Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 8 • 1/100 sec
Yum, doesn’t this picture make you hungry? Or are you just admiring the culinary artwork?
Our group was lucky (or brave) enough to have dinner at a Mexican restaurant when we were in Poland. We were sitting at a long table outside so we could enjoy the weather. It was quite the experience! Along with the decorated food, we had a few good laughs as well. Two of our guys ordered fajitas. Apparently, these are not very common in Poland, because they were served along with written instructions on how to prepare them! That wasn’t all. They also came with bibs! Our server, who knew a little English, explained this by telling us “Fajitas are dirty.” 🙂
Earlier in the trip, we started a running gag at every restaurant we went to. We picked one member of our group, Kelli, and told every restaurant, every day, that it was her birthday. We just wanted to see what would happen! 😉 At this restaurant, most of the servers were dressed in skimpy outfits resembling Spanish dancers from the “Wild Wild West” era. All of a sudden, we heard what sounded like gun shots. A man came running out of the building dressed in all black, with a face mask and cape, and firing a cap gun into the air. Scaring the waitresses, he ran over to Kelli and dropped a cake slice with a candle at her place. Then he took off running again, back into the restaurant. Once we overcame our shock, we laughed pretty hard at that one!
I guess this is what the Polish think Mexico (and likely Texas as well) is really like! LOL
How do your international friends see other cultures, even ours?
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 400 • f 13 • 1/400 sec
If a picture is worth 1000 words, I probably don’t have to explain what’s going on here. But just in case… I was at an orphanage in Mexico, playing with the kids. I had been given power to control the bubble solution stock (big yellow bottle). The kids had their own small bubble wands, and when they needed refills, they came to me. There was limited stock and I was trying to help them be conservative. This little boy was doing his best to convince me that he needed more anyway. However, I didn’t know any Spanish and he didn’t know any English, so we had no clue what each other was saying. Yet we still communicated all this without language.
Have you ever run into a situation like this, where someone you try to talk to doesn’t speak your language? Yep, it even occurs right here in the USA. So what do we do? Our basic tendency when we don’t feel understood is to speak louder or slower, hoping that if we enunciate better, people will understand us. But when someone doesn’t know your language at all, it just makes you look silly.
In my travels, I’ve learned that one old speaker’s addage still holds true internationally. “Communication is 20% what you say, and 80% how you say it.” People pay more attention to tone and body language than they do actual words, so learning to capitalize on that has allowed me to communicate with many people worldwide who don’t share a common language!
How about trying some clear body language? When I tried to ask an Indonesion kid the word for “rain”, I pointed to the ocean nearby (water), then to the sky (clouds), and made a motion like raindrops with my fingertips. He knew exactly what I wanted then, and gladly taught me that word as well as several others. Children in India often beg by putting their hands to their mouths, imitating eating, then put their hand out to you, hoping you will fill it. Facial expressions also are clear indicators, as long as you emphasize your feelings well. Smiles are known worldwide!
How could you indicate a question or statement using only body language and facial expressions? I’d love to hear your creative ideas!
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/2500 sec
If you look at the skyline of London, probably one of the most recognizable pieces of architecture is Big Ben. The name actually refers to the bell only (the rest is officially called the Clock Tower), but more people know it by its nickname than anything else. There are two main theories on how it got it’s name: The bell has the name “Ben” inscribed on it after Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw the installation. Also, the English Boxing Heavyweight Champion at the time was Benjamin Caunt, and anything that was the largest or strongest in its class was referred to as “Big Ben.”
The tower is quite a sight in person, rising 316 feet (96.3 m; ~ 16 stories) on top of a concrete raft. The four clock faces themselves are 23 feet (7 m) in diameter and hold 312 pieces of glass each (though some are removed for servicing the dials). Yet it gets its name from the bell, a 16-ton monstrosity that was cast in 1856. This is actually the second version of the bell. The first one cracked in transport, and was melted down and re-cast. The current bell also cracked after being in use for two months, but it was repaired, rotated a bit, and given a smaller hammer. Even today it has a funny-sounding ring caused by the crack.
