Travelling is so mind opening. I had a robust conversation with a stranger about how you can think deeply about all the world’s problems, but you lose a level of perspective without travelling, and literally seeing things from another nation’s perspective. Book smarts just cannot compare to being immersed! I notice the tiniest things, the things that interest or appeal to me. Usually things related to infrastructure – electricity, and waste & recycling… those sorts of things.
Here’s my thoughts on countries, in no particular order:
Holland/Netherlands: bike riders, great English speakers, friendly but somewhat… odd (it’s hard to explain), quaint flat country. Great stroop waffles 🙂 (on average) tall! beautiful country or village homes, land of tulips, clogs, Gouda cheese, many an EU treaty
Iceland: tiny population, stunning landscape, otherworldly, cheeky sense of humour, renewable energy superstars, puffins, wool, specific Icelandic horse breed.
Germany: efficient, incredibly rich innovation history (thinking BMW and Mercedes AND Audi, and there’s probably more), trains run on time (confirmed!), such a strong economy – which can match the ‘look’ of people. Known for beer (not my thing).
France: great food, strong culture (ie less likely to lapse into English!), sense of style and fashion but also into garish bright colours, socialist structure even to their financial detriment, strong sense of what’s due and striking
Italy: great food, beautiful Venice – masks. Cheap for a croissant and coffee for breakfast, but generally too
Russia: unfriendly, cold people, interesting ‘look’ in people, dressy for day to day, amazingly ornate buildings and purely functional buildings, little ‘tourist’ focus compared to other nations, expansive
Romania: hot! friendly and open, laid back, rough around the edges with graffiti and aging buildings,
Bosnia: hilly, tragic recent history, a country trying to forget and heal, diversity of being the cross roads of Europe – three faith groups, underdeveloped, real sense of diaspora
Ireland: drinkers, pretty green lands, expensive (surprisingly!), religious, friendly and humourous
England: very like Australia, but with richer history and a stronger Indian etc population and influence, first stop for almost every backpacking Aussie!
United Arab Emirates: wealthy, showy, recent growth and development, huge migrant population for almost all ‘lowly’ work, want for nothing (ie every global company that may have consumers is here), intense and ambitious plans for the future
Egypt: ancient culture and history, very protective of females (I needed an ‘escort’ to walk the streets in the evening), strong push to sell to tourists, incredibly hot in June, sandy, Coptic christians but largely Muslim
Morocco: may be seen as africa to others, but more muslim leaning aligns it with the middle east, snake charmers, red buildings and alleyways
Israel: strange to call in Middle East as it has such a strong non-Arab/Muslim identity, fierce people, strongly nationalistic, Jewish, hilly, rocky, diverse – green hills to the north and barren rocky desert elsewhere, salty sea vs most fertile sea, being in country changed how I felt about the place, and it’s history and it’s displacement of others,
Turkey: Istanbul – modernised Muslim culture, beauty beside the water, ornate tiling, chewy ice cream
Canada: nice above all else, maple syrup, moose, French speaking corner, intensely cold weather (though I did visit in summer!)
USA: huge portions, friendly and attentive service staff, sassy migrant populations, unhealthy food, low prices, tipping culture, cheap petrol/gas, driving nation
Bahamas: felt like an American outpost, strange lack of authenticity (I stayed a night though), stunningly pretty beachy locale
Cuba: intensely warm and humid, run down, old world patina, contrast of new Asian car brands to the known large American cars of yesteryear, cheap rum and mojitos, music in their blood – saw a band at a small beach, ho hum food
Indonesia: Bali – party hub for Aussies, mainly Muslim but Hindu island with offerings almost everywhere, including on footpaths, trash ridden, very tourist focused,
Malaysia: (from layovers only) Kuala Lumpur Muslim with a distinct fashion in head scarves different to other Arab nations,
Singapore: restrained, strongly policed (socially and actually), wealthy, steamy, limited land mass
Thailand: Phuket x 2, Bangkok x 3? beautiful curly script, steamy, orchids, party destination for backpackers, strong penalties for foreign drug crime, huge sex tourism, lady boys,
Laos: Vientiane – crippled or fledgling, strong French overtones from former colonisation, quiet, sleepy, slow
Hong Kong: in 1993 – Chinese but English speaking and overtones from occupation, use of migrant labour for child care
Japan: strong culture, precise, exact, miniatures, infantile/childish interests, strong cartoon culture, cutesy, volcanic nation with hot springs and a ‘bathing’ culture, anti tattoos, delicious food, raw fish, sea or fish based diet, strong sense of community, challenging to visit for an English speaker without assistance