Overseas, I Read That It’s Beautiful Over There

Derek USA 84 Comments

This past Tuesday I went to get a haircut in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts, a city that is located about an hour to the west of the city of Boston. I had simply woken up in the morning and decided that it was time to trim the hair and so I asked my uncle, who I was visiting with, where I could find a cheap place for a cut.

Thirty minutes later I was sitting in the chair at Supercuts, which, for those of you not familiar with this fine establishment, is a chain of budget hair salons located throughout the USA. And as the woman assigned to cut my hair threw that standard black cape over me and began spraying nearly an entire bottle of water into my thick head of hair, she began to engage in what is quite the standard hairdresser/client chit-chat.

“Do you have the day off from work?” she asked.
“No, I’m just here visiting family,” I replied.

“So you don’t live around here?”
“No,” I said.

And then, just as she started buzzing the sides of my head with a #4 clipper, she proceeded to ask the question that should naturally follow the previous one.

She asked,

“Where do you live?”

To which I replied,

“I’m originally from Boston but I generally live overseas these days.”

Now let me tell you something about Marianne. She was a nice lady, with a bright smile and what appeared to be a positive outlook on life. She wasn’t exactly the best hairdresser I’ve ever met, but again, she seemed like a very sweet woman.

However, despite my guess that Marianne has rarely left the state of Massachusetts during her 30+ years on the planet, I still would never have expected the words she spoke only seconds after I answered her question about where I live.

First, she asked, “Overseas?” to which I replied, “That’s right, overseas.”

And then she stated, “Overseas. I’ve read that it’s beautiful over there. You must have had a long trip to Worcester. What is it, about three hours from here? Did you have to fly to get here?”

Yes, that is a word for word quote.

As I sat there a bit stunned, and no longer caring that my left side burn was now an inch lower than my right one, I quickly tried to go over several scenarios in which she might have misheard or misunderstood my original answer. But when she finally blurted out, “Overseas must be so nice”, I knew that she had heard the word correctly.

Naturally, I had to say something in response and after fifteen seconds of dumbfounded silence I just muttered, “Yeah.”

The rest of the haircut passed without another word being spoken and when Marianne held up the mirror so that I could check out her artistry on the back of my noggin, I just muttered “It’s fine” without really looking. I simply couldn’t get her words out of my head.

I’m not trying to make fun of anyone here. I just think it’s an absolute shame that the concept of ‘overseas’ is so foreign to some that they don’t even have the most remote idea of what it means. How does that happen?

Of course, it is slightly amusing as well and it does rank up there as one of the more bizarre travel-related conversations I’ve ever had over the years. And despite the terrible haircut, at least the 20 minutes I spent in that chair was somewhat entertaining.

I’m sure that many of you have also had some disturbing or bizarre conversations either during your travels or while talking about your travels with others.

Care to share? I’d love to hear!

Photo by crschmidt


Sign up to receive my best travel advice, deals, news, stories and inspiration from every corner of the globe. Sent once per week.

Are you ready to earn money and travel?

How to Work on a Cruise Ship and Travel eBooksClick above and get started!

Comments 84

  1. (This is mainly in reference to other comments, Earl.)

    Some people choose not to travel, for whatever reason. It doesn’t mean they are ignorant or unintelligent. It just means they are different. There are different generational perspectives regarding travel.

    My grandmother doesn’t have the desire (or the means) to travel outside of East Texas because that’s where most of her family and friends are. It’s her home. Her husband planted trees beside the highways here some 30 years ago. Her father farmed here some 60 years ago. Most of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren still reside in East Texas. She lives to be with them. As for even vacationing outside of the USA, she doesn’t understand why anyone would want to leave the land of the free and home of the brave.

    My parents don’t have the desire to travel much. They want to be wherever their children are, which is in Texas. They are willing to vacation in a foreign land, as long as they can quickly return back home where their family is.

    As for my sister and me, and many of our generation, we have both the desire and the means to travel. It’s a different world now so easily connected by flights and trains and we want to see it. And as for living outside of the States… that’s game too. We feel this world is much too big for us to stay in one tiny corner of it.

