I catch myself getting particularly irritable when “hangry” approaching an endless queue. This is a consistent encounter. I’ve been thinking lately how things never bother me when I first start another round of traveling, but then naturally after being on the road some time, my Western mind takes hold and I begin to feel impatient and annoyed too easily at things, which are culturally accepted in other parts of the world (in particular, Asia). If you’ve never traveled to Asia, my first advice to you is, DO, and do it fast. Asia is one of the most interesting and culturally diverse regions of the world that has not only piqued my interest over the last 17 years, but has dominated my life decisions in almost all cases. However, with the beauty comes the pain.
If you’re American in particular, I have a few sound pieces of advice I’d like to suggest. Firstly, remember, you’re American and things work entirely differently in the East, so practice some damn patience, because you’re going to need it. Secondly, there is often no rhyme or reason for how things get accomplished here, so just roll with it. For example, you know how when you go to the bank in the States and you wait patiently in the line for a LONG time while each entitled bank teller takes his/her sweet time addressing each customer to resolve said issue?? Yes, well how it generally works in Asia is completely different. Let’s just say for fun that you walk into the bank and receive a paper ticket much like the number/letter system at your local DMV. “A504 to window 3 please, A504 to window 3.” This nostalgic form of order and communication will please you at first, but wait for it. The moment someone walks in, cuts the line, yells at the bank teller loudly and demands to be helped; s/he will be helped…immediately. This is how it is, folks. GET OVER IT because none of your pleads for the unfair nature of this transaction will make a lick of difference. This particular scenario applies to every, single queue you line up in. This never changes despite the environment, be it ordering food, going to the airport, waiting for a taxi, nothing matters guys. Nothing. You will get cut in line and there is nothing you can do about it. So, just TRY to shake your head and laugh, because that’s about the only option you’ve got. I am writing this article to kindly remind myself of this reality. Lesson: Patience
For you vegheads out there be prepared to be served meat/fish as “veggie” dishes. This is not an insult on your morals and values. This is simply a complete misunderstanding for what is meat and what is not. Just yesterday, I told someone as I tried to order food here in the Philippines that I was vegetarian. “Oh well then, chicken fried rice then?” “Um, chicken is not a vegetable.” “Oh, how about grilled fish then?” “Um, fish are not swimming vegetables.” “… (blank stare and confusion)…” Please understand people are not trying to disrespect you, it is simply unusual for veggie options to be on the forefront of a server’s mind unless it is a restaurant, which caters to such customers. There are plenty of veg options in Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, and Malaysia, but Philippines are harder to catch on in this regard. I’ve never experienced Korea, but if Koreatown Los Angeles mirrors Seoul as closely as it claims, then Korea may be a bit difficult too. Lesson: Patience and a bit of Understanding.
Airports: Just WOW. Ok, so airports are another beast entirely. I’ve actually rarely experienced the level of disrespect and misogyny as I did in the Manila airport. I will not divulge the entire dialogue; however, it will likely not leave my mind anytime soon. Misogyny aside, the excessively long lines, additional “port fees,” piled on extra baggage fees, no one’s ability to actually WAIT in a line, but instead bombard the customer service representative with 10 people to check in while you’ve patiently waited for a long time, children spilling over into your seat while you wait to board, significant and consistent delays, poor air conditioning and shitty Wi-Fi will all make an airport experience hellacious to say the least…especially if you’re HANGRY. I get that way too often at the airport because I refuse to pay the exorbitant prices for food leaving me a cranky woman. This coupled with all of the above reasons makes for a miserable airport experience.
1. Get to the airport early
2. Try not to bring check-in baggage if possible
3. Someone will jump you in line, shake your head, roll your eyes and throw on your headphones. You’re gonna be there awhile.
4. If you can have a print out of your ticket, it will save you a lot of time just getting INTO the airport. A misogynist experience I had at an airport in Manila was based on my assumption that I wouldn’t need an antiquated print out of any tickets just to enter the doors of the airport. My Western mind thought that the ticket counter and my passport would be sufficient. It can be, but sometimes you’ll need to argue with the security guard just to get in the door of the airport. If you can…print your online version of your receipt out. It’ll save you time and headache.
5. Bring headphones and plenty of music to listen to offline. It might be a long wait and it will help you get through the lines.
6. Drink a beer before you go. Takes the edge off. No seriously, the airports in developing countries are so goddamn inefficient; it will make you want to pull your hair out. Just drink a beer. All will be ok after a little buzz. 😉
7. When the plane boards…wait till the end. Everyone bum rushes the boarding gate and you’ll just be waiting…again.
8. Lesson: Be patient.
Another HUGE annoyance while traveling is other travelers. “Where are you from? How long have you been traveling? Where have you been? What made you decide to quit your life at home and come tour (specific locale)? Where are you going? How long are you here for? What do you do at home? What do you plan to do when you return? Wait what…you’re not going home? What’s wrong with you? I wish I could do that.” This is a same conversation you will have hostel after hostel, host after host, long bus/train ride after ride. This is a never-ending cycle of small talk that eventually numbs the mind and your responses. Moreover, you’ll see loads of idiots abroad from your country that will inspire a quick jab to their groin. You’ll see them puking in hostel bathrooms, buying tickets to sex shows, treating locals disrespectfully, doing drugs and actin’ like an overall piece of shit. This SHOULD enrage you, but you will just have to shrug your shoulders and shake your head in disbelief. It never stops. Have some respect for the country you’re in. Learn how to say thank you. Learn the tipping policy and greet locals with the same respect you would a teacher or parent. This is not your country. Learn the rules and don’t break them. Be a fucking adult. Okay, rant over.
So please friends, while traveling there will be many roadblocks, irritations and annoyances. Accept them and move on with ease because you’ll change nothing in the larger scheme of things. Laugh it off and love it, because the moment you get home, you’ll be thinking of those annoyances with nostalgia and sentimentality.