On being a foreigner

by Kim on April 10, 2013 · 71 comments

“One of the most important reasons to travel is to know what it feels like to be a foreigner.” – A.A. Gill

Since traveling to India I frequently think about a group of Indian men I worked with before I left my 9-5 job. I think about how strange it must be for them to work in America with all of our rules and procedures, the heart plucked out of so many of our interpersonal interactions.

I can see them as I used to see them at work, sitting in the sterile break room in straight-backed chairs, eating quietly- it was always so quiet- their warmed-up curry spicing the air. I feel ashamed that I never once thought to ask them where in India they are from. I never asked them what it is like for them in the U.S. or what they miss most about home. I never even thought to ask.

I have vowed to be a different kind of person when I go back home. I have vowed that, when I see tourists on the sidewalk with maps spread out in front of them, I will stop and ask if I can help with directions. I used to rush by these people with a smug sense of satisfaction, thinking to myself: Here in the U.S. we let you be how you are, we won’t bother you even though you are a visitor. Everyone is welcome here and treated the same! Which is to mean, ignored. It never occurred to me that, had I stopped to help, I might be a friendly face, a warm welcome to a country that can otherwise be cold and uninterested.

Those people that used to be on the periphery of my life: the foreign tourists, the Indian men at work, I ignored them all because I didn’t know how to act towards them. I was embarrassed about how little I knew about where they were from and I didn’t want to give myself away by asking stupid questions. I didn’t want to risk making them feel uncomfortable so instead I made them feel invisible. It never occurred to me that they might feel isolated or lonely, that they might welcome the chance to tell me about themselves and their homes.

India family Taj Mahal

Traveling has taught me what it feels like to be an outsider, to miss being in a place that I just intrinsically understand, a place that I can effortlessly move through without having to double check that I am adhering to the cultural norms.

It is so incredibly important to know what this feels like, to be a bit displaced, to stand out, to be foreign. Because now that I know what it feels like, I know that those people I ignored because I was too shy and unsure to ask about their lives would have likely welcomed the chance to tell me. Next time I know that I’ll ask.

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{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

Carmel April 10, 2013 at 8:04 am

The first time I ever felt like I really stuck out was when my mom took me to Jala, Mexico, where she had gone to boarding school and some of my family still lives. Anytime we were outside, everyone was staring at this tall (by their standards), suuuper pale woman wandering around their tiny little town with other Mexicans. More shocked was their expression when they found out we were distantly related. It was good for me to get a taste of what it feels like to stick out so much.
Carmel recently posted..Easter Rising

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 7:56 pm

It was probably good for them to learn they were related to someone who looks so different! I’m sure you guys will stick out like a sore thumb in Mongolia :)

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Carmel April 11, 2013 at 7:01 am

Ya think?
Carmel recently posted..Easter Rising

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Rhonda April 10, 2013 at 8:06 am

wow Kim, that was a great post and I understand EXACTLY what you mean. I, too, have often passed by people on the streets of Portland who were obviously visiting and never even thought to ask if I could help them out or offer up information. Isn’t it interesting how, once you’ve been not only the outsider but the minority, how different your perspective on things can become. Good for you for recognizing we all just need to reach out a hand to make this world a better place.
Rhonda recently posted..Bryce Canyon National Park – a Photo Essay

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 7:57 pm

It really does change your perspective 100%. Lets revolutionize friendliness to visitors in Portland!

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Rhonda April 11, 2013 at 7:32 am

I’m with you.
Rhonda recently posted..Bryce Canyon National Park – a Photo Essay

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Hannah @ Getting Stamped April 10, 2013 at 8:17 am

I never thought of it that way. I too usually rush by tourists with maps, if they ask me a question I will always help if I can. I have been chatting with my foreign coworkers, picking their brains! I have noticed though when asking for advice they think I have lots of money to travel, a coworker from Colombia suggested hotels that were almost $200usd night! My coworker from the Philippines was a little more budget friendly! After this post I am going to go chat with a new worker who is from India! Great post!
Hannah @ Getting Stamped recently posted..The grass is always greener… on the other side

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Yessss, chat with the coworkers! I’m sure they will have a lot of great advice and if nothing else you will learn something new about them.