    Everyone is different. But that’s what we seek in travel, after all – appreciating people, customs, and perspectives that are different from our own. We must remember to appreciate the diversity of perspectives at home as much as we do for those overseas.

  2. Earl –
    The only place I have managed to travel so far, crap health and being constantly skint to blame, has been your wonderful homeland. I was there for work, my client a young miner-turned-businessman who had been severely disabled in a crash a few years before. Not only did every person I met all along the west coast know all about Australia, they told me my broad accent was “unbelievably hot,” knew all about Oz and were some of the loveliest, most polite and enthusiastic people I have met. Americans abroad get a bad rep – you guys are great, and what I saw of America on our short month-long work-trip was brilliant 🙂

    1. Hey Cam – That’s so great to hear and I absolutely do agree that Americans are some of the most polite people that I’ve come across. There is a certain friendliness over there that is definitely not present in many other parts of the world. Although, your own country is not exactly un-friendly either 🙂

  3. Apologize for the un-timely comment. However, just the other day my female dentist and I were chatting about travel and our conversation reminded me of this article. I mentioned that my wife and I were going to be traveling through South America as the beginning of a RTW trip. Her immediate response was that she loved traveling to South America and was jealous that we would be spending a few months there. To continue the conversation, I asked “where in South America she had traveled to and recommends?” Her direct response was “Cancun – it’s so fun.”

    I sat there speechless for awhile as my mind tried to comprehend her answer. It still makes me shake my head, but I do enjoy the lingering entertainment value.

    1. Hey Daniel – That’s definitely a good one, although a bit sad as well. Thanks for sharing it. It really is shocking sometimes how little people know about the world!

  4. You are from Boston? I hadn’t realized that. I am sitting in front of the Red Sox celebration for the 100 year anniversary for Fenway Park (on television) right now. They even wheeled Johnny Pesci (of Pesci’s pole) out onto the field in a wheelchair. My family on both sides is from Boston, and I was born just outside Boston in Quincy. My parents moved me to NH at a young age, but after college I moved back to Boston (and had been down for visits monthly to see family through most of my life in NH) and lived there for the last 6 years I have been home from living abroad. I love Boston! Small world Earl.

    So, on your question/post, it isn’t nearly that bad, but it always bothered me when I taught at a university in Korea for three years that I would simply say ‘Korea’ and people in the US always asked, “do you live in North or South Korea?” I had to bite my tongue, as I am not even allowed to visit North Korea as an American, and I was living in S. Korea from 2003 to 2006 when North Korea was in the news a lot. I always politely responded, “South.” and kept the rest to myself. There were also family members who didn’t understand what I did and didn’t even know where I was half the time. I was living in Brussels for over 6 months when I called my brother and he asked me, “How is life in England?” I told him I wouldn’t know given that I hadn’t lived in London since 2 years before. For the most part I found people had no concept of where I was, but were curious and wanted to know more and were very interested in what would possess me to live outside of the USA.

    The one thing that really bothered me though is when people would respond to my travel negatively by stating in a deffensive tone, “There is plenty to see right here in the USA.” or “I heard Paris is dirty and the people are rude.” or “Why would you leave the greatest country in the world?” And yes, all of those things and more were said at one point or another. I would get annoyed, but remind myself these people have no idea what they are missing. To each his/her own, right?

  5. Haha, stories about US Americans are popularly shared online but I noticed that its kinda the same in other parts of the world as well. Geography was my favorite subject in primary school and this one kid always talked about the “foreign” stuff that his dad brought from overseas. Once I was annoyed and asked him, “foreign. that means Pakistan, right?” And that ended it.

    Hey, did you check if there was a town called “Overseas” 3 hours away?

    1. Hey Priyank – Ha! That’s a good point, maybe there is a town named Oveseas 🙂 But I’m quite sure there isn’t as I grew up close to that area and probably would have heard of it!

  6. Earl, this had me cracking up. I had almost EXACTLY the same experience at a Supercuts in Cambridge when we were in Boston last month (which looks exactly like that picture, and I’d guess it was taken at the exact store I went to). I was so amazed at how little the ‘stylist’ knew about the world, after a certain point I could hardly say anything back as she spoke. My hair, like yours, is a little worse for the wear, too, as I just wanted to get OUT of there. I ranted about it to Dani off and on for like four hours. So funny how similar our recent haircuts were! 🙂

    1. Hey Jess – That’s insane! I think that photo is of the Supercuts in Cambridge. I didn’t take a photo of the one I went to so I had to use someone else’s. Crazy. And sorry about your bad haircut 🙂 Mine just keeps on getting worse everyday. It’s so bad that I’ve now written a rough draft of an email to the Supercuts main office!

