Lost, elusive, and sneaky as hell, gypsies are out to steal your shit. You know the stereotype—long skirts, jingling bells, headscarves, living the free life. You may share the wanderlust lifestyle, but you know they’re pulling some crafty schemes to keep it going and unless you can hop on their nomadic bandwagon, you ain’t nothing but a cash cow to them. People (as in, tourists) are gullible, but a little caution will free you of their gypsy magic. Oh—and your mama sent you a text. We just swiped your iPhone.
Truth be told: the term gypsy isn’t entirely kosher these days. For the most part, the stereotypical gypsies are the Roma people, of Indian descent, who today are scattered mostly in Europe. The word “gypsy” is a bastardization of “Egyptian,” from when the medieval French mistook gypsies as being from Egypt. Gypsies are almost on par with Jews as the most persecuted ethnic group in European history, so maybe there’s reason for their madness. But this swindling isn’t specific to the Roma alone; marginalized populations using shady scams can be found all over the world. So when we use “gypsy”, we mean it strictly in the politically incorrect way. Simply: People trying to “gyp” unsuspecting foreigners.
Like Taking Candy From a Baby
Rome is the stronghold for Roma gypsies. They’re a problem as old as formaggio parmigiano. If you encounter one, guard your pockets and forget your maternal instincts. Roman gypsies are notorious for throwing a human baby at you and then taking your shit while you catch it and try to not shake the mofo! That’s right, you’ll be left with empty pockets and a crying baby. Too bad Jersey Shore: Italy is on hold—Snooki would’ve been hilarious with a gypsy kid.
You took our advice and mounteda motorbike to cruise South Asia—rock star—but then blow a tire outside some bitty village in Vietnam. Miraculously, a mechanic happens to be sitting on the curb because, oh wait, he’s the one who threw nails in your path. He sends you to his friend’s café while he proceeds to make and then fix 15 holes in your ghetto wheels—and then must pay up. Not a whole lot you could’ve done to avoid the situation, but don’t be too quick to trust a “professional”.
This trick’s a classic and a favorite in Ecuador because the street rats (aka homeless children) roll in packs and they’ve had it up to here selling Chiclets. They pick a target and surround him while laughing, begging, and tugging on him—all the while dipping their little hands into his pockets.
Of course the French would use a condiment to rip you off. Watch out for someone with a mustard-laden Croque-monsieur who bumps into you, or someone who covertly squirts something on you and then lets you know your shirt is dirty. They’ll pull out a handkerchief and wipe you clean of the stain while their accomplice rips off you cash. But you’ve got to hand it to ‘em… a crew once gassed an entire French train through the AC ducts and robbed every passed-out passenger blind.
Nothing gets us fired up like drunk bitches, but it’s way less sexy when they’re trying to rip (and not something else) you off hard core. Especially common in Eastern Europe, the warning signs are: 1) They’re in a pair, lingering, and way out of your league, 2) They always know a “wicked bar” nearby, 3) They consume several glasses of wine at said bar with no prices on the menu, 4) They go to the bathroom together. Drunk bitches go to the toilet together all the time, sure—but this variety will slip out the back door and leave you with a $400 bill and bouncers around for “insurance.” Be sure you’re the one calling the shots when you take a spank bank contender (or two) out for a drink.
I Wanna Pisa That!
In case you haven’t noticed, distraction is gypsy gold. The oldest trick in the book: A pretty girl is accused of stealing a street vendor’s wares. They fight loud and hard enough to attract a crowd, and to prove a point the girl begins to rip her clothes off. You’re glued to her dirty pillows and a band of gypsies swoops in behind you. Whoever said that sex sells was right on the money: that nice rack just cost you your spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch.
You’d think a shrine would be gyp-free, but the Uluwatu Temple in Bali is home to one of the funniest scams on record. You’ve put your shit down to rock your Om in a sacred space, and a monkey swings by, swipes your stuff, and flings poo while he laughing. A temple priest then appears and claims to be able to talk to the monkey and get your camera back—for a price. If you didn't already figure it out, this dude isn’t really that holy… he’s a monkey trainer in wearing a priest outfit. Lesson? In Bali, if it walks like a priest and talks like a priest, you’re gonna owe him $10 so a shit-tossing monkey doesn’t disassemble your camera.
OTP Bonus: South African Drive-By
This one’s worth an honorable mention. There have been reports in South Africa of stoplight-raiding baboons that can unlock car doors, open trunks—pretty much do anything aside from holding you hostage. The weather’s hot as balls, you have the windows down, and before you know it, Rafiki’s got your wallet between his blue ass cheeks.
Most of the time, a little caution and foresight will keep you out of trouble with the gypsies—whatever ethnic group they might be. Their nomadic culture is seductive and amazing, but you don’t need to personally fund it. And not all gypsies are swindlers—don't be a douchebag and assume. Try to integrate with them instead... you’re guaranteed some of the best travel stories of your life. That’s the real gypsy magic.