Culture shock is real, triggered by a sudden realisation that you don’t know what is going on. It leads to a few days of bewilderment before you either: enjoy the fact your daily routine doesn’t exist anymore, or to meltdown.
To avoid a meltdown it is important to reconsider any preconceived notions of what is acceptable or essential. Questioning the concepts of cleanliness, tardiness, driving etiquette, queuing and etiquette in general are beneficial when visiting a new culture. A little research before embarking to find what is culturally acceptable, and what is not, can be very important preparation.
Before arriving in a country I like to have a list of locations I want to visit, along with a short list of desired experiences. Guide books are remarkably useful with this planning.
I create a vague schedule, a rough plan of how long to spend in a place, with spare days in the itinerary to relax or extend a stay. There’s no need to create stress with a hectic itinerary or unrealistic expectations of what is possible. Enjoy what you do see, rather than dwell on what you don’t.
I have accommodation booked only for the first few days after arrival, booking last minute or on arrival giving me ultimate flexibility to my trip.
Allowing a full day to get between destinations prevent undue stress, and trying to arrive during daylight. The remainder of this traveling day is to find accommodation, and to acquaint myself to this new location. Guide books often show concentrations of accommodation, somewhere to head to.
I never attempt to arrive in a destination the day of a flight, I always arrive the day before, a wasted day is much better than a missed flight.
Food is the primary focus of my travelling life, the cultural stuff helps to give context to the food history. Along with the climate this historical context dictates the locally pertinent food I can find, and in turn, to eat. The food sections of guide books are in particular useful at whetting my appetite before I arrive.
Truth be told when traveling the sights, museums, landmarks and activities are things I contemplate doing when I’m not hungry or searching for my next meal. With a limited number of appetites per day I enjoy filling in the times between meals in the most interesting way possible.
I have learnt a few things regarding safe food consumption over the years I use as a guide.
- Restaurants don’t necessarily mean safe food (especially if they are empty in peak times).
- Because a restaurant is listed in a guide doesn’t mean the food is the same quality now as when the author visited.
- If you can see locals eating at a venue it’s usually good quality, fresh and safe.
- If you are a little worried about the taste of something you’re eating, don’t finish eating it.
I am cautious with my gastro health, being cautious doesn’t hinder my chance to try something new and exciting. I fully expect to get sick at some point. I always carry some sort of gastro stop at all times… just in case, but I try not to use it.
Street food is awesome and street side dining a fun vibrant way of eating!
Following my nose and succumbing to my senses, has led me to some of the best culinary experiences I have ever had. Meal selection by smell often proves an effective of choosing what to eat.
I like to check out the immediate surrounding area, is it particularly dirty? Does it smell bad? Are there flies? Are there locals?
Boxes ticked, then attempt to order.
The world is a fantastical place, with so much to see and do, easier to enjoy if you’re not hungry.