  7. Earl, I’m offended that you entered a franchise haircutting outfit instead of a proper local barbershop, hahah. If your ever in Tucson, Arizona stop on by, the haircuts on me, as well as a free lunch or dinner so I can pick your well traveled brain. Thanks for the grreat site/info.

    1. Hey Chris – Yes, I made a huge mistake with my haircut choice this time around but it certainly won’t happen again 🙂 It’s funny how I always use local barber shops to get a hair cut while traveling but don’t use that option when I’m back in the US.

      And I will certainly let you know if I make to Tuscon at any point. Buddha’s Barber Shop looks like my kind of place!

    1. Hey Lisa – Lesson learned! Although I don’t know if I’m willing to shell out more than $15 for a haircut…this could be a problem.

  8. Earl, I’ve had full-on Mayflower descendents look me in the eye and say, “You’re back from Prague? Where is that in Germany?” “Spanish food isn’t anything like Mexican? Really? Then what do they eat?” Or my favorite – “If you go to Mexico don’t you have to study their language first?” and when I said Mexicans predominately speak Spanish and I do know a little, they argued that Mexicans did not speak anything like Spanish but a completely different language unique to Mexico. :-/

    1. Hey Maria – Reading that list of things you’ve been told is not very encouraging 🙂 For those of us who are fortunate enough to travel, the lack of knowledge that so many have about the world can really be shocking. And it’s a good thing my spanish worked in Mexico as I wasn’t up to learning an entirely new language while living down there!

  9. Great post and I can sometimes relate to it. There’s a lot of Malaysians in the East Coast of the country who’ve never venture out of the country too (especially the older generation). And the word overseas luckily brought up great impressions as per your story. Though I do feel for them and I know how hard life can be for many people out there. We travellers are one lucky bunch. One thing I’ve learnt from travelling is being humble. Feeling very fortunate right now.

    1. Hey Amer – That is completely true, we are very lucky to have such an opportunity to travel and that is something that any traveler who is able to spend any amount of time overseas should remind themselves of as often as possible!

  10. Haha, oh dear! It’s as sad as it’s funny though – not only that she doesn’t know what ‘overseas’ is but also that she feels like she has to pretend she does.

    I came back from Morocco last year just after Eid, so I had henna on both hands. I too went for a haircut while I was back in the country and the hairdresser was really interested in the “brown stuff” all over my hands. I told her it was henna – suddenly enlightened, she asked: “Oh, I get it. So you’re Indian then?”

    I should point out here that I am really, really pale and blonde.

    “Um, no,” I told her. “I got it done in Morocco.”

    She frowned for a second and then that dawning look of comprehension crossed her face again. “Oh! So you WENT to India. I get it now.”

    Mine was a really bad haircut too haha.

    1. Hey Rachel – You definitely don’t look Indian. To many people, all of overseas seems to be just one big country that encompasses ‘everyone else’ on the planet with little difference between cultures. At least she had heard of henna!

  11. I have to admit this post made me chuckle because I’ve had a similar experience, if you can believe it, at a barber shop in Canada. I was talking about visiting Cambodia and the barber innocently replied, ‘Isn’t that a small island off of Mexico?’ At least, to her credit, she got her finger off the map a little bit, but I was also dumbfounded and couldn’t fathom much of a response for what was likely several spaced out seconds.

