1. There will be some interesting encounters.
I remember that day when I arrived in New York for the first time. Right off the plane, I was on my way from JFK to Central New York, hoping to catch the traing from Grand Central. As I was leaving for 3 weeks of business meetings, I had a rather heavy suitcase. When I jumped in the metro, I came across the look of a man which literally scared me. I do not know if it was his size or the toughness in the look, or me completely freaking out as I was lost in the Big Apple. Anyway… All I thought at that time was: “please – God – I hope he will not come or talk to me”. When I got off the metro to get my connection, I was struggling in the stairs. Guess what ! The only person who offered me help was this man. I said a massive thank you and gave a big smile. I know that one should not stop to appearance. I am the first to say it all the time. I guess stress, fatigue and the unknown caught me at that time. I just felt so weird after this interaction, and at the same time thankful for the help he gave me.
Note : It is also very important to be careful especially for women travelling abroad and I am not saying that one should trust and follow the first person met in the street. But that experience just shocked me. As if “someone” tried to send me a “message” from the skies, about not judging.
2, Do not expect everybody to be overly welcoming.
We do not leave in the “Care Bears” world. That is a fact. Even if I believe that most of the human beings on earth are genuinely kind and welcoming, you will come across some who are not. Regardless how bad you try. I remember once when I was in Prague, and that I tried to ask for a bag to a lady at the supermarket till ( she was in her 60’s). As she heard me speaking English, she just threw the bag at my face. I understand there is the weight of the Cold war that can be still on the shoulders of the one who suffered the most from it.
More recently, my boyfriend and I joined a biking event in UK to socialize and workout. As we arrived and introduced us, the guy barely said hi. He did not introduce himself and told us “Argh… You ride mountain bikes?! We are all riding road bikes”…
I am not going to detail the rest of the experience – but we ended up being ditched out of the event (despite paying for it) because we were mountain bikers. Whilst I understand that a road bike is faster than a mountain one, due to the weight…. I was just stunned and disappointed by the absence of effort they made to just welcome, say hi or help us meeting the people in the biking group.
That was a good lesson for me. I tried not to take it personally and in the end I felt for those guys and who decided to ignore us just because of a bike model.
For those moments – if it happens to you, never take it personally and do not try to be smarter than the person you are facing. There is no point in being bitter and mean. Just let them in their own world and go ahead to meet people who deserve it.
3. That “awkward” greeting moment.
One of the most exciting but a bit “stressful” moment for me is meeting people for the first time. I used to travel a lot for work, so most of the introductions were meant to remain professional.
US folks were very informal and just said “How are you” while not caring of the answer … I still remember when it happened – I was just “how rude is that person, asking how am I – while not listening the answer?!” until I figured it out with one of my friend on site who got also so upset at it – and then we realized that the American “How are you” is not meant to care of how we were doing but just to greet us. 🙂
For information – if you ask that to a French person like me, or a Latin person, be ready to get a full summary of their reason to be happy and the one that kept them “mad”! 🙂
When I worked in UAE, my male colleague warned me that men will shake his hand but not mine – as a matter of respect , and that as such I shall not take it bad. I am thankful he did, as this avoided me facing embarassing situations, and I had a great time working in Abu Dhabi.
Finally, I still remember my Indian friend, Bala who told me one day he was lost when I would greet him as he did not know how the French greeting way would work: he did not know if he was meant to give the kiss on the cheek or if he has to just kiss “in the air”. That was a very funny conversation we had him and I.
After all those experiences, I just decided that the best way to come ready for the first greeting time is to smile and show your willingness to connect. The technical side of the greeting itself will come naturally.
And YOU what did you learn since you travelled? I want to know 🙂
Picture is not mine. I found it on Pinterest.