05 Jan Rules for Intentional Travel: Greetings
Yeah, it’s cheesy to say that smiles are the universal language, but there’s truth to it. Looking into someone’s eyes and cracking a big smile can change the tone of an interaction quickly. I recall a moment getting on a bus in Cambodia; there was some confusion about seat assignments. Tensions rose as the language barrier prevented communication. The American man broke through by patting the Cambodian woman on the hand and smiling and gesturing surrender. She smiled, and soon after, everyone else was too. Seats got rearranged, no one yelled, the bus took everyone to their destination. (Which, trust me, is not always how those interactions end on hot, crowded buses.) Smiling, and learning the local equivalent of a handshake when meeting someone, show that you’re happy to be there and that you come in peace.
Beyond a grin, find the regional equivalent of a handshake, and use it. Sometimes it’s bowing, sometimes it’s kisses on the cheek; there are as many varied greetings as there are cultures. You’ll never completely assimilate into a foreign country, but I think you can completely adapt. Again, put yourself in the shoes of others. If, while walking down some street in San Francisco, someone came up to you and bowed, you might be confused. Same goes for thrusting your hand out towards a woman in Darjeeling. The little things can go a long way toward smoother and more genuine interactions.
Stay tuned for more great stories and reflections as Ingrid digs deeper into more of the Simple Rules for Intentional Travel.
About Ingrid: Ingrid is a wanderlust at heart. She’s lived all up and down the west coast, studying environmental science and Spanish at the University of Portland and studying how to grow vegetables in Colorado and Washington. Her favorite activities include rock climbing, eating ice cream, and writing letters. Her travels have taken her from the Caribbean to East Asia and many destinations inbetween. The next places she hopes to travel to are New Zealand, Japan, and Norway.
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