I read an article (or just a art of the article) this morning about some questions British travellers hated hearing. One of them was:
-Where are you from?
As innocent as this assumption might seem, it can get very annoying for people who always get the same cliché questions. I realized that it is easy to get furious when people make ignorant assumption about our country or home town when we fail to learn more about theirs. For example, I remember one of my Moroccan friends in college not believing me when I told her that a light skin, curly haired guy was Haitian. I tried to explain to her that, because of our country’s history, Haitians are very different when it comes to physical features. It is easy to go from dark skin and afro to blonde with hazel eyes.However, we Haitian know how to recognize each other from miles away. I know that this is something that a foreigner won’t find so easy to do. I got really frustrated when she didn’t believe me and I thought it was so ignorant. However, my experience during my college years, meeting so many people from around the world showed me that I also didn’t know many things about other countries. It is only now, after I traveled to a little bit more than 13 countries that I realize how ignorant I was about the muslim culture and religion 5 years ago! It’s crazy! I can’t blame people for having some reflexes when they meet a foreigner but I can guarantee that once you become a traveller, your attitude will change. Here are some examples:
1- You don’t associate a country with it’s capital, or its most popular city
I know this can sound pretty obvious but I want you guys to understand that we do it without even realizing it. England=london, France=Paris, Thailand=Bangkok and suddenly, the world seems so small and simple.Truth is, the world is big and full of diversity even inside a country. As a traveller you discover cities that are not on the travel guide. This gives you an open mind on the world and you realize that maybe, just maybe, you don’t get to know a country because you studied the capitals in 5th grade 😉
2- You don’t say some cliché expression when people tell you where they are from
People have a tendency to learn the most famous or vulgar expression from your country and throw it at you when you say where you are from. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t consider it as being funny or smart. (Just stop). Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that if the only thing you can say is ‘Hi’ in a foreign language that you shouldn’t use it, I am just saying that sometimes, people are not amazed by how you can memorize a nasty word in their language
3- You don’t generalize
No, in England they don’t have fish and chips at diner, just like in Haïti we don’t expect our mom to cook griot every other day. Some things that are well known by tourists are not usually part of the locals daily life.
4- You realize that you are not the most important person in the world
While traveling, you will realize that things that are the most popular in your country don’t exist at the other side of the world. You will learn that you can’t go to India and expect to see your regular soy milk on the isles. And as much as you will want to think that YOUR soy milk is what is normal, the idea just won’t go through. You will have to adapt.
These 4 points, among many others are some important thing you will learn throughout your journey around the globe. Don’t feel bad if you do these things at first, it happens to everybody. Be patient with those who do, they will learn (or at least, most of them will). Traveling is an amazing journey. We must close the books and go see what’s really happening on the other side sometimes.
A travel lover