How NOT to behave abroad

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by Tim Burdick on 13 July, 2014


The American

On Sunday, I was walking past Bohemian Bagel. When an older gentleman, in his late 50’s, tan face, sunglasses on his head, walked up to me and said, “Supermarket?” twice and pointed in the direction of Obecni Dum.

Personally, he confused me. I was wearing a blue t-shirt with a red “S.”
I wanted to say, “No, this is a ‘super man’ t-shirt.” But, he didn’t look like the joking type. So, I turned, “Yes, Albert is over there, next to Kotva” and pointed in the same direction.

Yes, I get the irony that the first person he stopped asked was his fellow country man.
Sigh, there should be a tourist class for Czech. No wonder Americans aren’t popular travelling overseas. As an English language teacher, I was bothered that he didn’t use a complete sentence. I spend considerable time trying to improve my Cz, so I don’t understand why people can’t master the basics: please. Excuse me, and thank you.

The Asian

A day later, on a tram heading home, a young Asian girl stopped me, “Excuse me, Is this Dlouha stop?”

“No, it is the next one.” I answered.

When the tram reached the stop, I motioned for her to exit. She thanked me. I pointed out Dlouha street.

She asked, “Where is Klimenska?” and showed me a map covered in Asian pictographs.

Luckily, I found the landmarks and walked her to the street. It had taken me no more than 5 minutes to show her kindness.

Why did I help her and not the American?

She asked complete questions and showed polite behavior while he gave me blank looks and one word questions.

Patience is also key. I have been in their shoes and have asked for help in both ways. Depending on how you treat people, you get what you give.

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