5 Interesting Things I’ve Learned About Other Countries While Traveling

 

The hipster in me thinks nothing can surprise me anymore
The hipster in me thinks nothing can surprise me anymore

One of the things I love the most about traveling is being shocked and finding out that my common sense is not always so common. I love that thrill of wonder and confussion, that disorientation that comes with the questioning of your reality. I wanna share that feeling, so here are some things that have made me go “Whaaaat?!?”‘:

1. Swedish people avoid sitting next to other people in buses:

According to my Danish cousin who’s lived in Sweden most of her life, people in Sweden avoid sitting next to other people in a bus. They will always take a seat in an empty row, and if there are no empty rows they’ll stand up rather than sit next to a stranger (unless the bus is really crowded of course). I still have a hard time wrapping my head around this but hey whatever floats your cultural boat!

2. Peruvians have a slang word for everything:

I was very confident when I went to Peru. First of all, Spanish is my first language, and second of all, I’ve lived in Miami long enough to understand the slang of all Latin American countries….or so I thought. The reality was that often, Peruvian slang is so different from anything I’d ever heard, I had a hard time understanding some things. And it’s not just that their slang is different. They have slang for things I would’ve never thought of having slang for, like walking and napping! Hearing someone say “Man, I walked home and then took a nap” was like Finnish to me.

This is the face I made while trying to decifer Peruvian slang
This is the face I made while trying to decifer Peruvian slang

3. Americans only have one last name:

This might seem natural to a lot of you but when I found this out it shook the foundations of my being. To me, it makes no sense that your last names just…disappear, and that you wouldn’t use your mother’s last name. We officially have two last names, and then you remember as many last names as you can or want. I finally understand why Anglophones think Hispanics have long names!

I'm Zapata, Lucia Zapata... Herrera Santos Tellez Caycedo Rico Castañeda Olaya
I’m Zapata, Lucia Zapata… Herrera Santos Tellez Caycedo Rico Castañeda Olaya

4. In Brazil, the mother’s last name comes first:

Continuing on the theme of last names, I found this extremely interesting. I had never heard of a culture that puts the mother’s last name first, and I quite frankly love it!

5. Asking for a glass of tap water in Switzerland is faux-pas:

In France, it’s standard to ask for a bottle of tap water everywhere. So I didn’t think anything of asking for a glass of water at a cafe in Zurich, especially because I’d bought something. The look the waitress gave made me feel as if I had spit on the table and asked a monkey to dance on it. When I looked at my Swiss friend he looked at me awkwardly and told me that you don’t really do that in Switzerland, since asking for a glass of tap water is kind of rude. Whoops!

I was also hanging out with these weirdos so maybe that's what it was
I was also hanging out with these weirdos so maybe that’s what it was

So there ya go! What are some things that have turned your cultural perspective into the twirling scene from “Vertigo”?

 

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20 thoughts on “5 Interesting Things I’ve Learned About Other Countries While Traveling

  1. Americans often avoid sitting next to strangers too! It sounds like the Swedes take it to another level. But I’ve definitely remained standing when there are open seats or heard bus drivers instruct standing passengers to sit when open seats are available. We treasure our personal bubble. 🙂

  2. I’m trying to think….I’m sure I’ve encountered some but my mind is just drawing a blank now…I do wonder whether that is your full name though?? All those last names? Really? Wouldn’t it be a mouthful?

    1. Haha, that IS my full name! Or at least as far as I’ve memorized….officially you have only two last names but you usually know many more. You don’t really use them or say them, it’s just something you know and it can go back as far as you want

      1. Mmm I don’t really think there’s a background to it, it’s more like the idea that your last names are your lineage so they can’t really disappear. It’s a matter of how far back you care to memorize and keep that lineage alive but the names are always gonna be there. That’s why I found it so weird that Americans would only have one last name haha

  3. hahahah very nice! Yes in Brazil we put our mother’s name first, then comes the father’s and if you are a woman an get married, you just add your husband’s name at the end hahahha… here in Germany they only have 2 names too… if they want two, then they will have a “-” connecting them, but people dont really do that often! 😀 great observations!

      1. ahahaha yes I know, I keep telling that to the Germans but they find it too complicated hahahaah

  4. Greetings are a big one! I had an internship in Kenya and it is considered rude if you don’t shake hands with everyone when you enter the room every morning. As an American, that was a bit strange to me because we generally only shake hands when first meeting someone or in more official, business settings. I can’t imagine walking into work here and shaking hands with all of the people in cubicles near mine! And then, when I was in Peru, I had to get used to the cheek touching/kissing. Not gonna lie, I banged some people’s faces at first…

    1. Hahahaha!! Yeah greetings are also a big one! The kiss in the cheek thing always gets me. I had to get unused to doing it when I went to college since I freaked everyone out, then when I went back home I had to get used to it again, and in France I had to do the two cheeks kiss! It can get quite messy.
      The hand shaking is interesting, I didn’t know about that!

  5. Hi Lucia!

    As a swede, I must comment your first point. It is true that many swedes prefer taking a seat in a en empty row on buses and trains. But is that really typically swedish? I find that this, in a greater or lesser degree, is the case in most parts of the world. Also, for example, on the Transmilenio buses in Bogotá. That we should prefer standing up rather than sitting next to a stranger made me laugh!

    Though I don’t find your point accurate, the notion behind it rings true. Swedes are reserved, and not very friendly, at least not to strangers.

    Thanks for an interesting blog that I just discovered! I have a colombian partner and spend a few months every year in Bogotá. It’s been interesting to read your posts about Colombia. I especially loved your post about things you missed and didn’t miss about Colombia, and felt very tuned in with it!

    1. Hey! Thanks for the comment! Like I said, what I wrote was what my second cousin who’s lived most of her life in Sweden told me, I was only there for a short time so I can’t claim to know or understand the culture well enough. I do think it’s natural to sit in a different row when seats are open, I just found the standing up part shocking, but I guess everyone lives it differently? A mystery to be solved!

      Strangely enough, I didn’t think Swedes were unfriendly at all! Maybe it’s because I was with my cousin so I had an “in” but most of the Swedes I met were very friendly and warm, they even asked to hug me when I was saying goodbye, which I didn’t expect and which made me really happy haha!

      I’m happy you’re liking our blog, thank you!!! 😀 How is it like to come here from Sweden? Do you experience a lot of culture shock?

  6. In the Netherlands too, when in office settings or seeing the doctor you shake hands, in social settings, greetings are three pecks on the cheeks ( found that strange when I first came here)..I love the Thai greeting, slight bow and clasp of the palms in prayer position while saying ‘sawasdee ka/krab)..

    1. I used to hate having to kiss every person on the cheek at a social gathering until I moved away to college where there were barely any Hispanics, then I learned to appreciate it! Still, three pecks sounds like a bit too much haha
      I’ve never seen a Thai greeting, but I really like the idea of it! 🙂

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