    Even to this day I have family friends getting a bit mixed up about where I’m going or what I’m doing. A lady who used to babysit me when I was in grade school thought I’m doing missionary work in North Korea. My Mom’s tried to explain several times that I’m a well paid teacher in South Korea, but to no avail. She always says the same thing: “That, Sam. It takes a special person to be able to go over there and do what he’s doing.” LOL

  12. Back in 2006 I went to Canada by greyhound bus and wrote about the experience. I referenced that trip in a paper in a college class, specifically about my experience with a radioactive gentleman that was detained at the US border and then made mention of my plans for the coming year that involve heading to Asia. I received comments like: “Wow, leaving the US is so dangerous! I’m glad I stay here” and “why would you want to go to Asia? Just go to chinatown in new york or something.”
    The most absurd was the look I got from an older “alternative student” (read: 40+ year old that went back to college, props to those that do, but this guy… really..) when I mentioned that I wanted to see some middle eastern nations and learn about them while traveling. “Yeah, go ahead and get yourself killed then. They’ll spot you in a second and you’ll get kidnapped and tortured. See you on the news, buddy.”

    The worst part was he changed the perspective of most of the students in the class! A few had asked me “where’d you get the idea to do this?” or “how would I go about trying that out?” and after the comment from the older man, they all just agreed with him.

    It’s so sad that we have people so scared to even leave the protected little cage they’re in. To each their own, but what happened to being curious and explorative?
    Either way, Love the blog and thanks for the incredible stories.


    1. Hey Greg – Well, the best thing that we can do is keep on traveling so that others will see that such misunderstandings about the world are not even close to being true. And the truth is, much of the world is considerably safer than many of the places back home! Some people will never believe this, but others might if we share our experiences.

  13. Hey, just stumbled to your site… awesome.

    I live in Lima, Peru. I had a conversation with a lady once that went like this…

    Lady: Where are you from?
    Me: The United States.
    Lady: The United States… [pensive pause] … That’s next to Argentina, right?
    Me: *blink* *blink* …uh, no it’s next to Mexico.
    Lady: Oh… Mexico.

    1. Hey Wes – Well, it’s good to know that the US isn’t the only place with a lack of geography skills.

      And thanks so much for visiting my site!

  14. Do you remember when you and I were having dinner on the waterfront in Boston with a female friend of yours from high school? She looked out at the water and asked you what river the body of water was. You told her that it was the Atlantic Ocean and she said “I never knew that Boston was on the ocean”. I guess we need to do a better job of teaching geography…

  15. Haha, I get those moments sometimes. In Ghana, a Ghanaian friend and I were talking about politics and some of the things wrong with America. He asked me, quite seriously, “Why don’t you just go talk to Bush and tell him to change things? He will listen to you, you’re an American citizen!” I laughed – I wish it were that easy.

    It did get me to thinking, though, about how US citizens have a bit more power than others in that regard. I almost felt like I had a responsibility to try to influence politics here, because one out of 300 million is much better than one out of 6 billion, right?

    1. Hey Kristen – That is a good point and it’s also why, even though it is okay that the hairdresser didn’t know anything about ‘overseas’, I find it to be such a shame because she has the ability, through her vote, to play a role in a government that has such an effect on the rest of the world. And if she doesn’t know anything about the rest of the world, it’s not a good sign.

      So I guess you didn’t just call up Bush and discuss the world’s issues over lunch?? 🙂

      1. That’s right Earl, American ignorance might be the most dangerous kind. And no, I didn’t call up George Bush, but I think I should have!

  16. I remember when I studied abroad in Spain for a while, I went to a bar with some friends. by this time we had downed two of those mega-sized bigger than your head mugs of Estrella Damm (barcelona beer) and the guy next to me says “you are American?” I answer yes, he says to me “Oh! you know Pau Gasol!!” like I was Pau’s best friend or something. I laugh and nod yes to the guy, and he thinks I’m the greatest for the rest of the evening.

    Another time in Spain, we were waiting in front of a restaurant by the beach, and we made some friendly conversation with two ladies that were standing behind us. I told a lady that I was from Texas. She had of course heard of Texas, but she told me that it had some negative connotations. She was convinced that women in Texas were beaten and mistreated. It took a little bit to convince her otherwise, but I just thought it was weird how different some perspectives are on different things.

    Main point is, there’s always going to be some stereotypes and some misconceptions about how things are. That’s one of the good things about traveling is that you can experience different cultures, and also help others to get a clearer picture on how things really work outside of one’s homeland.

