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  • Writer's pictureKirk

Things Done Differently around the World

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

We grow up with a certain way of doing things. To us it makes sense. So when we travel and see it done differently somewhere else, it causes us to question. The question can be, are we doing it wrong? But more often it's, what's wrong with these people? We usually think we know better. But guess what? So does everyone!


Some things I noticed on my travels:

 

Driving


If renting a vehicle expect a standard transmission. It's common worldwide. We have become comfortable with our automatic transmissions in America to the point many cannot drive a stick. Not good if you're renting in many areas of the world.


We only use a portion of our roads in the USA. After traveling and seeing how it's done other places, it does seem a bit wasteful. In many countries the breakdown lane is just another lane to travel. Expect people to use every inch of the road.


In the USA the center line is sacred. If crossed into the other lane expect the oncoming driver to get very angry with you. In some contrives the center line is merely a suggestion. Expect oncoming traffic encroachment. It may be common practice (yes I'm talking to you Sri Lanka!).


If you're on a bike, everything is fair game. If there is room between two cars, expect a bike to use it. When at a stop sign, expect bikes to pull in front of you. There can be a huge gang of bikers ready to go at the front of the line. And guess what? If you're in a car you likely have to pass all those small 125 cc bikes later down the road. But often they're riding the breakdown lane so it's not too difficult.



And of course, there's the narrow bridges too....


 

Eating



Chopsticks with noodles. Never easy.


We are very comfortable with our utensils here. But as you know they're not used all over the world, although they've gained great popularity.


I've actually gained great dexterity with chopsticks over the years. I still prefer utensils, of course, but when in Rome......


In India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal I noticed many people eat with their hands. They simply scoop the rice and whatever is in the rice (meat and vegetables) up in their hand to feed themselves. Can't say I'm a fan of that and I did not follow the "when in Rome ...." when in India.


Many countries the food is served in shared plates. The food is put on larger plates in the middle of the table and you serve yourself from the central plates. It's like a personal buffet at your own table. I did enjoy that.


In France wine is served even at lunch. It's not unusual to go to lunch and have bottles at the table. Even if it is lunch time from work. I worked in France for a year, two weeks there and two weeks back home. I saw this many times.


When eating in many European country's expect dinner in a restaurant to be more of an event than it is in the USA. It is typical to begin at 8:00 pm (many restaurants don't even open until 7:00 pm) and go on for 3 hours. There could be as many 5 courses, but not large portions. Still a lot of food.


In Europe it is expensive for many to eat out. They tend to do so on special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries (or when I'm paying on the company expense report!).


Being an American, I tended to not enjoy European dinners. Just too late for me and I don't have the patience for a 3 hour meal. Service is much slower by design.


 

Bathroom


I'll start with the big one. Toilet paper. It's not used everywhere. The French have their bidet but much of the rest of the world have a cruder version.


Although TP is found in most hotels and restaurants, it's not used so much in less developed places. Instead you can expect a bucket of water and a scoop in the bucket. You'll have to use your imagination from there. The thought of this shared bucket and scoop never appealed to me.


As much as an American is disgusted by this, it works both ways. Many in other countries see the use of toilet paper as disgusting. They don't think you get clean enough with paper only. Maybe they're right?!


The toilet itself in many countries is at ground level. No throne to perch upon but instead you squat over the toilet if needed. I never liked that. Too difficult for my aging bones.



This is not a urinal. All business is performed here.


Flushing is not done from a hopper, but by using that bucket and scoop I mentioned earlier. Just scoop and pour into the toilet until the waste is gone. But remember, no paper to flush. Most septic systems there can't handle paper waste.


In many countries you're expected to pay a small sum to use the facilities. It's not expensive, it's just you need to have small change with you.


There's more to tell but perhaps a different post. These are the main things that come to mind at the moment.

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