Guest Article by K. Alm
November 4, 2011
Mr. K. Alm, who wishes to remain anonymous, was kind enough to send this guest article to Adventurematt. It is a farcical look at bad spending habits and travel. Enjoy!
Traveling is enjoyable to us all. In fact, most of us in the traveling community would be life-long vagabonds if we could, but unfortunately few, besides the independently wealthy, have that option. It is this dilemma which I will devote this entry to: how to maximize your traveling experiences while keeping an eye on spending.
The most important aspect that must be focused on when traveling is to always maintain a ubiquitous awareness of the local conversion rates for your native currency. It is easy to get carried away in any foreign land, even more so when you lack intuition on what prices are ‘expensive’ and cheap. This can be compounded by the fact that in some countries prices do not scale proportionately. Some commodities, such as food, may be disproportionately higher in other countries. Similarly, the price of alcohol is exceedingly variable across cultures. While drinking to excess might be considered “macho” or “manly” in some primitive societies, remember that not all cultures have such haphazard perceptions and that getting drunk will likely paint you as a fool or careless person in most first world countries. Many foreign restaurants cater to self-proclaimed culinary connoisseurs and gastronomists. You may think you are being cultured and sophisticated by dining in a city or town’s well-regarded restaurants, but the reality of the situation is that almost all of these establishments are seen quite differently in the eyes of the locals. These are the tourist traps which attract the snobbiest and low-brow tourists that all locals despise. It’s hard to find a way to empty your wallet and your public rapport than dining in places such as those.
Similar to the cultural differences pertaining to commodities and prices, the concept of money itself is likely to differ in many parts of the world. If you ever have the pleasant experience of staying for an extended period of time in a foreign culture, this especially becomes significant. In some societies, it is acceptable to take small loans from friends. In some situations, it is even acceptable to not worry about repaying them. However, in more financially responsible cultures, not repaying loans—especially ones between friends—is among the highest iconoclastic offenses possible. No matter which culture you prevail from, it is not acceptable morally or ethically leave a country until you have paid all of your personal debts. This is particularly true for debts from friends, even more so if you have few of them.
In conjunction with a keen eye to accepting loans, one must also be equally as cautious about making empty promises. In some limited situations, it may be funny to tell small lies for comedic effect. However, when the lies begin to encompass your every interaction with people and are repeated in an obsessive manner, it is likely to become offensive in many cultures. This is compounded by language differences.
Modesty is valued in any uncertain circumstance. It is never a prudent idea to be boastful in a foreign country or try and play yourself off as an expert or connoisseur, particularly regarding local delicacies such as wine or food. Western society often overlooks these personality flaws and even mental disorders which relate to unfounded confidence, but in many other societies pompousness (especially if unfounded) is not at all tolerated and may even rightfully result in violence.
Along with the advice of being modest—it is never acceptable to pretend that you are native to a foreign country. Holding citizenship to a country does not imply one is part of that same culture. Many children are born each day in countries foreign to the country they are raised in due to the mother traveling while pregnant, but those with any respect for foreign cultures do not boast this fact and claim citizenship as proof of being participant or equal in that foreign culture.
So in summary, always be mindful when it comes to money. Do not kid yourself thinking you are a connoisseur of local delicacies or try to convince others that you are an expert. Never try to pretend you are a native or speak the local language natively (particularly in France), and never abuse the hospitality of others by accepting loans which you cannot or have no intention of repaying—this goes for any country or culture. And never leave (“flee”) a country from which you owe friends money.