When travelling outside of your time zone and your comfort zone, it is important to be aware of your surroundings. And never be afraid to ask for help or clarification. Some comical situations can come up and it’s good to be assertive so as not to thoroughly mortify yourself in front of your hosts.
While visiting in Estonia as a young 20-something adventurer, my friend Genny and I stayed with 2 gals about our age. We had a blast getting to know one another while there on our 3 week visit, and tried our best to learn some phrases, try different foods, and learn about the culture.
One evening when we first arrived, I excused myself to go to the rest room. I went into the room that I thought was the rest room, and closed the door behind me. In the room was a tub, sink, and what should have been a toilet but after looking it over I was not totally sure. It was a strange little thing, small and sort of the right size but it sure didn’t look like one. In America, typically the tub, toilet, and sink are all in one room. Hence my bewilderment that the other items were in the “right place”, but this “toilet” was, well …it wasn’t. (or was it?)
I stood there, pondering, and wondering, should I just go? Or, should I just admit my ignorance and ask?
Finally I swallowed my pride, and went back out to the kitchen and asked. Our hosts practically collapsed with laughter along with a few guests and informed me that the “toilet” I was considering using was actually a washing machine. And then they graciously showed me the separate room where the toilet and the toilet only were located.
Thank God that I didn’t just “try it out”! Imagine explaining that one!
MORAL OF THE STORY: When in a new place, never assume anything. Don’t be afraid to be the “dumb” American. Being able to laugh at yourself and appreciate your differences will help endear you to your hosts.