December 2017


Cultural Things That Could Shock a Foreigner (Part 1)

Traveling the world is certainly exciting, but we can’t claim that it’s always easy. There have been obstacles in every new country we’ve arrived in. Every culture, including our own, has its quirks that might baffle or trip up a foreigner.

Here are a few things we’ve seen around the world – things you might be thankful to know before you get there.


China – An Organized Brawl

Hate standing in line? You might actually miss the civilized organization of a queue while you’re in China. When riding the metro, get ready to push your way on the train or you’ll never get anywhere. When the train doors open, everyone just piles on and off at the same time. This leads to a lot of flying elbows, shouting, and pissed off people. It took us some time to get used to this process. But eventually we learned to enjoy letting off steam and whacking people with our umbrellas during rush hour.

Thailand – A Guessing Game

Common advice in “The Land of Smiles” is to ask for directions three times before you begin your journey. Some people are very reluctant to admit they don’t know something, so don’t trust the first answer you get. Confirm it with a couple locals first. And while Thailand is known for their relaxed, friendly culture, we’ve also learned that smiles here can mean many different things. Sometimes they reflect genuine happiness. But they can also signal nervousness or confusion.

India – The Center of Attention

Confession: we actually kind of loved this. But not everyone will. Wherever we want, people wanted pictures with us. And once we took one picture, more people would flock to us until we were surrounded by a huge crowd. When we weren’t taking pictures, we would constantly catch people staring at us. And the small talk was endless! Everyone wanted to know where we were from, how long we were in India, and what we were doing that day.

Singapore – Surprisingly Strict Laws

No, we didn’t experience any legal problems during our time in Singapore. But we were surprised to discover there were very harsh punishments for misdemeanors as small as littering or forgetting to flush a toilet. But this explains how the city-state looks so spotless, even in the busiest areas.

USA – Dependance on Cars

We know our countries aren’t immune to these quirks. Kristin recently returned home for the first time, and what struck her the most was how spread out everything was. Of course this varies per city, but residential areas are rarely near many stores and public transportation is lacking. Having a car is almost always a necessity. Her average daily steps went from around 15,000 to less than 1,000.

England – Hefty Price Tags

We’ve written before about one of our most shocking experiences in the UK last Christmas – buying tickets for a short train ride! The price was staggering for someone who has gotten used to the cheapness of Southeast Asia.

If you’ve traveled to any of the same places as us, are these examples are relatable? Let us know if you agree or disagree – or add your own examples. And if you’re planning a trip to any of these countries, we hope we’ve prepared you for some potential obstacles.





Self Care While Traveling

Travel can be exhausting.

I’ve often heard people complain “I need a vacation to recover from my vacation.”

The idea that traveling takes its toll on us, physically and emotionally, is easily accepted and widespread. It keeps many people from traveling at all, and it made me a little nervous once I made the decision to live and work abroad. After all, wasn’t I usually ready to return home after just a few weeks in a new place? How would I handle a foreign environment long-term?

But traveling doesn’t actually have be so draining. Yes, you’ll need to summon the extra energy to communicate in a new language, figure out unfamiliar roads, and successfully navigate new customs and ways of thinking. But there are many self-care tips you can use to keep your spirits up and your mental and physical health thriving. These are crucial, especially when you are traveling long-term or living abroad.

Slow Down the Pace
Jumping from city to city is one thing when you’ve only got a handful of days to travel. But if your time away is more of a marathon than a sprint, you need to treat it accordingly. Stay in one place longer and let yourself settle in better. Remember that not every day needs to be filled with sightseeing, adventures, or parties. Have a slow day. Hang out at a coffee shop for hours. Catch up on your favorite TV show. Call a friend back home. Just do something normal and relaxing. It will give your mind a chance to process what you’ve been experiencing and your body a chance to recover.

Embrace a Routine or Two
I know – I’m particularly wary of routines when I’m traveling because they seem like the antithesis of adventure. But they can also provide a little stability and predictability, which may seem comforting on some days. Find a favorite restaurant. Take an evening stroll most nights after dinner.

Go Your Own Way

If you’re traveling with a partner, don’t feel like you need to be together every second of the trip. A little alone time will benefit everyone and keep your relationship strong. Is there an attraction or event that one is more excited about than the other? You can go separate ways for the day and come back with your own stories to share.

Rest Well
A good night’s sleep keeps you perky and helps you handle stress better. Struggling to sleep in your accommodations? Eye masks, ear plugs, or a white noise app might help.

Create a Minimalist Workout Habit
If you’re used to exercising at a gym, keeping up with your fitness might seem impossible on the road. Not so! You just need a body weight or yoga routine that can be performed anywhere – even a tiny hotel room. Long walks (or runs) are also easy to accomplish in most destinations – with the added benefit of seeing more of your current location while you exercise.

Keep a Reasonable Diet

Not every meal needs to be a big affair full of local delicacies. Of course, you’ll want a few of these. But if you’re serious about feeling your best, opt for lighter, healthier meals more times than not – even if they aren’t quite as exciting.

Have you ever traveled long-term or lived abroad? Did you experience any fatigue or ill health? How did you recover and take care of yourself? We’d love to hear your best tips!