Monday, February 15, 2010

Travelista Tip #2

Do what the locals do.

Sometimes, when you are in a country where you cannot speak the local language, the best move is to follow the lead of those who can understand their circumstances.*** Develop an eye for the body language, movements, emotions, and habits of those surrounding you. Then mimic them. This will allow two advantages : 1. You can respond to situations without truly understanding the situations. 2. You can blend into the scene more successfully, attract less attention, and get a better sense of the true culture.

Case Study:
Finally it is time for me to leave Fuzhou. Climbing onto the Apollo Hotel bus is the first leg of my trip home. The "Airport Bus" leaves every 20 minutes for Fuzhou Changle International Airport, and is already packed to the brim. Again, I am the only foreigner.


I compare driving in China to stampeding in Africa, and now I am about to reep the ramifications. 10 minutes later, our bus gently collides with a green taxi, on a 4 lane road, in the middle of an intersection. As the taxi passengers bail and run best they can to the sidewalk, our bus driver shuts down the bus, grabs his cell phone, and exits. I can feel stress tempting my stomach for control, but I watch the other bus passengers. We all have the same destination, and we all have deadlines.

At first, my busmates talk quickly and lean to see the impact point. When the police arrive, one man grabs his bag, ready to make a rapid get away. I don't know how this works, or what will happen next. Suddenly a passenger at the front of the bus speaks, and the whole bus settles. Around me, everyone's eyes glaze back to patience, and their agitation subsides. No one leaves. They are content to wait, and therefore I wait.

15 minutes later, another Airport Bus pulls up in front of us. We deboard, grab our bags, reboard, and continue, just a little off schedule, to the airport.

***Please note, this strategy only applies when there are many locals surrounding you. Don't do what individuals do. Do what the masses do. (You can assume that the masses are doing what is generally cannot assume the same thing about an individual!)

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