Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Travel&Dining > TravelBuzz
Reload this Page >

"Knowing" a country and judgments about it

"Knowing" a country and judgments about it

Reply

Old Jan 27, 19, 3:58 am
  #1  
Suspended
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Programs: Qatar, Turkish, Aeroflot
Posts: 546
"Knowing" a country and judgments about it

So, two things that I've noticed over the years:

1) I'm a reasonably quick traveller (and that's the way I like it, so please, refrain from advising me to slow down or whatever) in that I frequently spend 2-3 days in a city, or even country, and move on. A significant amount of the destinations involve the capital of a country; not always, but most. Too frequently, especially people from the west of the Atlantic, outright declare you 'can't get to know or the feel of a country' this way. However, I believe I can get a vibe for a place/country in such a short space of time, especially as I understand one city, even the capital, isn't always a fair representation of a country as a whole. It's quite rare I don't enjoy a place, or even a country as a whole, so I at least retain an open mind about things like this.

2) Related to this, it seems to me that people are quite happy to judge an entire country, or even region, based on visiting just one or two places, my husband being a prime example of this. Example - we went to Bolivia in 2017, only La Paz and Salar de Uyuni. Both of us suffered from altitude sickness, and even with just 3 days in the country, he made it clear he never wants to return to Bolivia ever again. This is despite not even knowing about the lower parts of the country, other ecological areas, etc. He also deemed Laos unworthy of ever going back to again despite only spending 2 days in the capital. Additionally, I also realise that people will judge cities/countries without ever having been there. Case point - I lived in Birmingham for 7 years and many people from the UK I knew who didn't come from or live there would say "I hate Birmingham" "Why?" "Just don't like it" "Have you ever been?" "No/I've been to the NEC/New Street station" "..." - not exactly fair, is it?


What are your thoughts on these issues?
GadgetFreak and strickerj like this.
ilcannone is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jan 27, 19, 8:11 am
  #2  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Canada
Programs: UA*1K, BA Silver, Accor Plat, Marriott Gold, Carlson Gold, Hilton Gold
Posts: 20,273
You can probably get to know Liechtenstein in 3 days pretty well.
I would never say I 'know" Russia after 3 days in Moscow, or China after 3 days in Beijing.

I lived in four countries for 1+ years - and I still dont think I can claim to "know" the place, even though I have a much better feel what the Bahamas is really about compared to the average resort dweller/cruiser.
rankourabu is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jan 27, 19, 8:22 am
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: London & Sonoma CA
Programs: UA 1K MM, Hertz PC, BAEC Bronze
Posts: 7,561
I don't think you can really know a country until you have lived there for at least a couple of years - or perhaps own a property there and visit for several weeks or months a year. Because part of knowing a country is understanding its culture, and much of that is simply not revealed to the casual traveler.
GUWonder, farci, Scots_Al and 1 others like this.
lhrsfo is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jan 27, 19, 9:07 am
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Ontario, Canada
Programs: Aeroplan
Posts: 4,365
You can only know what you've experienced but should keep an open mind. My opinion of South Africa improved immensely after I got out of Johannesburg and into the rural areas. The reverse happened in Armenia after spending a few days in Yerevan and subsequently visiting other regions.

It also depends why you are in a place. If I've only visited a city on business I can only tell you what it's like to do business there not what the rest of the country is like. What frequently amuses me are people who have visited a port on a cruise and are instant experts on the place. Certainly they have more experience than people who've never been there but not much.
84fiero likes this.

Last edited by Badenoch; Jan 27, 19 at 9:19 am
Badenoch is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jan 27, 19, 9:09 am
  #5  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: LHR/SFO
Programs: 1K, *G, Global Entry, Hertz PC
Posts: 15,072
They're right about Birmingham.
Silver Fox is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jan 27, 19, 10:11 am
  #6  
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Long Beach, CA
Programs: AA PLT, Hilton Diamond, IHG PlatAmb, Marriott Gold, Hyatt Discoverist, Radisson Gold
Posts: 2,570
People have lived in the US all their lives and probably still don't "know" it - unless they've wandered out of their respective local bubble/geography.
FlyerEC and anniegray like this.
OskiBear is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jan 27, 19, 11:22 am
  #7  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Programs: statusless these days
Posts: 19,234
Originally Posted by Badenoch View Post
You can only know what you've experienced but should keep an open mind. My opinion of South Africa improved immensely after I got out of Johannesburg and into the rural areas. The reverse happened in Armenia after spending a few days in Yerevan and subsequently visiting other regions..
What was it about Armenia outside Yerevan?
YVR Cockroach is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jan 27, 19, 2:30 pm
  #8  
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: LAX
Programs: AA PLT / 2MM
Posts: 1,642
IMHO, it's perfectly fine -- and good -- to pass judgment on city based on a short visit to the capital. And giving such opinions is very helpful to other travelers hoping to do the same thing. But I wouldn't proclaim to "know" the entire country.

