Dear Tourist, It’s Not The Country You’re Traveling To — It’s You! But it Doesn’t Have to Be
Happy Sunday, friend!
It’s easy to think everyone’s out to get you when you’re in a foreign land and having bad luck — especially if you aren’t hip to the culture you’re navigating. We all get frustrated and we all have bad days; it’s life. But high vibers know that often times the problems they experience cross-culturally can be fixed with a bit of introspection and active goodwill. Positivity and a forgiving nature won’t solve every single problem you encounter, but it’s a great place to start building beauty and bonds. Recommend this story to someone who you think would benefit from these tips in being more understanding when traveling.
While surfing the twitter timeline late one night as I do when I can’t catch the Z’s I need and so desperately want, a tweet rubbed me entirely the wrong way. As a cross-cultural communication and travel aficionado, I could barely believe what I was reading. This tweeter called the people of an entire country rude and shared her perception that it shouldn’t be called “the land of smiles” because of her experience there.
I won’t profess to know everything she experienced because rather than expand on why she felt that way, she chose to further paint with that broad brush and it just reeked of xenophobia — as a traveler in their country nonetheless! But it did inspire me to think on the times I’ve had trouble when traveling and remembering friends who shared their experiences with me. A common theme we found in our travel problems was this: I see now that I might have been in the wrong. If only I had stepped back and looked at the bigger picture, things may have gone better.
I hope you’ll consider these proactive attitudes travelling to places where the norms differ from what you’re used to.
1. Nobody is obligated to speak your native language — nor is anyone obligated to speak your native language the way you speak it if they share a language but have a different dialect. To assume that the entire population of a country has to speak the language you speak to cater to you is self-centered at best and has colonial/racist implications at worst.
Imagine for just a moment that you’re on your way to school or work and you get pulled from your routine by someone who tries to communicate with you in a language you don’t understand and then gets angry at you for not knowing their language. They then proceed to trash you and denounce your entire culture, reducing it to impoliteness and unfriendliness. Uncool is an understatement.
2. When you feel like an entire country is being rude to you, you owe it to the happiness of your travels to step outside of yourself and analyze the situation on various levels and come to a conclusion that best allows you to solve the problem you (or your hosts) perceive.
What makes you think the people are rude — are you ignoring that different people and regions have different customs and ways of relating to one another that you may not be familiar or comfortable with, or has an entire country full of diverse and independent people conspired to go after you and you alone?
If you find that you’re getting negative reactions and you’ve exhausted the ways in which you could give people the benefit of the doubt, try to find out if you are doing something that’s putting multiple people off. And find out if you’re not just plastering your own cultural expectations on another culture.
3. Nobody is obligated to hold your hand during your travels. You are vacationing. You are dedicating time to exploration. They are going about their day to day lives — school, work, indulging in the personal luxuries of life — they’re not realistically obligated to take time to cater to you.
That being said, one way to get people to give you the gift of their time and kindness (which, might I remind you, you are not entitled to) is to give it first. By speaking the language of smiles and kindness, you open people up to feeling that it’s in their best interests to reciprocate.
You are important. You deserve love and attention. Your life matters. You are special. But you’re not the only one.
Traveling through different countries, regions, and cultures for pleasure is a gift that not everyone is afforded. When you decide to travel for leisure, you must also take on the responsibility of treading lightly — being respectful, having an open mind, and leaving things as you found them so as not to leave negative energy. In effect, the sort of entitlement I’m railing against is the sort that, on the personal level, everyone would agree is ugly.
And this is by no means saying that you as a traveler are always wrong, and I hope you do not take it as such. Rather, it is to encourage you to critically analyze your situation to ensure you’re not being obtuse. Would you not agree that it’s better to sort your $#!7 out first before years pass and you retrospectively realize your wrongs and kick yourself in regret?
By being an ignoble guest when traveling, you confirm yourself to be a low-vibing dreg. Don’t be a low-vibing dreg.
Thanks for sundaying with us today! Since you enjoyed this piece and crave more, follow @ArtOfSunday on Medium and Twitter. Also join our pre-launch mailing list if you cant get enough of us: www.ArtOfSunday.com.