When in Rome, be a Roman. Really? How?

Have you ever been to a new country and felt totally stupid because you did something that nobody else does? Or had to confirm with a 1000 people before doing something? A new place can do that to you, especially if you are not a tourist.

Some of these incidents have happened to us and we laugh about it now but at that point in time, I wanted to hide somewhere.

  • I walked into a store once at around 9 am and I could just see one lady who was sweeping some dust off the floor. I started to take a cart but decided to ask her if the store was open. She had THE most incredulous expression on her face – ‘Didn’t you just walk-in through the doors?’ I nodded. ‘Then the store is open.’ So much for that embarrassment.

You see in India, stores might open their doors but they will not be operational as people inside would be stocking or cleaning or something of that sort. Lesson learnt, if the doors are open, the stores are open.

  • Funnily enough, this incident happened with the same lady in the same store but a different day. I picked up the things I wanted and went to this lane with her at billing. She seemed to be sitting idle and it was around 6 pm so I thought maybe she is not billing. So I asked her just to be sure. ‘Do you see that lane counter light on top and is it on?’. I nodded. ‘Then I am open.’ —Eeeee, I wanted to run. It turns out that she had a long day and a toddler at home who wouldn’t sleep so I can’t blame her for being a little iffy. 🙂
  • A telltale sign that you are new to a place – you sit in a bus with a map and try to chart out your course and click a lot of pictures. I sometimes even draw in my small notepad exact directions to a place I might have to visit often considering my sense of direction is bad as a broken compass.
  • You would also do this when you see something cool but others don’t think so and that happens when you are new to a place. I clicked this picture of some wall-art which I thought was cool. Now this act would be fine in a touristy place, but we are not in a touristy place, it is just some wall-art. Anyway, I thought it was pretty cool.

Wall-Art

  • A new person who doesn’t have transport yet in a country where there is no public transport will take every opportunity to buy things that will last for a month and then call for a cab so that all of those bags can be easily transported. And obviously the driver knows you are new to the place and then the small talk ensues which sometimes is nice, but at other times it can get a little scary.

Recently, we bought some things for the house and called for a cab and the driver started talking straight away asking us where we work and when we got here etc. And I made the mistake of asking him where he lives or something of that sort. He went on a discourse about how he has a big property next to a lake and he is a true American and how Obama is not and he is the worst president America has ever had (Really??). He went on to curse Trump and called Hilary names and said Obama and Hilary should be shot down to let refugees get inside. We were scared by then. I was wondering if he was going to do something nasty but he didn’t. He dropped us, wished us well and went on his way. Phew!!?!!

  • Swiping a card is something I am truly nervous about. There are just so many ways to swipe a frigging card – insert a chip one, swipe others (I never get which way a card should be swiped) and tap some cards on machines. Why can’t all countries just have one mechanism???
  • Don’t even get me started on escalator rules – the unsaid ones. Where the hell are you supposed to stand where others don’t say ‘Excuse me, but can you please move?’ – can someone publish an escalator guide, country-wise please?
  • A classic – kinda similar to the bus one. Walking around with your phone with maps on. Or in my case since I don’t have a working phone yet, a paper map which is just so confusing once you have got used to real-time apps for maps.

Anyways, its all a learning experience at the end of the day. As we get used a place, we often forget that there are new people who might not be well versed with the said and unsaid rules of a place – so cut them some slack and help them.

I am sure you have tons of stories to new countries you have visited, would love to hear them…

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2 thoughts on “When in Rome, be a Roman. Really? How?

  1. Don’t let where you come from shackle how you adapt to the new county. Be curious..
    Daniel Kanneman talks about the science of Availability . Mainstream Media tends to report negatively to stoke and stroke our fears. Don’t let that define your only framework for the new place.

    Finally, Americans use sarcasm a lot. It’s not personal.. Just a reflection of their pop culture over the last few decades

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree with you on curiosity. Though these incidents happen, we take it lightly, not really judging people. Its just a little red face moment and then its a joke. And I get the sarcasm, just have to get used to it :). Thanks for the tip though.

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