While traveling to a new place, you are bound to have many encounters with the locals. Being that you probably don’t know everything there is to know about a country and its language and culture before your trip, it is always an exciting adventure exploring and interacting with the people who live and have grown up there. The first time that you arrive in a foreign country, one that you have never visited before, you become very aware of each little encounter you have with a local.
From the taxi driver who brings you from the airport to your hotel to the first cashier that you meet at the nearby corner market (when you stock-up on some drinking water), you start to make new connections to help you figure out or better understand the new culture that you are now experiencing.
Do you ever find yourself saying to your friends/family…”The people there were so nice.” ?
Granted you might be on a trip somewhere where the local people aren’t nice, in your eyes, but as an experienced traveler that seems to be a rare occurrence. If you have been to many countries and experienced numerous cultures firsthand, then you have probably seen the pattern for yourself: around the world…everyone does indeed seem to be nice!
So, you must be wondering, why are all these people in the world so nice?
It just might be that you are interacting with a local (who you later think is soooo nice) whilst experiencing a personal culture shock moment. For example, when you are lost in a foreign city and you ask people for help/directions. Most people in countless cultures will go out of their way to help you find your way. And not just the person you originally asked for help, but soon there are other passersby that join in to help you out as well! Surely after that encounter with the locals, you will be thinking “boy these people are so NICE here!”
Another culture shock moment for you will happen at some local grocery store. While you are shopping around, not having a clue how to read the ingredients labels or even realizing what some of those strange food products actually are, a local employee (or even a local customer) will start to interact with you. While they are asking you if you need any help, you realize that the local person can speak a little bit of English. The employee then starts to show you around the store, answering any specific questions about some products you are interested in buying. After you make your purchases and leave the store, you might be thinking “that store worker was so helpful and nice helping me out in English!”
It is possible that during these potentially embarrassing and stressful moments during your trip, when a local comes in to “save the day” and bring some clarity into your day’s travel, your brain starts to make conclusions that everyone in this country is so nice. And what a great thought about the world! Of course when you get the chance though to sit down and have a longer chat with a local at a cafe or something, you then find out that the he/she might just think the opposite of his/her own people. He/She might be thinking that the people in the city are not always so nice!
Of course, being that you will only interact with less than .1% of a country’s people during your trip, you cannot necessarily say that all people there are nice. The people you see during your trip are just a glimpse really of all the people you would encounter if you actually lived there.
It is very possible that these people you do have encounters with are nice to you for other reasons, not just only because of the kindness of their heart. Maybe they have money on their minds. As a taxi driver, you might want to be nice so that the tourist will call him/her later when they want to go back to the airport. As a store worker, you need to be nice to customers so that they will stay longer in your store and hopefully buy lots of things.
But it is not just money that can make people be nice to you, it might be because they want to leave a good impression about themselves and their country. Some countries don’t have the best reputation or high status in the world, so the more the people show their nicest side to you, the better image that you will have about their country and tell your friends about their country (maybe your friend might want to make a trip there as well).
There are other reasons for sure.
The big question then is if those locals (from the country you are traveling to) go and make a visit to YOUR home country/city. I wonder if those locals will think YOUR people are so nice and welcoming!
If you have a culture-related story to share about your experience living abroad, send us a message here and we will see about getting your story as a guest author on our International School Community blog!continue reading