What not to do when you travel to another country

10435070_10152346014383143_5684411763653682514_nA couple of weeks ago I was in Mataranka, a tiny town south of Darwin famous for its hot springs. Tourist spots like this draw people from all around the world and it’s not wonder with the clear, warm water and natural foliage draped overhead.

As we swam, I overheard a Swiss couple, probably in their mid sixties, speaking in German. Knowing that one of the greatest things about travelling is the opportunity to speak to people from all around the world, I struck up a conversation with them in German. My Aussie/German friend Nelly soon joined in, and we heard all about their trip around Australia.

Perhaps they felt comfortable with us, speaking their own language, but it wasn’t long before they were expressing some strong opinions about what they’d seen. Our country quickly came under attack as they expressed their disgust at the living conditions, treatment and segregation of our Indigenous people. They capped it off with a stinging assessment: They’d travelled all over the world, and never seen anything as bad as what they’d seen here.

Having just driven across the country feeling these same concerns myself, I felt chastised and ashamed but also annoyed at their condescension.

Despite all they may have seen, they had not walked a mile in our shoes. I was challenged to recognise the privilege it is to be welcomed in to a country that is not my own, and to accept what it offers, without handing out my judgements and criticisms.

4 comments on “What not to do when you travel to another country

  1. Love this. I too have been offended in the past by people from overseas showing disrespect for this nation. Visitors must realise that this is our home and thus, their opinions (sometimes based off of only weeks or or a few months experience) can be unfair, harsh and insensitive.

    • sarsrose says:

      I agree. I think people are entitled to their opinions, and that we can learn a lot from others, but you’ve gotta be so careful, especially when you’ve never lived in a country

  2. Rebecca says:

    Although you make a good point there is always room for improvement, & I think Australia has a long way to go in so many different areas! Outsiders have a whole different perspective, maybe they shouldn’t be so quick to judge but if there is some element of truth, Australia as a nation & us as individuals should respond in a positive way to their opinion & not be to proud! It’s sad that it’s so obvious to them the faults in & around our Indigenous people & culture even with the facilities, services & finances available to them all, especially compared to other places in the world! I personally would not to be to opinionated and critical when in another country, but maybe these people could see how lucky we are and where shocked at the state of different things!

    • sarsrose says:

      Thanks for your comment Rebecca. I totally agree. I think that Australia is far from perfect, and you’re right, we need to be willing to humbly embrace the perspectives of others. I was challenged though, by the way they did it. They came from a very naiive and limited veiwpoint, not having ‘walked a mile in our shoes’ so to speak, and spoke very strongly and critically. It really made me think about the way that I share my opinions when I’m overseas. It should always be done respectfully and with the acknowledgement that your perspective is only an outsider’s one.

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