Snubbing the Compatriot

compatriotOne of the pleasures of travel is to broaden the mind beyond one’s little corner of the universe. Unexpected experiences await those without pre-determined expectations or rules, the kind who keep an open mind and cast away the comforts of familiarity.

Yet I have one rule which I follow rigorously when travelling abroad. I avoid fellow Australian travellers.

The deliberate evasion of my compatriots is a calculated snub on my part. Meeting another Australian away from home will inevitably result in the same inane exchange:

Them: Where are you from?
Me: Sydney.
Them: Me too! Where in Sydney?
Me: [geographical] area.
Them: No kidding! Me too. I’m from Y suburb!

To put it in context, I’ve just flown thousands of miles away from home, caught three consecutive trains to the top of the Jungfraujoch mountain in Switzerland. I’m standing at the top of Europe, taking in the spectacular views of ice and snow, and I’ve just met another Aussie.

I have seen nationals of certain countries meet and conglomerate but I have no desire to exchange insights, travel tips or points of view. There’s plenty of time for that kind of deliberation when I return home. My travels are an escape from the daily grind. Being reminded of life back home or the latest cricket score breaks the escapism and travelling mindset.

Meeting with compatriots abroad isn’t always a positive experience. London redefined the phrase “whingeing Pom” into “whingeing Aussie” when an expatriate girl on the train from Heathrow to central London complained aloud to her jetlagged friend about everything in London and how much better it was better back home. I was too embarrassed to speak to Mr G beside me in case my accent would give me away.

On a more recent trip, when I discovered that Lake Como was full of holidaying Australians, I kept quiet in their surrounds. In Tokyo, despite the curiosity for foreigners and their place of origin, I shunned the odd accent from down under.

In Paris, I walked past a group of Australian guys at Bir Hakeim métro station. Their football jerseys caught my eye just before I heard the Aussie “mate” call echo in the métro stairway. Later, I rubbed shoulders with world champion Mick Doohan and his press entourage in the lift of the Eiffel Tower. At the top level, the Australian accent wafted by as I was busy photographing every square inch of the breathtaking view. When a young couple asked me to photograph them, I first obliged with a smile then eventually replied by faking a foreign accent, an advantage of being fluent in a few languages. I did not wish to repeat the same frivolous exchange.

Over several trips, I have met travellers from many nationalities. Many were interesting people. Some have left indelible marks. Others were simply annoying. Yet each encounter has enriched the travel experience. Meeting a fellow national felt like a weekend away up or down the coast, a brief and local interlude that invariably made me yearn for distant lands.

When in Rome, London, Paris or anywhere outside your country, do you do as the Romans or do you seek the company of your compatriots?

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Snubbing the Compatriot was last modified: December 20th, 2015 by Corinne Mossati

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Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the founder and editor of Gourmantic. An avid scribe, she has taken pen to paper since the age of five. Her repertoire includes long works of fiction, short stories and travelogues. She is a winner of the GT travel writing competition, has judged the Australasian Whisky Awards and several cocktail competitions. She is also named in the Australian Bartender Most Influential List.

8 Comments:

  1. Interesting topic. Can’t say I’ve deliberately sought out my countrymen while travelling. I’ve had the odd exchange of where we come from as you mention on business trips. Much rather mix with the locals or other tourists then people from home.

    • Chris: Good point about business travel. I’d probably break my rule when it comes travelling for work. After all, it’s not a holiday!

  2. I would say that it’s a little of both for me. There are times when I prefer to immerse and not have fellow (and unknown, friends are different) Americans chatting it up with me. But on the flipside, there were points on my year trip that it was really nice to chat with another person and feel that connection to home, however ephemeral  :-)

    • Shannon: I’m interested if you feel the same way about long/RTW trips or any holiday in general. If I was taking a year off from work and travelling the world, I may feel the need for those connections, but not when I’m travelling for a couple of months or so.

  3. RT @Gourmantic: Do you snub your fellow compatriot travellers? Join the discussion http://bit.ly/7IAwPR #travel #traveltuesday

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  4. My god yes I can relate to this. I’d like to say I’d at least seen Anzac Cove… but the terrifying thought of exchanging bovine dialogue with overtly nationalistic, southern cross tattooed  bogans from  suburban Australia probably rules  that out forever.  There are parts of London I have avoided for the same reasons!

    • Dave: What you describe makes me cringe at the thought. While we tolerate such things at home (up to a point), in travel I believe we represent our country and therefore our actions can be judged by the host country.

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