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Jodi Henderson April 10, 2013 at 8:27 am

I was thinking about this today, as I sat in a restaurant here in Bergen. But my “discussion” was way more self-involved. See, it started as I thought about what I’d say when people asked me how my trip was. My initial thought is that I will say that it was great, but my response will be missing the conviction to match the words. How does this relate to your post? Well, it’s that I decided I don’t like being a foreigner. I don’t like not knowing how to act in certain situations. Do I just sit down at a table or do I need to find a hostess? Should I ask if they speak English or not? I like to “effortlessly move through” my daily life and not getting to do that makes me very uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that I have a hard time enjoying myself. Not all the time, mind you, but enough that I’m not sure I want to travel that much in the future! With that said, I am trying to become more comfortable with the idea of discomfort and uncertainty because the safety of my little bubble isn’t conducive to a lot of personal growth, but, damn, traveling seems like an expensive way to do that. I also wanted to say that I absolutely agree with you that being a foreigner helps develop or enhance a sense of awareness, tolerance, and empathy and, from that perspective, it is important to “suffer” through the experience.
Jodi Henderson recently posted..Nice Guys Finish First…or Last?

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Oh Jodi, I completely feel you on this. It is terrible not knowing how to act in situations. Do you ask for the bill in a restaurant or do they bring it? And a million other questions that get EXHAUSTING after awhile. Sometimes it is the thing I dislike most about traveling. I bet once you are home perhaps your perspective will change on it once again. Either way, at least you know what it feels like now and you will carry that empathy with you in the future.

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Annie of TravelShus April 10, 2013 at 8:46 am

great post. It’s always a good idea to put yourself out of your normal comfort zone and see what it’s like on the other side. It’s the only way we can ever really have a true understanding of how we are perceived by others and what the world is made of.
Annie of TravelShus recently posted..Photo Inspiration: Winter Park, CO

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Yes, absolutely agree.

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Sarah Somewhere April 10, 2013 at 9:14 am

So true! I’ve made similar resolutions myself. When I emailed the young guy who got the mechanic for us in India (to thank him), his reply was, “You were our guests. It is our culture to take care of you.” I also experienced this in China, who seem to take a similar approach to foreigners. And it embarrasses me to think how these people would be treated in my country. This is why everyone should travel! Not to see the Taj or the Great Wall but to meet other people on this planet; to experience kindness and hospitality and hopefully take a little bit of that magic with them.
Sarah Somewhere recently posted..March in Playa: Change, Progress and a Bit of Madness

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Ah, how wonderful!!! It feels so nice to be a guest in countries that think of visitors as guests. I was talking to a soldier in the park here in Nepal and he said he met some Americans while he was working the earthquake cleanup in Haiti. I asked him “were they nice to you?” and then sort of cringed while he answered, scared of what he might say (he said they were, thank God!).

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Tyrhone April 10, 2013 at 9:48 am

Great post and so true. Since I started traveling I have really become aware of foreigners in foreign countries. When I was back in London and Australia in particular, I almost had to force myself to stop telling Chinese people I had just been to their country. You definitely develop a better appreciation for other cultures when you have had first hand experience of them.

Now in Mexico we have been to a few Chinese restaurants and I am almost bursting each time to find out how the hell they went from China to Playa del Carmen!
Tyrhone recently posted..Small Town Mexico, Driving Through the Yucatan

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Haha, I love it Tyrhone. I think I will be the same way. I am already thinking about hunting down the owner of my favorite Indian restaurant in Portland. Again, I went there all the time and, again, never asked him a single thing about himself!

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Patti April 10, 2013 at 10:24 am

Good lesson for all of us, Kim. Whether we are the traveler or the one who could make the effort to help someone else.
Patti recently posted..If It’s Monday ~

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Thanks Patti.

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william chaney April 10, 2013 at 11:26 am

nice pic,u hit the nail on the head i believe.i want to travel so bad to see this big world the good lord has created,BUT ALSO to experience all the other cultures in the world that i can.i think u could never learn anything like that in a classroom anywhere!!!!!!!!!!!!!GOOD WORK GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 8:03 pm

I agree that there is NO WAY you can learn this in a classroom. I am a hands-on learner myself so traveling has taught me so much, things I would never learn any other way.