    1. Hey Trey – I most certainly agree with you and it makes sense. If we don’t get out there and see things ourselves (which is not possible for everyone of course) then our knowledge of things is often pieced together by snippets of media and other sources. The result, as is the case in your tale about Texas, is often far from the reality. But we all do this in the end. We all have misconceptions about other people and places simply because we haven’t seen them ourselves and must therefore rely on what others tell us to believe or choose to highlight about these places.

  17. Hmmm …thanks Georgie (another response). I started to see clicks over from this post Earl and couldn’t figure out where I was linked.

    Great blog …keep it up!!!

    I try, but man, I wish I could travel like you.

    1. Thanks John for being a reader of the blog! And that’s alright, this lifestyle is definitely not for everyone…as long as you take steps to achieve your own goals, that’s all that matters!

      1. Hey, no problem …and don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely for me 🙂 …just haven’t found a way yet to travel “indefinitely”. Take a look at my blog if you haven’t (and add it to your links!!!). My travel style is actually really similar to yours I think. Light, fast and semi-cheap. Have even used the Redwing for the last decade – on that note, what is the RW2900? – and older version of the RW2650 (and 44)? I think one of the main differences are some of the places, where you went through South America and more of Europe I did Africa. I’ll be responding to some of your other posts soon. Keep on going man’. Whats your favorite country? …if you had to pick one. …and I know, tough to do.



        1. Hey John – Yeah, I have the old school Kelty Redwing…the 2900 has been off the market for a while now 🙂 As for your question, my favorite country is by far India, simply for the nonstop eye-opening educational experience it offers. And these days, after having spent so much time over there already, I feel more comfortable in that country than anywhere else on the planet!

  18. Earl,
    I hope my sweet daughter-in-law doesn’t read your blog because I have to tell this story. My daughter-in-law was born and raised in Baltimore, MD, which is a fine and lovely city but for her there could have been a 20ft high barbed wire fence around it. When my son started dating her he took her to Washington,DC for the 1st time in her life and she had a panic attack! One would have thought she was in a 3rd world country, a dangerous one at that.

    Years ago I moved from Ohio to California and when people asked where I was from I’d say “back east” and they’d reply “oh you’re from Arizona?”.

    It frightens me to think what kids are learning about geography or if there are globes and maps in classrooms anymore.

    1. Hey MaryAnn – Ha! I can see how you wouldn’t want your daughter-in-law to see that comment 🙂 But that’s a good example of how isolated we can be, even if we live in relatively large city such as Baltimore (which is the city where I was born actually!). Hopefully your son has taken her on a few more trips and the panic attacks are only a thing of the past now!

  19. I love this post! I laughed, I cried. I think because I read so many travel blogs and write one myself, sometimes I start to forget that to many people traveling and the concept of international destinations is still extraordinary and abstract. And then stuff like this happens.

    1. @nod ‘n’ smile: That’s what happens…it is very easy to get caught up in the world of travel to the point where we forget that the whole concept of travel is just so foreign to so many people. It’s good to step back every now and then and remember that!

  20. Cute story. Clearly you were not making fun of her. This is something many of us have experienced and by relaying it, each of us can share in the amusement. Thanks for sharing.

  21. hi!
    if this is bizarre…u need to be in India. There are people living in buzzing metropolitans without the slightest idea of the countries around them…or for that matter …even the states around…I ve met people…”young, college educated” people calling europe “a country close to australia where hippies are found!!” This is something which Im quoting word to word (by an “engineer friend” of mine!!) It took me an hour to make him understand the right thing! Again, I dont mean to mock…but then…these people miss the beauty of cultures..landscapes…people…foods..the diversity in the world…because they are so lost in their small world that they cannot se the real! Travelling is the education…knowing about the world is the education! God would not be happy!

    1. Hey Gaurav – I know India very well as I’ve spent over 2 years there already 🙂 What you described happens in every country as the idea of travel, even in their own country, is not something that is common for everyone. So it is easy to make judgments and assumptions about people and places that we really don’t know anything about.