I recently posted a trip report about 3 days in Kathmandu that was fairly critical -- Trip Notes: Three Days In Kathmandu . Any time you say anything negative about a destination, you're bound to get people rushing to defend that destination. My trip report predictably drew such responses. As I said in that thread,

The point I'm trying to convey is that a brief visit to the capital isn't going to be a magical experience for most people. We've made brief stops in other countries' capitals, and have had wonderful experiences. For us, KTM just wasn't such a place. (In contrast, Dhaka *was* -- see my TR here: Trip Notes: Three Days In Bangladesh .)


Plenty of FTers make brief visits to countries, only to visit their capitals for a short stopover, for various reasons (boondoggle after a business trip, not much time to travel, country counters, wanting to scope it out for a future visit, etc.). I hope that my report offers people one opinion about what to expect from this sort of brief visit to KTM.
I think this addresses your question. You are certainly entitled to hate Laos after two days there, as long as you candidly and objectively explain why you hated it. Every thoughtful opinion is a useful data point to someone else thinking of a trip.
LAX_Esq is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jan 27, 19, 2:34 pm
  #9  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
2019 FlyerTalk Awards
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Berlin, Germany; Toronto, Canada; and SW Florida, USA
Programs: UA 1K, BA Gold, Hyatt Globalist, and assorted others
Posts: 21,699
Maybe Iím missing something deep, but isnít your statement 1. in conflict with your statement 2.?
travelmad478 likes this.
LondonElite is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jan 27, 19, 8:53 pm
  #10  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Pittsburgh
Programs: MR/SPG LT PLT, AA LT PLT, HH GLD, UA SLV, Avis PreferredPlus
Posts: 23,981
I believe I can get a vibe for a place/country in such a short space of time, especially as I understand one city, even the capital, isn't always a fair representation of a country as a whole.
Isn't this statement in conflict with itself? You feel you can get a "vibe" for a country but know it's probably wrong?

IMHO, "knowing" a country is a meaningless phrase anyway.
CPRich is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jan 28, 19, 2:11 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 293
I lived in Japan for four years, have lived in the UK for 25 years, and have visited many countries for shorter periods of time.

It makes a big difference how different the countries are. Comparing my native NZ to Japan and the UK, the UK is considerably more similar, in pretty much all ways, to NZ than Japan is. It look me years to get an understanding of Japan that wasn't being wrong-footed by mistaken impressions, and over the last few years my understanding stabilised. With the UK, I found it was pretty easy to understand the country, and after a while many people don't realise that I'm not English until I tell them. I fit in.

To understand a country, it's necessary to speak the local language. Otherwise you'll never learn about the country and people to any significant depth. You'll only see the projection of the country through English or other common language, which is a very different thing.

Recently I spent two weeks in Iran. While I'd studied up about the country ahead of time, it was clear that I was only scratching the surface. It was enough to dispel some misunderstandings I had of Iran, but nothing like a deep understanding. I've continued reading books (e.g. Iranian history, about Shia Islam) and asking questions since then. It's clear that there's still a lot to understand. The more you know, the more that you know that you don't know. At least with a short trip.

As an example, I completely misunderstood how gender segregation works in Iran. E.g. I was very surprised to find that sleeping compartments on Iranian night trains are mixed gender. And even having been warned, it was still a bit of a shock to see it in reality. As an example of such shock, one time I went to the gents toilet and there was a woman in there adjusting her headscarf in the mirror. I was so shocked that I turned around and ran out. (Actually physically ran). I assumed that I had walked into the ladies' toilet and that this might be a serious error in Iran. However, when I got out I could see that the sign definitely said 'Gents', but that was definitely a lady in there. When she came out, it turned out that she spoke English, and she explained that the Ladies' was out of order, so they had been asked to use the Gents. And that this was OK. She thought my reaction in running out was hilarious. That I had quite a lot of such misunderstandings while in the country shows that I don't understand it. I was learning a lot, but it would take a lot, lot, longer than I had to gain a proper understanding. Iran is I think relatively hard to understand both because the culture is different, and complex, e.g. the tension between the more and less religious sections of society. But, also because of the amount of misinformation about the country that seems to be widely spread.