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Alexandre April 10, 2013 at 11:52 am

Loved your post!! Back in the 90’s I moved to Toronto, Canada from Brazil and lived there for almost 3 years. It was a special experience and something I always wanted to do since I was a kid. But the feeling of being a foreigner 24 hours a day it was too much on me and I decided to go back at the time. When you are on this situation, usually make friends only with other lonely foreigners as well. Of course, all Canadians were always very patient and nice, but that human closeness and interaction were never there. I think that is the way it should be, probably the vibration and interests are different, but all human relationship would be richer if more Americans and Canadians experienced what you are going through now. Take care.

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Alexandre, I know this feeling exactly. I felt it a lot while traveling through South America where I felt very isolated (mostly because of the language barrier) and missed the human closeness and interaction with others. I was so lonely and sad. I think it is a big problem in America (and probably Canada too) how small our worldview is. I think one way to cure this is to get as many people as possible visiting other parts of the world and meeting people from other parts of the world.

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Jimmy Dau April 10, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Great post Kim. Pretty much nailed it on the head. I’m off jn t year long adventure next week and very mc looking forward to taking it slowly and meeting the people along the way

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Jimmy, enjoy your trip!

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Arianwen April 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm

It’s all too easy to fall back into the same patterns and routine when you get back from travelling, but I’m also making a conscious effort to help whenever anyone looks lost or confused. God knows, I needed others to help me often enough in South America!
Arianwen recently posted..Death on the Lapa steps

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Yes, I’m glad I’ve written it down here on the blog to remember when I fall back into my old ways (which I hope I don’t but…)

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Tamara (@Turtlestravel) April 10, 2013 at 6:57 pm

I learned this lesson early as an exchange student to Japan for a year during high school. I can honestly say the experience changed my perspective completely and permanently. Nice post. Thanks once again for sharing your thoughts.
Tamara (@Turtlestravel) recently posted..Don’t Skip: Gyeongju, South Korea

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Ah, I think foreign exchange is so important! I never did it myself and it is one of my biggest regrets.

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Michele April 10, 2013 at 6:58 pm

I was SOOOO good about stopping to help visitors after our trip to Greece….where, especially in the more rural areas, we would wander aimlessly for hours with maps and confused looks, yet remained all but invisible to the locals. I would have given anything for a warm smile and a little bit of eye contact! This post made me realize I have fallen back into my old ways of not offering to help (just waiting to be asked). Thanks for the reminder of what it feels like to be a visitor! I endeavor to be more aware of this (at work, and on the street).

On a side note…are you being photo bombed by that guy in the pic with you and Wendy? :)

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Yes! We’re friendly-izing the streets of PDX!!

Ha, no, that guys was with that family. But it totally looks like a photobomb.

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Lee Ann April 10, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Profound post – well said and SO true!

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Thanks Lee Ann.

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Victoria April 10, 2013 at 7:10 pm

It is so true. I’m sure that most of us like the extra attention we receive as foreigners and I, like you, would leave people to their own devices in the past but now realise what a mistake this was. It never hurts to ask if people need help with directions, they can just say no if they don’t, but otherwise you’ve made their day a better one :)
Victoria recently posted..A visit to North Korea

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 8:08 pm

So true. Just ask, if they don’t want the help oh well.

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cosmoHallitan April 10, 2013 at 7:39 pm

This is beautifully said and so, so true. After encountering the kindness of strangers in Korea and Japan, where people repeatedly stopped to see if we needed help, I vowed to reciprocate whenever I could. It takes five minutes out of your day but makes such a lasting impression.
cosmoHallitan recently posted..Shanghai’s Modern Art Scene on Moganshan Lu

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 8:08 pm

And, helping is a meaningful experience not just for the person being helped but for the helper too.

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Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) April 10, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Tony and I have had a very similar discussion so many times on this trip as we have talked about how friendly and helpful people in Asia generally are compared to back home. There have been tons of times when, looking lost (naturally), someone has stopped to help us, or at a crowded restaurant, someone has asked us to share a table… these are things we never would have thought to do back home, not because we think we are mean, unfriendly people, but because we realized that in North America, we put such a high premium on personal privacy and space, we don’t ever want people to feel overwhelmed or like we are being nosy. But I realized that as a traveler, it has been so nice for people to offer a helping hand or a smile, to make me feel like I am welcome rather than invisible. We have both vowed that when we are settled somewhere once more, if we ever see obvious tourists who look in need of assistance, we will be that much quicker to offer it than we ever would have before.