      1. @earl: ya i know…i am an indian myself…who’d know better…i have been following your blog for the last two weeks and hav read most of the posts…u are really helpful..i am planning for a short trip to athens in november…could you help me a lil with some good but cheap hostels? and what all can i see in athens to feel the culture (even tho’ its just a week)??
        ps: really good to see the color change! 😛

    1. Hey Dalene – That’s an interesting one…perhaps if it was a foreign visitor that question might be (a little) more understandable, but for someone from Alberta??? Good to know such odd conversations are happening up there in Canada as well 🙂

  22. In California a few years ago a local asked where I was from. I said “England” and got the response “New England?” and I said “No, England in Europe.” There was a thoughtful pause, followed by “Oh, on the East coast!”

    I gave up.

    1. Hey Liv – Sometimes giving up is all we can do. It just isn’t worth trying to explain something that cannot be understood to some!

  23. I’m from Denmark – not the largest country in the world, but still I’m always surprised at how little people know. I often get “Denmark? That’s the capital of Sweden, right?”

    1. Hey Lotte – It can be shocking at times…and a bit depressing when people say such things. Everyone knows the capital of Denmark is Norway, not Sweden. Just joking 🙂

  24. Small world…I’ve actually spent a lot of time in Worcester. I’m originally from Indiana, now living in Austin, TX. I dated a guy who went (and I believe still goes) to Becker College. Anywho, I recently had to fix I box dye job gone wrong at a hair salon in Austin and ran into a similar situation. I was talking to my hair stylist about how I’m planning on going back to Europe and possibly do a little backpacking. My stylist then told me I shouldn’t stay in hostels because of “that movie”. I laughed a little at her poor attempt at a joke but when I looked up she had a frozen serious look on her face. Turns out my stylist had never seen the awful horror flick, she had only heard about it…and she thought it was a documentary.

    1. Hey Ashley – It is a small world as rarely, or never, do I meet anyone who is too familiar with Worcester! And that’s absurd about the hairdresser and the Hostel film. That’s what happens…one tiny absurd thing such as a movie preview and someone is able to formulate an entire opinion on something. It’s quite scary actually.

  25. Small world…I’ve actually spent a lot of time in Worcester. I’m originally from Indiana, now living in Austin, TX. I dated a guy who went (and I believe still goes) to Becker College. Anywho, I recently had to fix I box dye job gone wrong at a hair salon in Austin and ran into a similar situation. I was talking to my hair stylist about how I’m planning on going back to Europe and possibly do a little backpacking. My stylist then told me I shouldn’t stay in hostels because of “that movie”. I laughed a little at her poor attempt at a joke but when I looked up she had a frozen serious look on her face. Turns out my stylist had never seen the awful horror flick, she had only heard about it…and she thought it was a documentary.

  26. The fact that she works at supercuts which, by the way, meant that you were asking for a bad haircut (since all the people I have known to have gone there because its cheap-came out with traumatized hair).
    She probably didn’t go to college, or dropped out of high school, went to beauty school and that’s why the poor woman has no idea what you meant. Education in the US is expensive and of course a lot of people don’t even get a good one these days. Although, since you said you lived overseas and you weren’t really specific, she probably had no idea what to say next. I feel bad for this woman. We should be so thankful that we get to travel to ‘overseas’. (I’m not saying you’re not, I am just saying that we are so lucky) If she’s happy like you said you saw her then she’s probably doing just fine where she is. It’s not for any of us to judge and of course there are people in the US who have no concept of what overseas means. And us, having traveled and having developed extra patience from it, can be a little bit understanding and explain it to those who have not have the chance to experience it for themselves, right?
    Don’t think I’m being rude, its a crazy concept to some to live ‘overseas’ but we have to be more patient with these kind of people and help them out!

    1. Hey Mica – I’ve actually had good haircuts at Supercuts before, especially at one in Manhattan that I’ve gone to several times. This time I was too lazy to wait until I got back to NYC…big mistake!

      And I agree with your comment and I’m not judging her at all. I do feel that it is quite dangerous to have a country of adults who know so little about the rest of the world yet have the power to vote for a government that has such a major influence on that world. Again, it’s not her, it’s the system in place that allows her to be unaware of what lies beyond the country’s borders.

      As for explaining it to her, that’s a tough call because I feel that might have put her in an even more awkward position because I would have had to point out (in the most subtle way possible of course) that what she said didn’t make much sense. And I don’t know if it would have helped to start explaining that I travel or that living overseas meant spending time in places such as Europe or Asia as I don’t think she would have any concept of these regions of the world either.

