Interacting with locals and making international friends is one of my favorite things about traveling. I’m more than happy to say that I have got friends all over the world and I try to stay in touch with every single one of them. Sometimes it’s more contact and sometimes less, but I make sure I don’t loose touch with them.
Vsisting a well known sight or going to that famous beach is fun, too but being invited by locals to eat a home cooked traditional meal or hanging out in their favorite bars without any other tourists, that’s the real stuff. Those are memories that last a lifetime.
Locals know their home country best, they can tell you everything about the culture and traditions and they will be curious about your stories, as well. It’s a cultural interchange and in the best case you walk away with a new friend.
When I lived in the US, I met a lot of my best friends. Some Americans and many Au Pair friends from mostly anywhere but Germany. I met people from Colombia, Spain, Austria, New Zealand, South Africa and many other countries and I still talk to almost all of them. To some I talk every day, to others just once a month but I try to stay in touch with everyone.
Same when I lived in Bangkok to teach English. I’ve made such great friends there. Some crazy Thai people I can call friends now among people from somewhere in the wolrd I met at English Camp.
And I learned so much about their lifes and cultures, religions and traditions. More than books or the internet could have taught me.
When traveling in Indonesia a few weeks ago, I met a couple from Tunisia that lives in Paris. My friend and I traveled with them for two days and I
still talk to them, planing a trip to visit them.
That’s the best part, visiting them is always an excuse to travel. Go back to that country you love and stay with them or invite them to your home and show them around, travel to e new place together and meet up there – no matter what but make sure you stay in touch and make it happen because it is so worth it!
Some guidelines to a friendship with a local 🙂
Make sure you respect their culture, traditions and religions even though they might be very different from what you’re used to
Learn some words of their language. Every local will break out in a smile when you greet or thank them in their language
Be open minded for their way of doing things, you chose to visit THEIR country
Always remain polite, sometimes missunderstandings can arise between two cultures. But no matter what the other person says or hw they act, be nice
Of almost everything you do you naturally have expectations beforehand. No matter if it’s a new restaurant you try, the result of your new hairstyle after your hairdresser’s appointment or a country you visit for the very first time. You have so many expectations and influences from your surroundings that it’s very easy to get disappointed when the reality looks completely different or on the other hand it can be a blessing if somethings is better than expected. Works both ways.
I’m Lisa from Travellana and I have been fascinated by the United States of America since I can remember. In the summer of 2015, my biggest dream came true: I did an internship in sunny San Diego and fell in love with the Southern Californian lifestyle.
1. It won’t make much of a difference where you are within the USA
Although a lot of people think of the United States as a huge country with a homogenous culture and mentality, this is definitely not the case in real life. The USA are a country of huge dimensions and therefore, it’s obvious that there are cultural differences depending in where you are. Traveling through the United States, you will soon notice the differences between the coastal regions and some remote places in the Midwest. The southern states have an entirely different culture than the the Great Lakes States have. And the famous battle of East Coast and West Coast is not just a fantasy of hip hop music.
2. Entering the United States is super complicated and you hardly get a visa
Let me put it like this: For most nationalities obtaining a visa isn’t that difficult. When I applied for my visa, I had read dozens of horror stories about the application process and the final immigration after arriving at the airport. Of course, I was super nervous and thought that at any moment someone would just say ”No, we don’t want you.”. And guess what: Everyone – from the woman at the embassy to the man at the immigration in Chicago – was very friendly and helpful. It’s true that applying for a visa is complicated but you’ll get help if you ask for it.
3. The United States don’t have a culture
The sad truth is that a lot of people don’t acknowledge American culture as a real culture. Instead, they claim that Americans just stole bits from other cultures and that they have then mixed them in order to create ther own culture. In my opinion, this is definitely not true! Being a country of immigrants it’s inevitable that different cultures intermingle and that’s the point: The American ”melting pot” culture is just as much a culture as it’s components are. The melting pot has created a fusion culture that is ever changing.
I could name at least 20 things which were different in reality than what I expected them to be, but nailing it down to my top three in this post. What are expectations that haven’t come true in reality. Let us know in the comments below 🙂
1. Everyone is fat and only eats fast food
This is what most people think of the Americans but it’s so far away from the truth! I mean yes, they have a large variety of fast food chains and I cannot say that I didn’t gain some weight living there but I had to try everything so I guess that was that. Especially in the suburbs everyone is working out a lot and I saw a lot of women pushing strollers while jogging. Also in the city center the majority of people I saw was super skinny, so where are all those fat people?! I think that’s just a bad myth.
2. New York is the best city of the States
Often when you ask someone where they would wanna visit in the States they say ‘NEW YORK CITY’. I think the city is just very over promoted and this resolves in too high expectations for the city. Don’t get me wrong I think it’s an great place to visit but I don’t refer it to the best city of all of th US. It’s dirty and full of tourists. You hardly ever meet any people on the street that actually live there. I love NYC because it is extremly vibrant and esciting but there are other cities I like better, like Chicago, San Fransisco or anywhere in Alaska.
