Being in a foreign country means that some things may be slightly different to what you’re used to. Travelling anywhere in the West means that you tend to find familiar things but in different languages. Common norms of behaviour are what amaze me the most. Particularly in America.
Everyday this week, on my way to work, I walked out of my hotel on O’Farrell street heading eastwards towards Stockton street which is where a lot of the main shops are. I passed numerous Starbucks and always found one or two beggars in front of each one. Anywhere in Europe, beggars tend to, well, beg for money. They may carry children with them to pluck at your heart strings. They may whine or even cry in an attempt to grasp your attention.
While this may work, it has the opposite effect on me. I hate being guilted into doing things and my standard approach is to wave my hand, shake my head and keep walking.
Here in San Francisco, the beggars tend to stay a respectful distance away. They watch the world go by and murmur a “Good morning” here and there to try and catch pedestrians’ attention.
As I walked past one such beggar, I shook my head and he called out to me, “That’s okay, sir, you take care now.”
It may sound unusual but this small touch of politeness made my day. I made it a point to give him some small change when I walked by the day after.
Bags packed and now I am on my way to the airport. A taxi picked me up in good time to get to San Francisco International Airport early enough to be able to check in and have a coffee before my flight to Dallas, Texas. The driver navigates the one-way traffic trying to find a suitable way to get to Highway 101. He attempts to drive through Union Square when someone cuts right across our path causing him to slam the brakes.
We were very close to a crash on what looks like a rather busy intersection. The other driver puts his car in gear and starts to inch forward.
My driver rolls down his window and calls out to him:
“Have a nice day, asshole!”
Local customs surprising you? Leave us a comment and tell us about it.
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