One of the most exciting things about travel is the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone. You are given the chance to see, hear, eat and smell things you have never tried before, and might never try again!
But even the most seasoned traveller can experience culture shock in certain situations.
Here are some tips to make sure you're prepared before you arrive. And just remember, the key is to embrace new things rather than resist them. In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, "There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.”
Try as you might, it's impossible to avoid using a local toilet for very long. It might be at a roadside rest-stop, during a homestay or while hiking through a National Park. But when you've gotta go, you've gotta go! The best thing you can do is be prepared. And whatever happens while you're in there just remember, you'll probably laugh about it later!
Always carry some tissues or a roll of loo paper with you, as chances are there won't be any. Often there will be a bucket/bin for used paper, which you must use. If there is no septic tank then your paper will clog the toilet and cause troubles for everyone else.
If you are wearing long pants, it's a good idea to tuck them into your socks so they don't dangle on the ground. And always carry some hand sanitiser to use when you are done.
Once you've got the hang of it, you might be surprised how liberating it can be. And just think about the workout your thighs are getting from all the squatting!
While you are bound to come across some amazing deals while travelling, you also have to accept that it swings both ways. You will also come across many stallholders and touts who are good at getting tourists to part with their hard-earned money! Haggling over the price of some salad tossers at a market or bartering with a local taxi driver over a few dollars is all part of the experience.
But sometimes situations arise where you feel uncomfortable or sense that you are getting ripped off. It is the way you handle yourself in these situations that can make or break your holiday.
Try to remain calm, as yelling usually won't get you anywhere. And don't be afraid to say no if you are being pressured into something you aren't comfortable with.
Come prepared, and know the exchange rate. You should always trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right, simply ask the cab driver to pull over or walk away. If there is one nearby, you can always head for the nearest luxury hotel. Chances are the concierge will speak English and you can get access to a telephone.
It's also wise to remember that for many cultures, haggling is just part of the sale. So relax and have fun with it, and if you end up parting with a few extra dollars it's all part of the experience.
Talk the talk
In many developing countries if you ask a local, "Do you speak English?" the answer will often be, "Yes". However, chat a bit longer and you'll soon see that this isn't always the case.
Thanks to their contact with tourists, many locals will pick up only the basics such as yes, no, left, right and maybe. So you might find yourself taking some fairly clear directions only to end up in the wrong spot!
The most important thing is to stay calm, and remember that speaking louder doesn't necessarily mean you will be any clearer. They aren't deaf, they just don't speak your language!
It's not always fun to eat at restaurants with pictures on the menu. So if you're looking for a more authentic experience, try dining where the locals go. And if you can't read the menu, simply check to see what other people are eating and point out things that look nice. This saves you wildly flailing your arms about in public and trying to impersonate a chicken!
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