3. Everything is better in the USA
It is known as the land of endless opportunities, apparently everything is possible and there is no better place. But take Japan for example, that country has probably the biggest technological progress. Germany has a way better health system than the US. The illusion that eveyerthign is simply better in America is wrong, it’s a country with advantages and disadvantages like every other country as well. There are many things that are great about the US and I love the country, but there are also many things that could be improved.
You know you’re screwed when you find yourself sitting at the aiport floor surrounded by all your belongings, departure is only one hour away and you realize that your passport is the only thing that is NOT with you! The next four hours were the most stressful ones in a really long time..
Good thing I knew exactly where my passport must have been when I was at Denpasar airport in Bali. The problem was it would take more than an hour to go get it and go back to the airport in time. The optimistic in me tried anyways!
Leaving the airport building, I wanted to get a reasonable price for the cab ride but of course the cab driver wanted to rip me off. An Australian looking guy overheared me explaining my situation in a panicing voice, so he stepped up and handed me 200k Indonesian Rupiahs. I started to cry because I was so touched by that reaction, thanks again to the nice stranger saving my ass!
I got in the cab, still crying, but soon realiyed this wasn’t going fast enough with the trafic jam. The driver recommended a scooter taxi. I think at this point he felt sorry for me since I was still crying, just couldn’t stop. I got on the back of the scooter and we drove off en route to the hostel we stayed a week ago where I had to leave my passport at the reception. We must have fogotten to pick it up at check out and they didn’t mention it!
My driver was, much to my dislike very laid-back and not in a rush at all. Instead he thought it would be nice to tell me something about the sights while passing by. At that point I didn’t know wheter to laugh or cry, needless to explain that I was pretty desperate and overwhelmed.
As we got to the hostel, I ran in and the guy took his sweet time looking through the passports to find mine. I was literally jumping up and down at his desk trying to hurry up the process. When he finally handed over the right one, I ran off and tried to explain the scooter driver that we only have 20 minutes left until departure. He started a discussion about his knowlegde of the city and that he didn’t need the maps this time. “Fine. Just hurry up, please!!!”, I thought.
Traffic was horrible. I watched the minutes running down on my cell and at 6:05 PM, departure for my flight, I knew that my intention to make this flight had been ridiculous all along. I looked up at the sky and tried to relax because it was too late now anyways. A few minutes later I saw my plane in the air, leaving without me.
After arriving at the airport, I had a new mission: I needed to get another ticket, cheap and fast. If I would have known what a hassle this was going to be, I probably would have had a shot of vodka first!
The woman at the information desk sent me through the entire airport to buy a new ticket at the counter where I could purchase a ticket to Shanghai for 300€. I had a connecting flight sitting there plus my friend that already had taken our original flight awaiting me in China. This was still much cheaper than the route to Germany so obviously I wanted to get it right away. The only thing I still needed to do was transfering the money from my bank account to my pre-paid credit card that I use for traveling.
Now of all days, the next thing had to happen on THAT day! The website of my bank had broken down and the online banking wasn’t working for that matter. I couldn’t even reach their 24/7 hotline. I mean, for real?!
I didn’t know any other way but call my dad for help which I hated to do since I usually take care of everything in my life alone. But at that point I just was clueless of what to do next. He didn’t answer his phone – great.
With tears filling my eyes I called my big brother. He didn’t answer either. Instead he sent a text asking what was going on. I simply replied ‘I’m in trouble’. Enough to get him on the phone immediately. He did everything to calm me down and gave me his best friends credit card info (my brother doesn’t own one) so I could pay that flight and getting out of my mysery.
The woman at the counter apologized but she could only do the booking with a credit card that I had on me, she needed to swipe it.
Of course every possibile thing had to go the wrong way..I mean have you every had one of those days where everything, really EVERYTHING goes wrong?
My brother, being my hero in that situation, calmed me down and tried to book the flight online. That didn’t work either because as it turns out, you can only book flights online when departure is more than 4 hours away.
The very last option was getting money on my credit card, no matter how but as fast as possible because I only had 10 minutes left to book my flight before the counter closed the tickets for that route. So my brother said he would transfer money through paypal and in the meantime I tried one last time to transfer it from my own account through online banking and thank god, the website of my bank worked and I was finally able to make the transaction and buy the ticket just in time to rush to my gate and board!
When I sat down in my seat, I was so relieved. All the stress from the past hours was blown away. Well..the free wine on board helped, too 😀
Touched down in Shanghai, my friend gave me a ‘welcome back’ hug and we enjoyed a freezingly cold but beautiful day in China before heading back to the airport to check in for the final flight from our 6 weeks of traveling when I had to face the next issue, but that is another story for another day..
What was your biggest travel disaster? Let me know in the comments below 🙂