I will say though, the only time I miss America “indifference” is when I am shopping. I HATE solicitous shopclerks who won’t just let me browse in peace! :D
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..How Diving Changed the Way I See the World

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Kim April 10, 2013 at 11:53 pm

I agree Steph!!! It’s been a nice change since arriving in Nepal. The shopkeepers are very relaxed and unaggressive and just let you look without hassle. Quite nice!

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Daynne@TravelnLass April 11, 2013 at 4:51 am

Yes indeed, traveling teaches us many things – not the least of which it expands our capacity for empathy. I’ve been traveling 30+ years, and your story reminds me of my “Pay It Forward” post on TravelnLass (http://tinyurl.com/7e2ohdy) two years ago. Surprisingly, among my most popular posts, it tells the simple tale of helping a “fellow wanderlust” on a dark, drizzly night in my (then) hometown of Seattle (I’m now living permanently in Vietnam).
Daynne@TravelnLass recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: Remembering China of Old…

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Kim April 12, 2013 at 3:27 am

THanks Daynne, I’ll go check it out!

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Steve C April 11, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Do we call these lessons or insight? No matter as it’s something we experience when we travel and not so much if we never travel. My introduction to this was many years ago when I backpacked around Europe in my 20’s. Ever since then, I’ve always been curious to know where “foreigners” are from. Tourists, or just people with a bit of an accent, I almost always ask them where they or their ancestors originated. It always brings a smile when I say that I’ve been to their homeland or would like to go there one day. I don’t think that I’ve ever offended anyone as it’s always an ice breaker in a positive way.

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Kim April 12, 2013 at 3:29 am

I’m sure you’ve never offended anyone with the question, it can only bring us all closer. I have no idea why I didn’t understand this before? I guess I just had to get out and learn it for myself.

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Darcy @SustainableFamilyFinances April 11, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I vividly remember my first experience of feeling like a foreigner…I was 16 with purple combat boots, a nose ring and some tie-died shirt in the Helsinki train station…people were staring and pointing. I could hardly believe how different it made me feel and far from home. Thanks for all your travel insights…always looking forward to your next adventure :-)
Darcy @SustainableFamilyFinances recently posted..Is Taking On A Second Job Worthwhile?

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Kim April 12, 2013 at 3:29 am

Darcy, I can totally see you like that (except, I didn’t know you had a nose right :)). Very interesting when people point and stare, huh?

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Pauline April 11, 2013 at 12:53 pm

LOVE it! Being an immigrant from Indonesia and having been living in Toronto the past 12 years, I’m fortunate enough to be on both sides of the boat. Being a foreigner (or being different in general) can be SO overwhelming – it makes you appreciate your own culture and how much more comfortable it is when you just know what to do. However, I think it’s also very rewarding to be an outsider, curiously peeking into a foreign lifestyle. I’ve learned SO MUCH stuff through my travels – stuff that no school nor education system will ever be able to teach me. Thanks for the reflection! It reminded me to be thankful for all my travel experiences (good and bad)!

Oh – and like you, I make it a point to help out tourists in the city. The joy and gratitude in their faces when they’re no longer confused is simply contagious!
Pauline recently posted..Paris: C’est La Vie

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Kim April 12, 2013 at 3:30 am

Absolutely agree. I too have learned so much… I can’t think of a time or place when I’ve learned so much. I’m working on a blog post about it, actually, the education we get through travel.

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Drew April 11, 2013 at 1:36 pm

My best memory from Bosnia, hands down, was the lady who helped me get to the train station at 6 am in a pouring rain storm when the trolley suddenly broke down. Soaking wet, in the dark streets of Sarajevo, she grabbed me by the hand, led me to another trolley, and then found someone on that trolley that spoke English and could help me out. Unexpected, and very much appreciated.

Recently in Puerto Rico, I didn’t have change for the bus. As the bus drive told me to get off, an older gentleman in the back of the bus waived me towards him and took out a little wooden box of nickles and counted out 20 nickles for my dollar bill.

Yes indeed, we should all help fellow travelers when they are on our “turf.”

See ya soon!

