4 Habits I’ve Stolen From Other Cultures

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For me, travel is about more than just a new set of surroundings.  It’s also about exposing yourself to new ideas and how people do things differently around the world.  Some things are more similar than different and other countries do some things better (and some things worse) than the United States.  Here are a few habits I’ve implemented in my own life after seeing the world.

Traveling exposes you to new ideas and new ways of doing things. I've stolen the best of the world for my own life in the USA.

The Paseo

I think Spaniards do it best: after dinner, they step out into the evening air with someone to take a leisurely stroll.  In Barcelona, the paseo might take you by the beautiful waterfront, but even though I don’t have the sea at home, it’s still a wonderful habit.

I love feeling the evening air change as seasons pass while Mike and I take a neighborhood stroll.  When we lived in downtown Richmond, our favorite walk was along Monument Avenue through the fan and then coming back on Grove Street, past gardens and old homes.  Now, our walk is through suburban subdivisions, but the conversation hasn’t changed.

The goal of a paseo is just about being out and socializing.  There’s no pressure, no major plans, and no focus on fitness (even though a walk is always good for you).  Next time you’re done with dinner, skip the TV and lace up your shoes.


The first few nights we were in Morocco, it drove me nuts that you couldn’t head to your hotel room until you had sat with a cup of mint tea to meet your hosts.  Now, arriving somewhere and having someone share local knowledge while you enjoy an arrival beverage is one of my favorite travel moments.

Travel can be stressful.  I don’t know how many delayed flights I’ve been on and I’ve definitely gotten lost while trying to find my hotel address.  The quiet moment before jumping right back into your day lets you reset and start over.  Whether it’s fresh orange juice in Cairo or local wine on the Eastern Shore, it’s a welcome gesture.

It’s also something that I’ve tried to do for friends and family who come to visit.  Show up at my house and there will be drinks and snacks waiting for you.  My mother-in-law was the best at that, being sure to have your specific favorites on hand.  I do my best to accommodate and I won’t be offended if after your quick drink, you’re ready to leave and explore.

Having friends and family come to visit is a bonafide special occasion worth celebrating.
Having friends and family come to visit is a bonafide special occasion worth celebrating.

Shopping at Local Markets

If you haven’t been to Guatemala lately, maybe you don’t know that supermarkets are pretty rare (and often not that great).  If you want produce, you go to the vegetable guy.  If you want meat, you go to the butcher.  If you want peanut butter, you go to the peanut farmer.

concha xelapan guatemala
This post will not admit how many “concha” rolls I ate in Guatemala.

That’s actually true in much of the world.  Even in Europe, there’s a lot more emphasis on small producers with quality food.  And even though I love Wegmans, I still do a lot of shopping at specialty stores and/or farmers markets.

This is partially because I’m a food snob that likes to know where my food comes from, what’s in it, and how it’s made.  It’s also partially because I like to support small businesses whenever that makes sense from a financial and quality standpoint.  I don’t do it every time, but it’s a habit I never would have started if I didn’t see how great it is in other parts of the world.


I never, ever used to bargain on the price.  It costs what it costs, and I’d either pay for it or not.  It was an all or nothing proposition.  Somewhere in Nepal, I was hit with that so-obvious-I-overlooked-it fact.  Locals try to squeeze extra pennies out of unknowing tourists.  There was no way that groceries at the corner market cost almost as much as they do at home, but there were no prices marked and the asking price was unrealistic.  It was time to make a deal.

So here’s the scoop with paying for things abroad: you’re best off knowing what something should cost and handing that (fair) price over.  As soon as you ask the price, you’re setting yourself up to pay too much, even if you do eventually bargain the price down somewhat.  If you’re uncomfortable just handing cash over and assuming they’ll accept it, start the conversation by firmly offering a price instead of phrasing it as a question.

Time to name your price.
Time to name your price.

But you can haggle in the United States, too.  Whether I’m hiring a locksmith for my new home or looking for a place to stay on Airbnb, you can always offer a different price.  They might not accept it, but a fixed price is less common than you think.  Use that to your advantage.

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What habits have you stolen from other cultures?  How has traveling changed your life at home?

10 thoughts on “4 Habits I’ve Stolen From Other Cultures”

  1. Great post! I love shopping at a market while traveling, but I never take the time to do it here. I’m trading convenience for quality, but I really enjoy the experience of shopping at a market. Such an excellent point about the haggling. I’m cringing thinking of the many times I have asked how much something was then countered with a fair price. Walked right into that one! I’ve learned from traveling avoid buying from a vendor or restaurant who are calling out to customers in the street. As I was told in Italy, if their products are that good, they don’t need to be calling you in off the street to try them.

    1. @Brandi, Good point about vendors calling you in from the street. I definitely avoid it most of the time. One exception: anytime you’re on a main square and looking for ambiance rather than food. Often, ALL of the cafes are looking for your business!

  2. Everyone should travel to another country, it makes us a little more about ourselves and others. I agree the haggling is something I still have a tough time with. We were just in Ireland and learned about getting and giving directions. Not every place has an address 🙂

  3. These are all great habits you’ve copied! I love the after dinner walk idea. I think it would be a great way to end the day and would get my kids away from the tv and into fresh air.

  4. I’m not sure I could haggle but it does sound like fun! I like the idea of Paseo too. I do like to take a casual stroll every evening.

  5. I LOVE this post! I travel all the time – literally. All the time. I’m rarely home. One of my favorite parts of traveling is seeing how other cultures do things and taking the parts that I like for my own use. It’s a great experience.

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