      But I understand what you’re saying and if she is happy, then I’m happy for her. She doesn’t need to know what ‘overseas’. It would just be nice to for people living in such a global world to understand the concept as it would clearly lead to a more aware and less self-centered society.

  27. In 2006 I moved from Edmonton, Canada to NYC so I could attend film school. While there I got a gym membership at one of the chain gyms, and that was when I experienced my “most ignorant person in the world” moment.

    When I first got my membership I had to sit with a membership sales rep to give them all my details, fill out paperwork etc. Similar to your situation we began some friendly small talk about my move to The Big Apple. I told her a story about how I had been paying a taxi and in my hurry to get going I accidentally paid with a $10 instead of a $1, because in Canada our money is different colours to aid in differentiating the bills, also our $1 is a coin, not a bill. She looked up at me from the paperwork and said “You guys have your own money? I thought you would just use the same money as us.” I assured her we did indeed use our own currency and thought it was odd that she wouldn’t know that, but that wasn’t the most ignorant comment to come from her.

    As we moved through the application process she asked me to see some picture ID, so I presented her with my Canadian passport. She glanced at it confused and then said what is perhaps the most ignorant thing I have ever heard a grown person say to me “Wait a minute, so you mean to tell me that it’s like a totally separate country?” I’d like to think she was punking me, but she seemed far too genuine. Perhaps one of my favourite stories to tell to this day 🙂

    1. Hey Emmet – That is a most unfortunate story. I would really have liked to believe that all of us down here had figured out that Canada was its own country by now. But now I’m sure there are still some who don’t know that just yet. It’s all just shocking and sad at the exact same time. But as you said, it sure is one mighty fine story 🙂

    1. Hey Tim – I don’t want to know what they teach! Although, I do have an Australian friend that lives in Sydney and at the age of 25 she had no idea what ocean she would have to fly over to get to California. So the lack of geography might be spreading!

  28. Oh. Poor Marianne. Though residing inside of that ignorant bubble is probably a really wonderful place to live.

    My Grandma lives in San Diego and she often comes to Australia to visit her Aussie grandkids. Once, a friend said to her right before her trip, “Oh, you’re going to Australia? How long will it take to drive there?”

    Probably 1000 years, give or take, depending on whether or not the architects of the future figure out how to structurally support a 7,000-mile-long bridge across the Pacific Ring of Fire.

    1. Hey Torre – I have no doubt that such a bubble is a great place to live. In the end, the more you know about the world, often times the more frustrating life is. Why not just keep it simple? Maybe simple with a little understanding of geography would be a bit better of course…

  29. When I first travelled to Thailand and came back home I told my mom… “Ma, Do you know that Jesus is not their God in Thailand? A lot of them are buddhists!” My mom was horrified! LOL

    1. @flipnomad: Haha! Well, things like that can be shocking to those who don’t venture away from home too much. But at least your mom now has you to fill her in with all the details of the world!

  30. This is a story from 2008 while I was living in Sydney:

    Until recently, we haven’t actually had many problem with our slight language differences here in Australia. It IS the same language (English) right!? The other day at work, the conversation turned to a “country” near England called “Island”.

    I would rate my knowledge of world geography as average, or maybe slightly above average, so I was surprised and humbled to realize there was this country called Island in the UK that I had never heard of! There were quite a few people sitting around participating and/or listening to the conversation. One girl actually asked me if I “seriously had never heard of Island?”. There were a couple of comments about me being a self-centered American, etc., etc., but I’m not really phased by those comments because I think it’s true! Admittedly, I was a little embarrassed based on the reactions of the people sitting at the lunch table, but decided to drop the subject with a shrug of my shoulders, saying “who knew?”.