-Drew

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Kim April 12, 2013 at 3:31 am

Ah, wonderful. We definitely need to help out fellow travelers when they are on our turf. My first trip to France I couldn’t figure out how to use the metro and this wonderful woman stopped and helped me, even paid for my ticket. You hear all those stories about the French being rude and blah, blah, blah but that was my first introduction to the country and I’ll never forget it.

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cindy thetravelgal April 11, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Great post. I’m naturally curious (or nosy, as the case may be) so tend to ask people about themselves. I’m usually rewarded with great stories and a glimpse into a very different culture that can really shake your view of the world without going anywhere. Like the day I suddenly realized that my brilliant, young, stunningly beautiful Indian friend was in a (very happy) arranged marriage, that this is still the norm in India. Think of it of away to learn about the world even while you are back home!
cindy thetravelgal recently posted..Photo Thursday: On the Road in Morocco

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Kim April 12, 2013 at 3:32 am

Yes, absolutely! I think about how much I could have learned about the world had I stopped to ask… you know? So much is at our fingertips if we’ll just take the time to notice.

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Andi of My Beautiful Adventures April 11, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Traveling AND being married to a foreigner has definitely changed my perspective on things!
Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Highlands, North Carolina: Day 1-2

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Kim April 12, 2013 at 3:32 am

Oh for sure, I can only imagine!

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John April 12, 2013 at 7:44 am

This is a great message. As much travelling as I have done, I am yet to really experience destinations where I physically look like a foreigner. I’m looking forward to experiencing it.
John recently posted..My First Week in Dublin

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Kim April 13, 2013 at 3:50 am

Ah, it is such a fascinating experience to stand out… hard and also good, too.

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Sam April 12, 2013 at 7:02 pm

I know I’ve been guilty of this in the past. Strange, isn’t it, how ignoring someone can make you feel as though you’re being polite and showing them an odd sort of equality? I suspect, however, when you return home, while you may still intrinsically understand it, you might find moving through to no longer be effortless. Instead, you’ll stumble over things that used to seem so completely normal and un-noteworthy, because they now stand out as utterly foreign. (This has certainly happened to me more than once.) Let’s see!
Sam recently posted..Doing Business: Juan and Lucia in Bariloche, Argentina

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Kim April 13, 2013 at 3:52 am

That will be interesting to see, Sam. We’ll be home for three months this summer (more info on that coming up) and I wonder how we’ll react. In some ways I feel like we’ve barely just left, I can still see home in my head like I’m there. On the other hand, we’ve been six months in third-world countries and I know it will be a shock to go home to the U.S. I’ll make sure to write about it.

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Paul Farrugia April 15, 2013 at 3:08 am

You are so right Kim! It’s the same in London but ever since we came back from the big trip I always stop and help tourists when they are lost and have a chat. We will make the world a better place one step at a time.
Paul Farrugia recently posted..March newsletter from globalhelpswap

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Kim April 16, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Yes, that little tiny act really does go a long way for someone on foreign soil (we should know).

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Montecristo Travels (Sonja) April 15, 2013 at 7:19 am

Want to know a little secret? As a Canadian …I have never felt more like a foreigner … than in the US. 
Montecristo Travels (Sonja) recently posted..Knowing When to Defer a Trip – Walking the Fine Line Between Fear and Common Sense

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Kim April 16, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Oh, that makes me so sad. I hope next time you are in the U.S. we are able to make a better impression.

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Montecristo Travels (Sonja) April 17, 2013 at 8:11 am

Not necessarily a bad thing … I think it’s the “so much the same yet Oh so very different” situation. When I travel to “far away” places I guess I just expect the differences. I know I will not be in my comfort zone.

So when I see gated communities, overly “happy” sales people, the fact that you have to drive to everything and can’t walk from one site to the next … just those little things… it just “hits me” how much we are … not the same. But of course we aren’t! A long shared border and common language does not mean we are culturally the same at all.

And it depends on where in the US. I felt right at home in Florida … Texas and NY… that was a culture shock.
Montecristo Travels (Sonja) recently posted..Knowing When to Defer a Trip – Walking the Fine Line Between Fear and Common Sense

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Kim April 17, 2013 at 7:29 pm

The whole U.S. is not like that I swear!!! You should visit Portland… it’s a lovely place. No gated communities, walking everywhere!

