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Question of the Month: July

What culture felt most different to you from your own?

Posted on 7/25/2017 12:25:00 PM in Question of the Month

Several of our readers cited the Himalayan Buddhist culture of Nepal as the most different they’ve ever experienced.

Immersing yourself into the culture of the country you’re visiting is all part of the experience. Sometimes we travel to places where everyday life is noticeably different than what we’re used to, so this month, we asked our readers: which culture have you experienced that felt the most different from your own?

Notice the difference between Mongolia’s culture and your own when you join O.A.T. for Mongolia & the Gobi Desert.

A Simple Life

I recently returned from Mongolia where we spent time with the nomads, and I can't think of a culture more different than theirs. They have a subsistence way of life; living in a ger with all their belongings, raising their livestock from which they get food and clothing, and moving from place to place to find needed resources. It is a hard life, but what struck me was the beautiful simplicity of it. We, here, are so caught up in the whirlwind of technology, geopolitics, and one-upsmanship, we forget the joy of being in nature and the community of family ... that's real living.

Thanks to: Elizabeth K., 9-time traveler and 4-time Vacation Ambassador from East Dorset, VT • Mongolia & the Gobi Desert

Experience Cuba’s culture and family-run paladares with O.A.T. during Cuba: A Bridge Between Cultures.

Cuba, the Contrast

Having traveled to several Eastern Europe countries that showed architecture and social traces of communist dominance, Cuba was a contrast. It is the only currently dictatorial state I've visited. Comparing the plush life of tourists in lovely buses and hotels with the "barely there" existence of the average Cuban was stark. The family-run paladares demonstrated a step by government toward capitalism.

Fascinating country! The hand of government control still exists everywhere.

Thanks to: Carl M., 11-time traveler and 7-time Vacation Ambassador from Whitinsville, MA

Trek through the foothills of the Himalayas and meet the Nepalese people with O.A.T. during Nepal & the Mystical Himalayas.

Content in Nepal

In the seven international trips that my wife and I have been on so far to four other continents, undoubtedly the place that felt the most culturally different from our own U.S.A. was the country of Nepal that we toured with O.A.T.

It was fascinating seeing all of the Hindu temples and Buddhist stupas along with the numerous other ancient buildings in Katmandu. Our trekking and rafting trips through the beautiful Himalayan foothills were also very revealing in showing us how the typical Nepalese country people lived when far from roads, having to walk distances and cross hanging bridges just to get to school or a town. In spite of living in one of the poorest countries in the world, the people seemed to have a sense of contentment about them. I guess having a belief in karma helps.

Thanks to: Paul G., 5-time traveler from Rockville, MD • Nepal & the Mystical Himalayas

Join O.A.T.’s Inside Vietnam adventure and bring back a set of your own unforgettable memories.

Marvelous Vietnam

I recently did the Inside Vietnam trip. It was the first time I had ever been in a primarily non-Christian culture. Although a communist country, religious practices are allowed in Vietnam. I found the tenets of Buddhism and Confucianism fascinating. Even though our guide claimed these are not religions, I saw a lot of worship going on.

Another extreme difference was the custom of living, working, playing, and eating on the sidewalk. This was especially true in Hanoi. It was fun to walk through a barber shop that consisted of a mirror hung on the fence and a chair in front of it. The traffic there was incredible. There are very few traffic signals. The drivers and motorcyclists simply weave their way through the intersections. It's even more fun if you are a pedestrian. This was a marvelous trip and I loved every moment of it.

Thanks to: Suzanne W., 3-time traveler and 2-time Vacation Ambassador from Modesto, CA • Inside Vietnam

Get to know the Indian people and their culture with O.A.T. during Heart of India.

Unusual and Wonderful India

The most different culture I experienced was about 12 years ago in India.

The lepers living on the streets; the cattle and other animals roaming the city streets; the unbelievable architecture of the rajahs, some known and others, little known; riding around with a Sikh as our taxi driver who stopped along the way to try to exchange U.S. money for Indian; there were so many unusual and wonderful experiences.

Thanks to: Marilyn M. 4-time traveler from The Villages, FL

Witness everyday life in Nepal and experience the culture for yourself with O.A.T. during Nepal & the Mystical Himalayas.

Culture Shock

About ten years ago, I visited Nepal on a Friendship Force exchange and lived with a family about an hour by bus outside Katmandu. In the tourist world of Nepal, things are not so different from any other third-world Asian nations, but once inside a family's home, the differences are astounding.

First and foremost are the daily power outages that occurred on a “rolling” schedule. As a result, people no longer used their refrigerators or relied on electricity. Candles were the norm in the evenings. There were no home computers and unused TV sets were pushed in a corner against a wall. Newspapers were abundant as daily news sources. All food prep was done by hand, including grinding rice for flour. Cooking was done on kerosene or propane stoves not much larger than camping stoves, despite the kitchen having a western-style range.

Some people in my group lived with families without running water and had to pump it from an outside well. I was more fortunate, although the only running water was cold. Showers were rudimentary—little more than a spigot and a hose, and squat toilets were the norm. The family I stayed with was their equivalent of “middle class” and had had many comforts, but without reliable electricity, were living a 19th century existence. Since the massive earthquake I've wondered how much worse their lives have become-unfortunately, I had lost touch with them. While with them, I visited a nearby Hindu temple almost daily and participated in some of their very strange festivals and observances, including ritual slaughter of small animals and also avoiding having paint thrown all over us. Definitely culture shock 101.

Thanks to: Martha S., 7-time traveler from Simsbury, CT

You don’t need to wait for a new Question of the Month to tell us a story. Email us any time at harriet@gct.com. To read more stories from your fellow travelers, check out our archive of Traveler Insights from previous editions of The Inside Scoop.

See the answers to previous Questions of the Month here.

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