Discubriendo el Mundo
Pedro, you make a good point. There is a great, big world out there, and in the second installment of the Las F Runup to Europe series, we're going to tackle a few problems that exist when we actually do travel, and solutions to them. See, there are two kinds of traveling Americans. The first kind is curious about other cultures and places, respectful of our differences and fulfilled by learning about other countries. The second kind is generally ignorant, disrespectful, and give the rest of us a bad name. I suspect that there are those types in a lot of other countries, too. So, since most people judge you before finding out if you're type one or type two, you'd better get your act together early in the game.
Problem #1: Do You Speak English?
The answer is usually yes, and that's not the only thing. People who study English as a foreign language will not only be able to converse with you easily, but will probably be way better at grammar than you are.
Solution: When you talk to someone whose first language is not English, for crying out loud, enunciate properly and use the correct grammar. And be sure to address the person you're talking to respectfully, and not by the first name unless you are invited to do so.
Problem #2: You're In My Space
Let's say you run into some friends at, oh, I don't know, the library. Whereas you might hug your friends, other cultures would get flustered at the space invasion. On the other hand, you might be the one flustered if someone goes to kiss you on the cheek.
Solution: Before you travel abroad, make sure you learn the local customs. Find out how you greet people when you first meet them, and what the rules are for riding on the subway or eating in a restaurant. It is advisable to learn what to do and remove the possibility of looking like a fool.
Problem #3: President What's-His-Name
George Bush. Junichiro Koizumi. Gerhard Schroeder. Jacques Chirac. Hamid Karzai. If I'm right, you probably only recognized one of those names. Maybe two. Elsewhere on Earth, people recognize all their names and can tell you where they come from. They are also keen geographers and know more about American history than you do.
Solution: Foreign education and news has more of a world perspective, and as Americans we don't enjoy those privilages. So, to combat this, Las F endorses watching BBC News, a highly reputable outlet that will not only give you what's going on in the world, but who the key players are. And if you're still in school, go ahead and take that geography course. Expand your world.
We hope this helps you out. Remember - if you enter into things with patience and an open mind, you will be much better received then if you go in there asking for a "kay-sa-dilla." And for those of you who will be the hosts of our trips abroad...be patient with us.