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14 Things That Make Travel Confusing As Fuck

Did you know that “spotted dick” is not a weird looking penis, but a British pudding? Or that the meaning of giving a clock in Chinese is equal to attending a funeral? Not only language can be baffling to travelers. Hand signs, traffic on “the wrong side,” time, money, nutrition, tap water, visas and other things can be extremely confusing, especially if you’re hopping countries and continents and collecting passport stamps from what your less traveling friends or family may call exotic places and your momma never heard of.

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1. Which way of life is the best?


You constantly evaluate which of life is the best. Is it individualism and materialism in the US which may get you rich? Will you be happy when you're finally rich? Or is the not-planning-every-day-out-to-the-last-second and being-happier-with-less attitude in developing countries. And if you like both, how can you combine them living in one place where everyone else does either or. This one is BY FAR the most confusing one of all!

2. Languages


Have you ever counted in how many languages you know words? And how many times has it happened to you where you say “Gracias” when you’re actually in Germany, or how many times would you love to answer with “Pura Vida” to someone who asks you how you’re doing. How many times have you only known a word in one language but for the life of you were not able to think of it in another, even your native language?

And if you think you know Spanish, try ordering “jugo de papaya” in Costa Rica vs. Cuba. In one of these countries, it means vaginal secretion. OOPS!

3. Tap Water


Now that’s really mean but happens frequently – have you ever been served tap water falsely advertised as bottled water? Or have you ever forgotten to use bottled water to brush your teeth or eaten veggies that were cleaned with tap water and then ended up with mad diarrhea (so much so that you may have even crapped your pants)? Don’t feel ashamed, most of us have been here! I'm just hoping for you that you were in a country where there's no lack of toilet paper or bum guns.

Also, you’ve asked yourself whether or not you can drink it to save money. Sometimes you also wished you had a water boiler, so you could quickly kill all the nasty bacteria.

4. Food


There are also several ways in which foods can be confusing to a traveler. We’ve talked about the weird looking penis already (too good not to repeat it).

Ugali or Fufu? Same damn thing!

Avocados, for example, (watch out, Californians, this one is going to make your eyes pop out and make you get up from your chair screaming) are given to pigs in Papua New Guinea and sometimes to dogs in some parts of Tanzania, for example! The Papuans may look at you weird eating avocados. YES, you’ve read that right! In return, probably the rest of the world is calling Melbourne's hipsters crazy because they thought it was cool to drink coffee out of an avocado!

And then - do you eat with your hands or do you use only spoons or forks? How do you put them on the plate to signalize that you're done/full? And are you sometimes still struggling to eat rice or noodles with sticks, too? Do you wait for a waiter to come with a jug, bowl and soap to wash your hands or do you go do that yourself?

5. Time


When Germans say a party starts at 7 p.m., you can be there 5 minutes early and it’s ok; it’s somewhat even expected. If you show up at a Latino or African function 20 minutes past the announced time, you’re going to help the hosts with setting up! So what’s expected in Thailand? Or Greece? Or Oman? Something in between? Confusion.

6. Measurements


Congratulations, US, you take the cake when it comes to confusing ALL of us, probably even your natives with 12 inches being 1 foot, and 5’10 being 70 feet, and 1 mile 5280 feet. I mean – WTF? And how much is an ounce anyway – or ¼ cup? And how did you get from lbs. (libra) to pounds (here’s the explanation)? Who decided that it was funny to confuse us even more? Geez. And, yes, I get it, Fahrenheit degrees are more precise, but why is the freezing point at 32°F and the boiling point at 212°F rather than 0°C and 100°C? Is it just me being an orderly German preferring the cleaner Celsius numbers?

7. Cultural Appropriation


While there’s the biggest outcry in the US about appropriating non-white cultures, other nationalities don’t put too much thought into it. I’ve spoken to a lot of Africans living in Africa who are totally fine with white girls wearing dreads or cornrows, for example. They just accept them as how they are and don’t think about how these white girls dress either. When I was asked to wear my designer friend’s African clothes and participate in a photo shoot with them, nobody interpreted anything into it. I mean – after all we should be liking or disliking each other for our personalities, right? However, if a Miley Cyrus uses black culture to gain success through it and then drops every association to it a few months later or a Rachel Dolezal deceives people, that’s a different story! So yeah – confusion level on 100!

8. Climate


You stay in tropical countries for a bit too long, where you don’t even need to wear a sweater or light jacket at night. Then you get to your next destination where it’s a comfortable 23°C during the day and suddenly, you may feel a tiny bit embarrassed to put on your thick sweater (or gloves even?).

Fun fact: If you’ve ever been to LA or Florida, you can see residents walking around in gloves, a beanie, and a winter jacket while all Midwestern transplants or tourist from cooler countries are enjoying the day in their shorts!

9. Clothes


There are two ways to feel confused about clothing: Sometimes, you don’t know what you can or cannot wear in a country, perhaps you have to skip the skirts and tanks to be respectful to the religion. And other times you packed too much or too little or packed for warm weather and it ended up being way cooler than you expected, so you had to buy new clothes.

10. Money


If you have two or more countries you call home, which currency do you convert back to if you’re in a third country? Having lived in both Germany and the US for a while, I constantly find myself converting from one currency to either USD or Euros, and then sometimes from that currency to Euros to USD or the other way around.

And are you constantly improving and impressing people with your calculation skills?

Also, how many currencies do you have in your wallet or stashed at home?

Don’t you love it when countries such as Costa Rice or Tanzania make you feel super rich because 3,000 CRC or 10,000 TSZ convert to about 5 USD. Or do you sometimes feel weird seeing that a 6 eggs cost thousands of whatever currency you’re using? Yup, you’re just as confused as I am.

11. Location


You know, this feeling when you wake up and you have literally NO idea where you are: in a hotel, in an Airbnb, in whose bed, and next to whom ( #noregrets ) yet alone – in which city or on which continent?! Probably one of the craziest and most disturbing, but at the same time most fun feelings ever.

12. Traffic


Do you look left or right before you cross the street? I’m sure you’ve (almost) gotten run over at least once, right?

Do you enter the car on the right or left side to drive it? Decisions, decisions.

Aren’t you embarrassed when you open the wrong door and your cab or Uber driver looks at you like “WTF – why are you getting in on the wrong side” or “Another one of these people…”

13. Hand Gestures


While a simple thumbs up is a sign of approval in the US, Australia, Canada, Germany, etc., it means “up yours” in an offensive way in Afghanistan, Iraq, West Africa, Latin America, Iran, etc. If you’re a rock’n’roller in the US or Germany, for example, you hold up your index finger along with your pinky but in Portugal, Spain, Brazil, Italy, or Columbia, someone is signaling you that your wife is cheating.

14. Visas


Admit it, there was at least one time when you thought your first-world-country passport is going to get you in anywhere without any problems or an overpriced visa fee but then you found yourself either paying way too much or booking a flight out of the country to another one because you were not able to enter the one of your choice. Bad planning or simply forgetfulness – shit happens. To all of us.

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