While traveling we encounter things we haven’t seen before. We meet people with different habits. We have to adjust to ideas that are different from our own. I’ve been to a few countries where things were different from my home. The web is filled with experiences and observations of others and they’re a fun read and sometimes even very recognisable.
Recently I read Help, what’s the metric system?, a funny story about an American girl hiring a car in Australia. I could totally relate to driving on the wrong side of the road. Yes, that would be the left side. I remember my first drive on the wrong side very well. I was in Cape Town, South Africa and had to rent a car for my daily commute to my internship.
The roads were so busy and it seemed like nobody had ever heard of an indicator. I just drove around the block, parked my car, and ran back into the house. It was awful! I had no clue how big the car was and kept looking for the mirror on the wrong side. By the time I’d found the actual mirror it was already too late. It was terrifying. Luckily I found a guy who was nice enough to practise with me one afternoon. Having someone beside you to remind you to stay left, take the roundabouts the right way and the calm down was a great help. Now I’ve been in Australia for so long that it’s confused my mind. I don’t know which way to look anymore when I cross a street.
Another experience from down under is described in Me talk kiwi one day. Even if you go to an English-speaking country there is no guarantee that you’ll understand the language. Different countries use different words, slang and some have heavy accents. Jandals, thongs, flipflops, slippers, clogs or moccasins are all words used to describe the same thing. What they don’t tell you touches on this as well. This post is about the side of travel, and especially emigration, that many people don’t talk about.
There is one more post I’d like to highlight; How long do you have to spend in a country for it to count? It poses an interesting question that many people have an opinion about. As for me, I’d say you spend however long you think you need. It totally depends on your attitude and also touches on the tourist vs. traveler discussion. How long you stay somewhere depends on your situation and wishes. In the end it doesn’t matter if it counts to someone else, as long as you get what you need from your trip. Every experience counts, no matter how brief it may have been. An encounter with another culture changes you. It makes you think and puts everything in another perspective. It challenges our minds and influences the decisions we make. I hope I can count on a lot more experiences abroad, as a traveler, a tourist or an expat.