Like some posters above, I get annoyed about people who visit a country for a short while and are immediately experts. Giving first impressions is fine, but to claim a deep understanding of a country based on a few weeks, let alone a few days, is unreasonable. I'm reminded of the book that George Mikes wrote about Japan where he dismissed what long-term residents of Japan said, based upon the authors short experience. Having lived in Japan for a while when I read the book, I was of the opinion that the long-term residents were right, and that Mikes had an over-simplistic, and sometimes even plain wrong, understanding.
B747-437B, lhrsfo and ajGoes like this.
OccasionalFlyerPerson is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jan 28, 19, 2:39 am
  #12  
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: MAN
Programs: FB Platinum
Posts: 411
I didn't get along with Lisbon on my first visit, a 4 day break in which so many things went wrong. A non-working aircon (it was a particularly hot and sweaty September weekend), surly staff in the hotel, my old metatarsal injury flared up because of the distances we had to walk to get transport, poor food, etc. Then 2 years later I had occasion to visit the city for a 2nd time (a European Cup football match) and warmed to the place a little so I decided to try a proper full week to explore... and now it's my favourite city of all those I've visited - and I've been to a lot of outstanding places over the years. I had a similar poor view of Singapore but now enjoy myself there too. So, I don't believe you can appreciate any place on first viewing and certainly not get a feel for a whole country based on one city. It helps to know a place by getting to know locals in my experience. Before I go to a new city I ask my FB friends if anyone knows someone in my intended location and usually someone does then make the connections for me.

I've lived in the UK all my life (almost 60 years) and I still don't understand this place let alone any other country. Then again, the UK is a basket case...
ajGoes likes this.
rosensfole is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jan 28, 19, 3:43 am
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: London & Sonoma CA
Programs: UA 1K MM, Hertz PC, BAEC Bronze
Posts: 7,561
Originally Posted by rosensfole View Post
Then again, the UK is a basket case...
A classic example of understanding a country and its culture. If someone from the UK says that to someone from the UK, it means one thing, whereas it means something totally different to most of those from outside the UK.
GUWonder, :D!, strickerj and 1 others like this.
lhrsfo is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jan 28, 19, 4:36 am
  #14  
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 293
Originally Posted by lhrsfo View Post
A classic example of understanding a country and its culture. If someone from the UK says that to someone from the UK, it means one thing, whereas it means something totally different to most of those from outside the UK.
Can you please explain. One of the first things I was told when I arrived in the UK, in a very formal session of staff training not aimed at people new to the country, is how negativity is a major part of British culture. In that the immediate response to suggestions is often that 'it can't be done'. And, anticipating and handling that can be an important part of living in the UK. I still think so. It doesn't happen all the time, but often enough to be a necessary skill for living here.

When I first turned up, people told me that the country was 'shabby', but it isn't really. Though, certain recent events seem to be the UK shooting itself in the foot to make it a basket case even when it doesn't have to be.

Though, I know better than to mention some of these things. Now that I have, it's quite possible that I will get attacked for saying this. Oh well.
OccasionalFlyerPerson is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jan 28, 19, 4:49 am
  #15  
 
Join Date: Apr 2016
Location: BNA (Nashville)
Programs: HH Gold, Marriott Gold
Posts: 1,739
The more I travel, the more questions I have.

There are untold places I still want to visit.

There are places I don't feel the need to return to but could still have a good time if I did.

There are few places I don't WANT to return to.

There are a few places I don't WANT to visit.

There are a couple of places I am seriously thinking of moving to because I liked them so much.

You be you.

Go fast, go slow, whatever you want to do. Its not a race, nor is it a competition.

But if your husband doesn't want to go back, that's his prerogative as well. It isn't up to anyone else to say whether its valid.
strickerj and skywardhunter like this.
bitterproffit is offline  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Search this Thread