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Montecristo Travels (Sonja) April 18, 2013 at 9:34 am

Will do… Promise!!

Marisol April 16, 2013 at 6:40 am

Beautiful post, Kim. I exactly know how it feels like to be be a foreigner, feeling unsure, feeling hesitant, feeling lost but the locals always make everything right for me. In many places, they didn’t only give me and my husband directions, but they walked us to where we were going to make sure we got there. In Portugal, I asked the lady how much the bus fare was and she gave me her bus ticket as a present for visiting her country. In Tibet, the nomads invited me and my friends to their home for tea just because they were delighted to see us passing by. There are so many beautiful stories. The thing I learned is – it’s not the beautiful sights and scenes that make traveling memorable but the people you have encountered along the way.
Back at home in New York City, I make it a point to always return the kindness to the “foreigners.” I stop and ask they need help if they seem lost. I even offered to pay for the bus rides of some. It felt priceless.

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Kim April 16, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Wow, how amazing. I agree that is the people that make the place. How did I never know this before? That is why I am going to be more welcoming and inviting to travelers coming through my neck of the woods. I do think we all have this responsibility to treat people as cherished guests.

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Alyse April 18, 2013 at 5:31 am

Another gorgeous candid post. Couldn’t agree more as we try to navigate our way through Tokyo where cultural norms seem to dictate that interaction between strangers (even eye contact!) is not encouraged. Like you, this makes me want to be a better ambassador when we head back to North America.

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Kim April 18, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Man, avoiding eye contact would be HARD!!! Yes, it is so important to travel- it makes us all better ambassadors in our home countries (I hope).

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TammyOnTheMove May 8, 2013 at 1:01 am

In Germany or England I would have never considered approaching tourists either, but ever since I have moved to Cambodia and travelled extensively in Asia I feel like I should have. People over here constantly ask me where I am from and what I am doing in their country. Initially I always felt really suspicious, but with time I learned that this is just the way people over here are. They are not trying to trick you. They are just curious people. I think people from Northern Europe and the US are probably a bit more reserved and like their privacy. But when you try and be a bit more curious it can actually be quite fun. :-)
TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Everest Base Camp chronicles

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Kim May 24, 2013 at 6:21 am

I agree. We are always asked where we are from and if we like the country. It is nice to feel that people are interested in what we think of their home.

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Bharat March 6, 2014 at 3:22 pm

I absolutely loved the statement at the beginning and also your post. I’m an Indian living in the US for the last six years. Like many Indians, I came here for grad school and I’m now working. You would find it hard to believe but ever since coming here, I have not made a single American friend. All of my friends both in India and the US are Indians or at most other Asians, but no Americans. Not once in the last six years has any American ever tried to get to know me; other than my academic or job related pursuits. Nobody has ever invited me to their homes to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas despite my interest to learn more. I am not trying to be rude, disrespectful or anything; neither am I complaining because I truly believe people here in the US are wonderful, helpful, inspiring and purely awesome. But amid this vastly different country, culture and people, I feel lonely; because no matter how secure I feel in my house and at work, I know that I don’t belong here and people would just not be interested in knowing about me.

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Kim March 11, 2014 at 6:44 am

Hi Bharat,

I can’t tell you how much this breaks my heart. I wish I could say that I am surprised that you haven’t made any American friends, but it doesn’t really surprise me that much. I wish it surprised me. And I wish I were there to be your friend, to invite you to Thanksgiving dinner and show you another side of our culture.

I thought about this so much in India (hence the writing of this blog post). The Indian people were so wonderful to me, so welcoming and curious and kind. As you obviously know so well, the culture is so different than my own, and I kept thinking that, were the roles reversed and I were an Indian in America, how alone I would feel.

I don’t know why us Americans are so closed off. I can guess that it has something to do with a lack of time and our buckled-up way of believing that asking questions might make us look stupid or make others think that we are intruding. I really see it all with a different set of eyes now and it makes me really sad :(

I do believe that there are people here (I’m sure even people you work with and know through school- Americans) that are interested in knowing you. They just don’t know how to get to know you, I think it is one of the saddest parts of our culture and I know that many Americans feel just as lonely as you, despite the fact that they are surrounded by others. I myself wish I could share a meal with you and hear all about your life. Please take care and email me any time.

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