The Olympics are over, and I’m sad. I actually miss following the events and reading about the athletes. The tradition started in 1988 when my mom woke me up to watch the opening ceremony. From the show to the camaraderie to the performances, I fell in love with the games. So every four years, I gear up for the artistry of the opening and closing ceremonies, and get ready to cheer (or boo) athletes from around the world.
This year, alongside the many records and history-making, Lochte Gate happened. And it brings up two things that every traveler deals with at some point: language barrier and showing respect.
The 32 year-old “kid”
Let me start by saying that I don’t have a sliver of sympathy for Lochte. He’s a 32 year-old man who acted a fool, got caught, and then decided to lie about what happened. His attitude reeks of “privilege”. And, as one writer puts it, Lochte portrayed the ugly American [tourist].
And journalists repeatedly called him a “kid”. As though being a kid is an excuse for this behaviour. Clearly, they didn’t grow up in the House of Douyon, where kids are obedient and doors don’t get kicked. But I digress…
So, back to language barrier and respect. Lochte and his companions showed a lack of the latter and can’t really fallback on the former. (In case you haven’t followed the story, someone volunteered to translate for them at some point.)
Lost in translation
Language barrier is real. If you get frustrated when you are unable to find the exact words in a language you speak fluently, imagine not being able to utter a single word your vis-à-vis will understand, and vice versa. Your levels of vulnerability and frustration increase tenfold. You only get to rely on signage, body language and ad-hoc sign language. I’ve been there. It’s challenging. It can be scary. But locals do show kindness. Remaining calm and cordial is key.
In my experience, people will reciprocate the respect you show them. This is not a full proof plan. If someone is out to get you, politeness may not be your best weapon. In all seriousness, name a country where kicking a door open or defacing a sign is acceptable.
All cultures do not show respect in the same way. But you don’t need to have in-depth knowledge of the culture you’re about to encounter, common sense is often enough. “Good morning”, “please” and “thank you” go a long way. I’m also adding “avoiding vandalism” to that list.
When you travel, you are a guest. And as such, you need to bring your best self on that trip. Leave your spoiled brat attitude home! And while you may consider yourself as a citizen of the world, remember that when in Rome, you must do as Romans do.
One of my friends jokingly welcomes guests by saying “faites comme chez moi” instead of the usual “faites comme chez vous” (the English equivalent to make yourself at home). His rationale: He has no clue how his guests behave in their own homes. My friend is right! Take Hubby and I for example. We don’t make our bed in the morning, yet we remind ourselves to do so when we’re visiting family and friends. We are well aware that we need to respect other people’s home. (The one time we didn’t—because we really felt at home. We got told. *insert monkey covering eyes emoticon* That’s how close we are to that person. There was no offence intended and none taken!) And this also applies when visiting a different country.
What Lochte and friends failed to understand is that even guests of honour must remain respectful and abide by the rules of the land.