First Impressions

First impressions. They mean everything. They do. It’s true. Think about it. From appearances to actions, they can make or break any potential relationship before the flame can come to fruition.

You see a girl across the way. Nice hair, dreamy eyes, pretty face, attractive figure, nice clothes. You want to talk to her. Same situation: ill fitting clothes, dirty hair, sloppy. Chances are, you aren’t going to talk to her. There’s no need.

A guy walks up to you at the bar. He is nicely dressed, sharp, well groomed. He says, hi. Asks your name, compliments your accessories, seems like he wants to get to know you. Same situation: nice looking guy opens his mouth and is a blabbering douche. You’re probably texting your girlfriend 9-1-1 or throwing your drink in his face.

Two examples of parallel situations in which a first impression is the difference between friends, lovers, or soulmates; and, well…someone you don’t care to know.

The same holds true for things other than people. Books are often judged by their covers. But let’s take a look at something never discussed: airports. It seems that cities have been overlooking their airports. But why? Often times the airport is the first impression of a new place. Oh, but the city is why people visit, not the airport. This is certainly true. My wife and I visited Asia a few weeks ago. We made stops and stays in Bali, Siem Reap, and Bangkok. We had already booked our stays at these cities, and what a lovely vacation we had. All three places were exquisite and we didn’t give the airports much though. While the airport didn’t matter at those destinations for this trip, others did.

We had two layovers: Taipei, Taiwan and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As a result of these layovers, I will never book a vacation to Malaysia—ever. And why? Because of the airport…because of a first impression. Because the girl across the room at Starbucks was wearing a dumpy sweatshirt and looked like she hadn’t bathed in days. Because the guy had dirty teeth and an untrimmed beard. Because the whole place was dirty, the people were rude, and I felt unsafe. Because the walls were dingy, smoke-stained yellow, and I felt like I was in a horror movie. My wife tells me Malaysia is beautiful. The beaches are nice and the city is lovely. I don’t want to see. I have seen enough. A first impression, a bad one, is all it took.

Taipei, Taiwan. Never on my radar of places to vacation, and still isn’t. The airport was bleh. It didn’t sway me either way. I felt safe. The facilities were nice enough, nothing spectacular. The food (or lack of food) sucked, but not enough to make me say NO to Taiwan. However, it certainly wasn’t enough to make me think, “Wow, this could be a beautiful place and I would like to visit.” A lackluster showing, although not making me say no, you certainly didn’t attract me. Taipei airport is the guy that’s average looking, just sitting next to you at the bar. He keeps looking at you, modestly, but never says anything, and seems like he doesn’t have much to offer. You move on. And so did I.

Cities should spend a little more time on their airports, especially cities that thrive on tourism. Often times, a passerby only gets one look at your country or your city, and that look is the airport in which he is connecting. So countries, cities, airports, trade your dumpy tracksuit and flip flops for nice jeans and a jacket. Trim your beard and groom your nails. Maybe wear a nice watch. Smile and have something nice to say. It’s much better to attract than to repel, don’t you think? Make a good first impression, and you just may reap what you sow.