3 Tips for Surviving Southeast Asia

I recently spent about two years traveling around Southeast Asia; while this covers a diverse range of countries and people, I found that individual elements are very similar between the different areas and that I had similar experiences in each of the countries. This is my favorite part of the world, and I will be headed back there soon. But, like any international travel experience, there are some frustrations you may encounter. I wanted to discuss a few here, and my tips for handling them, and enjoying your trip to the fullest.

Get Used to Being Overcharged

Wealth is a relative concept; sure, you may not be wealthy in your home country of the United States, Australia or Canada, but to many of the people in this part of the world, you are. After all, you had the money to fly to another country, pay for a hotel and do a bunch of cool stuff. Compared to the money many of these people live on, you are rich, no two ways about it. While we may think the idea of having to pay more for something because we have more money to give seems unfair, in this part of the world, this makes perfect sense. You will be overcharged—you can bargain if you like, but you still will be paying more. Don’t take it personally; do not haggle the people to death. Give up a couple of extra bucks; you can afford it. Keep perspective. If being charged ‘’twice the price’’ translates to 5 dollars instead of 2.50, it is hardly a tragedy. These people are not evil cheats; they are just trying to take advantage of an opportunity when they see one.

Learn to Be More Patient

One of the things I noticed about many people in this part of the world, regardless of the country I visited, was that people seemed to be a lot more relaxed; they just moved more slowly and did not appear to be in a rush, ever. I envied them; coming from New Jersey, where everyone is busy, busy, busy, I discovered on this trip that I was a pretty impatient person. If you walk into a restaurant or some other establishment, and the person is busy doing something else, it is likely they will not even acknowledge you until they are ready to deal with you; we may take this for being rude, but it isn’t. You may wonder why it takes 45 minutes to get your food when you are the only person in the restaurant, but it is what it is. Things just move at a slower pace.

You Will Catch More Flies with Honey than Vinegar

You are probably familiar with the concept of ‘’face’’ in Eastern cultures, and it is essential to keep in mind when dealing with people in this part of the world. While many Westerners may be used to the idea that the customer can throw a fit when something does not go his way, and that the other person should move heaven and earth to make him happy, in my experience, it does not work that way here. It is not acceptable to yell and berate a waitress or the receptionist at the hotel front desk. Embarrassing them in front of others is a big no-no, and they are unlikely to bend to your will. It is not the way to go about getting what you want. Always be friendly; a smile will get you far.

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