Culture = Courtesy

Recently I have had the privilege to do a bit of travelling. It has been a long time since I’ve venture out of my own country and the change of scene was much needed. Seeing as though it had been years since I had gone on holiday I went all out and decided to tick some things off my bucket list. So with that in mind I hit four countries in the Fareast, three of which I had always wanted to see. The fourth I’ve visited before.

Now sometimes you plan something so much and dream it so often that when the reality comes it never lives up to your expectations and in some ways that was true with this. However the over all experience out weighed any of the little bumps in the road.

People who have been to Asian will always tell you that it’s great. They will speak of the food, the culture, the music and so on. Very few people will ever say that it was bad, unless they have had some really unfortunate luck.

Let me tell you briefly about my experience.

So I left England for Singapore, a twelve and a half hour flight that I slept through most of. When I arrived the heat was a shock but very welcomed. I was in holiday mode which meant loads of optimism.

What I like to do when I visit someplace new is see it from the eyes of the locals, which meant I took the train to my hotel rather than a taxi. I’m no expert on the rail system in Singapore but the staff where quick to guide me always happy to help. As you can imagine I got a little bit lost once I reached the city centre although the locals guided me to where I needed to go. This was generally the attitude of everyone there.

Now I’m not going to give you a day by day, step by step, account of what happened so I’m going to highlight some key features.

Firstly I noticed that people had manners, a thing that is in rapid decline in the west. Then there was cleanliness to the city that showed how much respect people had for it. When I got lost, which happened a few times, people were happy to guide me and then what really made me smile was the attentiveness that I saw someone have towards a caterpillar that was on the pavement. She picked it up with a leaf and moved it to the side so no one would stand on it. I loved seeing that.

Then I moved on to Malaysia, a country I’ve visited before. The experience there was again wonderful with the exception of the odd pick pocket trying his luck, which was unsuccessful, the people were much like those in Singapore. Friendly, approachable and willing to help if called upon. It was here that I made my first set of friends, people that I just spoke to on the off chance and still do now that I’m home. Even though there is a language barrier at times we still make it work.

Stop number three. Tokyo. When I thank someone here in the UK I am lucky to be acknowledged. When I thanked someone over there they return it with ‘your welcome,’ and I really was. English is not a common language spoken in Japan, after all why should it be, but that doesn’t stop people from trying to help you when you are stuck. The people of Japan will go out of there way to do whatever they can to help you, guide you or even reassure you. It is clear from the way they say, ‘hope you enjoy your visit,’ that you know they mean it. Yes Japanese pop culture is a world away from mines here; with its anime, cosplay and funky cool street fashion; but I think it makes it better. People seem to work hard and play equally well whilst at the same time holding onto their tight historic culture.

One incident that occurred was when I was sitting at the metro looking at a map trying to find my way to a shrine. The gentleman that was sitting beside me asked if I needed any help and naturally living in the south of the England I was dubious to his intent. However the Scottishness came out of me and after a few moments of talking with him I realised that my fears were foolish. This kind man took us all the way to the shrine while talking to us about his life, asking about ours and telling us about the city. When it came time to leave I had realised that we hadn’t exchanged names so I asked after his and he gave me his business card. Looking down at it I could see that he was a very important manager from a notable local business. Now that would have been very unlikely to have happened here. We have exchanged contact details and become dear friends. I have also invited him to visit me the next time he is over in my neck of the woods.

The final stop was in South Korea. My first experience entering the city was being greeted by a police officer who informed me of the local emergency services that I might need during my stay. A little bit frightening when you have walked into a country for the first time although it’s nice to know that they like to look after tourist. In fact through the main part of the city tourist police and assistants are everywhere so you always have someone who can help you. Something a lot of countries could learn from.

As we were leaving the airport we wanted to catch the bus into the city so we asked a gentleman for some directions. Not only did he give them to us he also translated to the ticket officer our needs and bought our tickets. He wouldn’t take the money from us for them insisting that it was his gift to us for visiting his country. Such pride he had of his homeland was humbling to me. I have given him my details as well and hope we will meet again.

Now Korea was a bit of a mix bag for me. The men there I found to be wonderfully polite whereas some of the women lacked the customer service I had come to expect in the Fareast. I didn’t let it put me off as there were still many people, men and women; that were brilliant to meet. Again like the previous countries it was clear that the locals were pleased to have you visit their home land and wanted you to feel welcomed.

It was not only the friendly feeling I was given on my travels that touched me, it was also the level of respect that people had for one another. Clearly rooted deep down in their culture nurtured by strong values we can see how important the treatment of other people is to them. It is a lesson we can all learn from and something that I am holding dear to me today. I am so blessed with my travels as I feel that the characters I have adopted have shaped me into a better person.

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