The Road Less Familiar
I love to travel. I’d rather spend my money on travels in order to experience other cultures than on expensive toys like a brand new car or big led HDTV.
I’m less interested in seeing familiar tourist attractions, though. I’m more into meeting local people, experiencing how they live, and getting a taste of their traditional food.
I find that there’s no better way to bond with the locals than to share food with them. It’s an honor that can’t be taken lightly, especially when you’re invited to the family dinner. Any reluctance on your part to sample a traditional dish or drink can be considered as an insult. In other words, use your head or lose it.
As an honored guest, you must be prepared to tackle anything offered on the table. The fare may include unidentifiable meat or beverage fermented by human saliva depending on what country you’re visiting. Whatever it is, just follow everybody’s lead and eat it and control the urge to vomit.
The more exotic the food, the more likely it will cause your system some discomfort requiring relief. To keep your dignity intact, it’s always a good idea to ask the host for the location of the restroom as soon as you arrive. this would allow you to go there discreetly in the event of an emergency.
Restrooms vary from country to country. Since it’s taboo to discuss toilet etiquette in public, use of any of these restrooms is done at your own risk and by following strict standards of conduct.
The restroom can be as simple as a hole on the floor in a room back of the house. Underneath there’s a pigsty where the inhabitants anxiously await to clean up your mess. If your host hands you a newspaper, it would be considered rude to tell him that it’s too dark to read in there. After all, he doesn’t expect you to read. The newspaper is to be used for wiping your behind.
Going to the other extreme, the restroom can be elaborate worthy of royalty. In addition to the toilet and shower, it may feature a low mounted plumbing fixture called bidet. I encountered this little piece of art in spain several years ago. At first, I thought it was a urinal and utilized it as such. It was only later that I found that it’s used primarily to wash and clean your external genitalia, anus, and skin near these areas. Small wonder, you can find bidet in countries where lovemaking is taken seriously, such as Spain, Italy, or France, but seldom in English speaking countries where it’s considered a total waste of time. (Ok, British friends, I’m only kidding!)
Sometimes nature will call as soon as you leave your host’s house. In this case, you must be familiar where Macdonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken is. This is especially true in China where public restrooms aren’t as clean and sanitary as you would expect. You’ll find these American exports provide better facilities.
As members of a given society, we tend to acquire its traditional values, beliefs, and tastes for food, which, we are made to believe, are superior to the rest of the world. By traveling and getting exposed to another culture, we learn millions of people can live happily without adopting them. It’s kind of shocking, don’t you think? But it does lead to better understanding.