It happened at least once. You get to a new country, all excited, full of hopes and boom…
Rude sales assistant, unhelpful strangers on the streets, everyone is in rush and well.. you feel very unwelcomed.
Where are these happy faces you expected to see and why the dreamland you visit, feels like a slap in your face? There will be a few reasons. And if you accept them, you’re more likely to chill out and enjoy the rest of your stay.
Because we need to realize a couple of things.
One regards people who live in big cities.
Most people in this world are not ‘designed’ to live in them. As we can imagine, living in a big city can be quite stressful. There are just too many people around, too much traffic, noise and generally speaking -these are not natural conditions for a human being to live. And so, many people who live in big cities have to face these challenges on an everyday basis, what makes them notice others less. Imagine now, they have to deal with millions of tourists on the top of that!
There is a reason why the most charming stories about warm welcomes by the locals come from villages and little towns all over the globe…
Another thing is…
Even though English is widely used, we shouldn’t take it for granted.
There are over 6000 spoken languages all over the world. Not everyone can speak English, not everyone wants to learn it, and like it or not, they don’t have to. Perhaps it’s these people’s loss, but some of them simply think they don’t need it, or they’ll never get it.
In my experience, I found that some people find it intimidating when a foreigner fires away requests in English like it would be the most obvious thing it the world. Well, it’s not. To some people hearing English is almost threatening, because, on one side, they feel ashamed they can’t speak it, on the other, they may be quite proud of their own national identity and don’t want to accept that English is widely spoken.
This one is a little bit uncomfortable but I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.
In most cultures, people will react differently to women and men, children and adults and… our origins.
That is to say that if you are a nice white man you’ll get much better reception from girls in Asia or Brazil than a blond Western beauty. If you’re a Western woman, you are going to feel welcomed by opposite sex in Mauritius or Brazil and so on. If you’re black African you may get a harder time in some European and SE Asian countries than your white colleagues.
Locals, especially those who never traveled have prejudices and that’s normal. They may be simply scared of the different and go defensive.
Does it mean that you shouldn’t go there?
Nope. You just may need to try harder. Smile, be polite and respectful. Learn a few words in their language. Sometimes you’ll need to prove that you’re worth their attention and in most cases, you’ll get rewarded. People simply need time. But sometimes, you’ll need to respond with the same attitude you’re getting. In other words – mirror people’s behavior and body language. Some people find smiles suspicious and start respecting others only when they fear them…
Complex psychology? Not really. Just human nature. Wherever you go, one thing is for sure. Cultural differences and people are fascinating, fun and so enriching!
No matter what, try to have fun. It’s all about making memories and learning!