Tours are available to go inside the Tower, but only if you are a UK citizen. Even then, you have to book it with your Member of Parliament way ahead of time. The rest of us just get to watch from the outside. That’s still cool, though. The light on the top of the tower indicates when Parliament is is session, the chimes play “The Cambridge Chimes”, the tower leans enough to be seen by the naked eye, and sometimes we can see some dudes risking their lives trying to clean the clock face (there’s even a game for that!). There are lots of other fun details about the clock I could talk about, but why don’t you see for yourself?
This is my second clock feature in two months. So tell me, which would you prefer to see? Is there another clock somewhere you think is even cooler?
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 • Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 7 • 1/500 sec
You have to wonder how often locals let the tourists get away with things just for a laugh. Take my friend here. We’re in Japan, and he’s wearing a man’s robe (not meant for outdoors) and a Chinese hat. Yet the locals encouraged it (and sold them to us!). They also encouraged us to use chopsticks most of the time, and then laughed at us when we tried to use them on soup (they DID give us spoons eventually). Yeah, I think it’s a local conspiracy. 😉
No matter what country you travel to, you’re going to make mistakes and get laughed at, so it’s good to have a sense of humor. It’s also a good idea to do some research ahead of time and not make the same mistakes as everyone else. Here’s just a few examples of common tourist mistakes in Australia, Cambodia (Phnom Penh), Czech Republic, France (Paris), the Netherlands, Ireland, Iran, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Thailand, and Turkey. As if that isn’t enough, here’s a few more! So yeah, the list is pretty much endless. Good luck!
Sometimes, making mistakes can endear you to the people. For example, this forum writer uses his lack of language skills to his advantage: “Whenever I’ve travelled to a country where English is not the official language, I’ve made it a point to carry an English/<other> phrase book, and I’d always make it a point to painfully mangle the other language. Invariably, no matter where I was, someone would come up to me, gently take away the phrase book, and say ‘Wouldn’t it be easier to just do this in English?’ Usually, a bunch of the locals would come over to practice their English skills, brag about their country and ask about mine. And, all too often, some other American would burst in and bellow ‘Hey! Anyone in this dump speak ‘Murrican?’ 🙄 And, amazingly, everyone in the place would immediately forget every word of English they’d ever known. Including me.”
What’s the most embarrasing tourist mistake you’ve ever made? What have you seen someone else do?
Travel can be very addicting! So far, I’ve been to 10 countries and numerous states. Along the way, I’ve learned several helpful lessons. Most travelers have heard the country-specific advice, like don’t eat with your left hand in India, don’t point the bottom of your feet at people in China, or that the “ok” hand gesture is not so ok in Brazil. So here’s a few travel tips that could be applied nearly everywhere.
Do your research beforehand! Learn about the country’s climate, history, religion, special customs, holidays, etc.
Try to learn something in the local language before you go, even if it’s as simple as “Hello.” People appreciate the effort you make to understand them.
“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” – Unknown
Cross pack! If traveling with others you trust, put some clothes & essentials in another’s bag, so if yours is lost, you have something to fall back on.
Ziploc bags are a lifesaver. Especially when your luggage falls off the side of a boat. *sigh*
Be nice to the check-in staff; it’s not their fault airlines are inherently evil.
Food and drink is a key element of hospitality in many countries, especially out East. Unless you have a medical reason, don’t turn down what they offer you.
Don’t start riots. Most people won’t like you if you do.
Don’t drink the water! Unless you have made sure it’s been purified. This includes watching out for ice cubes and items washed in local water, like lettuce.
“You’re not a traveler if you can’t haggle; you’re a tourist. But you’re also not a traveler if you haggle for six hours; you’re a cheap jerk.” – Unknown
Make sure your travel documents are correct and up-to-date, if you don’t want to be in the sequal to “The Terminal.”
What’s your favorite or most helpful travel tip? Let’s keep the list going!