrible than it was, or they can show smiling Iraqi people to make it seem better than it was. If I were a secretive people, I would not want to show my face either. The same methods are in use here, people have their face cropped out of the shot, speak off camera, or filmed in shadow with their voices altered. If Travelers there were akin to Blacks here in the 1920s to 60s you would not want anyone to know who you were. If you were ⅓ Black but could pass for white or anything other than Black, you did. To do different you might find that management job you have at the plant would evaporate like a drop of water on the hood of a black Corvette at high noon in the middle of July. I think if all they wanted to do is promote a stereotype of gypsies and poke fun at them, they did the rest of us a disservice.

RareDenver's avatar

I think if all they wanted to do is promote a stereotype of gypsies and poke fun at them, they did the rest of us a disservice. you get no argument from me on that point.

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