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JLeslie's avatar

When you travel outside of your country, are you always aware you are not there?

Asked by JLeslie (54508points) April 7th, 2012

Does it ever leave the back of your mind that you are not in your country? I don’t mean the architecture or the language, I mean a sort of gnawing feeling that things are just a little different, or you have to be a little more on your toes, or if something went wrong you want to be able to get back to your country.

If you live in a big country like the US, Russia, Mexico, etc. does it feel that way even if you are just 1000 miles away from your home, but still in your counry? What if you live in a rather small country like Italy or England, but are part of the European community? Do you feel at home in any European country that belongs?

I figure a lot of it depends on an individuals personality, and how often they travel. Anyway, I was curious to hear the collectives thoughts on it. Feel free to expand on how it feels to you when you travel, what you worry about, if it feels foreign, if you feel at home and like a citizen of the world, or even if it feels odd to you just to be two hours from home even in your own country.

Let us know what country you live in.


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14 Answers

Ron_C's avatar

I travel across the U.S. and around the world. Traveling a thousand or two thousand miles from my home doesn’t feel alien to me. I have noticed that I can go to California and feel right at home but when I go to someplace like Oklahoma or Mississippi, I feel a bit out of place. It seems that narrow minds make me feel uncomfortable.

When I am in India, China, Singapore, or anywhere in Europe, I am aware that I am in someone else’s country and that I must defer to their standards. I find that I am uncomfortable with the whole European Union thing. It seems strange that a guy from Greece can just walk into any European country without a passport.

I especially like working in China because the workers and engineers have the same “can do” attitude that I learned while in the Navy.

Blackberry's avatar

Yes, except it’s not a feeling of worry, but instead a feeling of wonder and adventure. I felt an actual freedom knowing that I was away from everything, kind of like being a new person.

cookieman's avatar

I feel a sense of relief and excitement. Never trepidation.

thorninmud's avatar

On a psychological level, I think this awareness of “being out of your element” correlates to cognitive effort. In other words: in this environment, I find that my intuitions about how to function aren’t reliable enough to allow me to just wing it. I find that I have to think about everything instead of relying on my intuition. This requires cognitive effort, which is vaguely uncomfortable and gives me a feeling of having to be vigilant or bad things will happen. I can handle that for awhile, but it eventually gets tiring.

People like to feel at ease, cognitively speaking.. If you can adapt quickly enough to a new environment that your intuitions start working for you again, then this relieves some of that cognitive load and you’re less likely to long for a more intuitive environment. But some people have a very hard time making that adaptation.

Blackberry's avatar

@thorninmud Yeah, that’s why some people shouldn’t solidly plan every hour of their vacation. I’ve had fun by finding it.

john65pennington's avatar

I always feel out of my element, when traveling. This is why I make sure to communicate with the local police, when there. I generally stop one on the street and attempt to make friends. Believe it or not, police officers are the same around the globe.

I would say the friendliest officers were in Italy. I was fortunate enough to run into an Italian police officer that spoke pretty good English and so no communication problems there.

You can go and you can travel, but there is no place like home.

marinelife's avatar

Oh, yes. The differences give a feel of otherness.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

What an interesting question. Yes, 99.9% of the time I am aware of not being in the US. It’s the constant little reminders that keeps the thought on the surface. For example, we just got back from a week in Munich, Germany. It didn’t take long to learn that restaurant etiquette is very different. By Day #2, I looked it up on the internet to find out what exactly was going on and how to act accordingly.

Even when staying with the SO in England for extended stays (this last one was four months), the feeling still doesn’t go away. Just in the comfort of our home, there are constant reminders. Recipe measurements are different, outlet plugs are bigger, there aren’t any electrical outlets in bathrooms, TV shows and commercials are alien, local phone numbers are six digits, and even the house keys are shaped differently. It’s all very curious and are constant reminders that I’m in another country.

In most cases, I’m not too concerned about safety. The only time that this was the case was in Morocco. It is experiencing some political unrest, so there were plenty of warnings posted on travel advisory sites. About a month after we were there, a bomb was detonated in the most popular tourist attractions…a place we frequented.

@thorninmud sums it up well. While I thoroughly enjoy the adventure and learning, it is mentally exhausting by the end of the day when in a different country. Here in the US, it hasn’t been an issue at all, no matter where it is.

Judi's avatar

The only place I went where I felt completely at home and could have stayed forever was Israel.

Sunny2's avatar

I’m always very aware that I’m not at home and I’m excited about it. I don’t start missing home until after 3 weeks or so, although I was in Europe once for 3 months. But that was before I had a family. The places I was most extremely aware I was someplace else was in the Cairo airport and in Samarkand.

Coloma's avatar

I’m a clone of @Sunny2

I am so excited and taking in all the sights, sounds, smells, food, and negative thoughts don’t enter my mind. When I was in Asia 2 years ago it did cross my mind in some really remote areas, briefly, that a medical emergency would be high risk. This only came to mind after I ran into a Bamboo Viper in the forests of Taiwan, hundreds of miles from any main city with medical care.

Oh well…I’d rather die of a Viper or Cobra bite in a jungle than to be smeared on the side of the freeway. lol :-)

GoldieAV16's avatar

This was not an experience out of country, but we were in Hawaii on 9/11 when Al Qaeda attacked. All I wanted was to get home and be back with family and friends, especially since so little was known at first about what was going on. We were grounded there for three days, and by then we knew that our loved ones were safe, but were still reeling from the tragedy and very happy to get home. I thought I might feel weird getting on a plane so soon after 9/11, but I felt fine, and I’ve felt fine with travel ever since. I love getting away, and I love coming home.

flutherother's avatar

I’m from Scotland and I am aware I am in a different country as soon as I cross the border into England. As soon as I open my mouth people know I am not English and we have terrible trouble spending Scottish pound notes. Scotland and England may appear similar but I feel far more comfortable up here. I felt more at home in the United States.

The greatest culture shock was India, I was never in any doubt I was in an alien land when I stayed there. Everything was different, the weather, the food, the landscape, the customs, the history, the religion yet the people were very friendly and kind to strangers and made me feel welcome.

blueberry_kid's avatar

Well, only when I landed in Spain, and not back home in Ohio.

Otherwise, sometimes. Because I was in Mexico one time, and I went to my aunts house, talked to my family and everything, but I walked outside to the gas station, but I totally forgot I wasn’t in Cincinnati anymore, and ended up at some tatoo shop. I felt silly, but it just hadn’t dawned on me yet that I wasn’t home anymore!!! Even after a 7 hour flight.

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