    I arrived home that evening and quickly googled “island country”. I also got Scott scouring the internet with me, trying to figure out where this elusive country actually was. Both of us concluded that it didn’t exist and my workmates were full of it…

    Fast forward two weeks — Scott and I were on a run together and I had a revelation — ISLAND is not a country, but IRELAND is!!!!!! Two things screamed through my head. First, I needed to find every single person at work who listened to that conversation to tell them I knew that IRELAND was a country. Second, if I really knew my geography, it would have easily occurred to me that these crazy-speaking people were talking about Ireland, not Island. UGH — I’m a dumbass. I asked a few of my co-workers to say “island” and “Ireland” consecutively. Guess what — it sounds EXACTLY the same. I now ask people to spell words that I don’t understand…

    1. Hey Heather – Thank you for sharing that embarrassing tale 🙂 That is definitely a good one and I can only imagine the stares of disbelief that you were getting at the time. Hopefully you cleared up the situation with your co-workers and even more importantly, hopefully they believed you and didn’t think that you just went online and found out about Ireland for the first time!!

      And having people spell words seems like a good idea from now on. Of course, the more time you spend with others who have different accents, the more you start understanding them a bit better. The problem is when you return home and people can’t understand you once you’ve picked up those accents…

  31. I needed a laugh and reading your post along with the comments was perfect. I know we aren’t trying to make fun of anyone, but I have been the butt of many jokes so I feel it is ok.

    But it is also sad in a lot of ways, like you said, that traveling abroad is such a foreign concept to some people.

    I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that they heard Costa Rica is a beautiful island. I usually don’t have the heart to make the correction…

    1. Hey Julia – I feel the same about correcting people. If someone asks, then I’ll happily answer. But otherwise I don’t want to point out to someone that what they said was incorrect for fear that it makes me seem a bit arrogant. I’d love to help but don’t want to make others uncomfortable either.

    2. As someone who lives in Costa Rica, I can relate. When I was at the dentist in the States this summer, the hygienist was quite interested. She asked me if I lived in a “normal house.” She thought everyone lived in huts, because of some program she saw. I spent the rest of the appointment explaining to her that Costa Rica, although somewhat less rich than other countries may be, is actually quite civilized…

      1. Hola Kelsey – All it takes is one television show and people think they know exactly how life works in other countries.And I guess if that’s someone’s only source of information, we shouldn’t be too surprised in the end 🙂

  32. I’ve had people look at me like I’m crazy for traveling to a certain place or living overseas, but I don’t think I’ve ever met someone quite that unfamiliar with a travel term! The most disturbing (/frustrating/funny…) travel-related conversation I’ve ever had was with my parents’ dental hygienist. I went in for a quick cleaning before leaving for Australia, since I’d heard dental care was expensive here, and the hygienist was really enthusiastic about everything he’d heard from my parents about my pursuing a degree abroad and my mostly-solo traveler lifestyle – he wanted to hear all about it, and told me he thought it was great and he wanted his daughters to get out and see the world before they settled down, too (my parents live in a very rural, conservative, married-by-23-or-you’re-a-spinster area). When I went back 7 or 8 months later for another cleaning on a trip home, he was checking my hand for an engagement ring (that’s not my assumption, he told me that’s what he was doing!) and wondering why I hadn’t “found a nice Australian boy to settle down with” yet. Apparently, my “great” travel experiences were just supposed to be a means of finding a husband, since I’m clearly on the shelf at the ripe old age of 26. I’m a little scared to get set foot in the dentist’s office on my next trip home…

    1. Hey Jessalyn – Yeah, maybe you should think twice before returning to that dentist! Or just wear a ring on your finger instead. But if you do that then he just might send his daughters out there to find husbands as well…at least he’s not your own father!

  33. It wasn’t so much a conversation, it was more a pick up line. Hey bonita! Except when I turned around the two ‘guys’ trying to pick me up were eight years old! Heard this week in villa de leyva, colombia.

  34. And I thought it was bad that none of my friends know where Hobart, Tasmania is…not that I knew much about it before moving to Australia! On a separate lost-in-translation incident, I was complaining to the girl doing my nails about Tiger Airways cancelling my flight and taking four to six weeks to refund my money. She thought I said 46 weeks, and was absolutely outraged. Once I realized the mistake, I didn’t have the heart to tell her I only had to wait a month, not a year!

    1. Hey Christine – For a moment I thought you were going to say that the girl thought Tiger Airways only transported tigers! But that is an amusing misunderstanding…and that’s the best way to handle it sometimes…to just let it go and nod in agreement.

      And I saw you’re headed to Tasmania…that’s the one place in Australia I have never been so I look forward to hearing about it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.