Yes, it is approximately as annoying as it sounds. My BFF is a very patient person.
And even though I’ve spent a the majority of the last ten years traveling and living abroad, every time I travel I spend the first six weeks desperately try to manipulate this new country and culture into fitting my western expectations. Yes, I realize that I will be eating different food, in a different climate, possibly with different tools. But every time I travel (every time!) I spend the first bit freaking out about customer service, timeliness, cleanliness and ohmygod why won’t you just stand in line!?
A lot of these things seem like forgone conclusions to us westerners. If the time schedule says the train leaves at 9:30, it should leave around 9:30. Once you’ve finished eating that bag of chips, you should throw the empty bag in a rubbish bin. If one orders spaghetti, one would really prefer to get spaghetti instead of pad thai.
And it’s tempting to think “India! (or Peru or Cambodia) you’re doing it wrong!” Surprisingly, this mindset will not actually help you enjoy your trip. Weird, right?
May I suggest instead, altering your expectations?
* when you order a type of food that you recognize from home, it will taste the same. Sometimes you will ask for crackers in your soup and get crumpled Doritos (true story). And America-Indian food doesn’t taste the same as India-Indian food.* there won’t be cockroaches. Because there will frequently be cockroaches, regardless of how much you’re paying for that hotel room.
* that you can flush the toilet paper – you probably can’t
* that the sheets will be stain free. They’ll probably be clean, but they won’t necessarily be stain-free
* that there will be hot water
* the electricity/internet/time tables to be 100% reliable
* central heat or air conditioning
* that person really, 100% understood what you asked for
* that the piece of clothing you bought from a sidewalk vendor for $3 will hold up for more than five washes
* that it’s realllllly an antique
* that it’s going to look like the pictures they’re showing you
* that the village visit, the canoe ride, the dance performance is included in the price of the package
* handwashing clothes in a bucket to have the same results at your Maytag at home
* airplane/train food to be any good
* that you’re paying the same price as a local, even after half an hour of haggling
This all seems rather dire and disappointing but I swear my goal is not to make you preemptively hate travel. But maybe you can learn from my (on-going) mistakes and land in a new country with the appropriately placed expectations and then be pleasantly surprised when your hostel room has clean sheets, wifi, hot water and a conceirge with passable English.
What things regularly surprise you when you travel? Do you have to adjust your expectations?