Do Travelers Feel People are More Friendly?

I had a conversation with a participant of Fortune Brainstorm Conference about his recent visit to Asia, namely, Thailand, and China. He was filled with exaggerated excitement about the places he just visited. “I was overwhelmed by how friendly people are. Hey man, you just cannot imagine how friendly they are”.

Hmm… Is it true that travelers feel people are friendlier in foreign countries?

For me, for example, I genuinely feel people in the States are very friendly, and people in Sanya, Lijiang, or Daocheng are friendly to me. According to my personal experience, the statement seems to positive. There are for sure cases when people get extremely frustrated during the trip or mistreated, generally, people tend to agree that they love the people they meet when they are traveling. Why is that? How so?

Is it because that, when we are traveling, we are a nicer person ourselves? We live more in the present, instead of captured by the tendency to ignore people, and things around us. I cannot imagine smiling to everyone in a crowded metro cart, and I even cannot imagine smiling every time I see Wendy. However, when we are traveling, our heart is so open that we would rather be nicer to people around us, just for the sake of a better travel experience for ourselves. In return, most of the people will find travelers are often easier to handle.

Is it because the type of people we meet? When we travel, most of the people we meet are in the travel industry. Hotels, buses, taxis, gatekeeper of tourism places… Their professions are to be friendly, and make it a good experience for their customers – the travelers. I would say, they are in a happy industry themselves, with daily chance to meet with nice travelers (as I described in my previous guess). Altogether, that is a different world from our current daily routine.

Is it because the time? Time plays a role in people’s mood. I basically enjoyed every trip I had in the bay area, until one day, I was caught in a trafic jam. I was driven made by the slow moving of cars on CA-237 to Miltipas, CA. Then I felt people are not nice. I feel the anxiourity of the drivers around me. It was then that I realized my experience of the area is always in the non-rush hours. Travelers are different annimals. They don’t follow the 9 to 6 rymth of the city. When everyone is rushing into the downtown with barely cleaned face, and being hungry because they didn’t have the time to have breakfast yet, the travelers, in the contrary, is already well fed with nice continental breakfast (think about the berries, and omlette!), and on a nice coach to a place 50 miles away from the city. That makes huge difference to how people feel about the city, and the people.

There are many reasons that travelers feel people around them are friendlier, and I guess that is one of the reasons why people travel – to explore something new, and better than our current lives.

4 thoughts on “Do Travelers Feel People are More Friendly?

  1. jqian

    You got it right, these 3 factors you mentioned play a big part in how you feel:

    Your cheering mood makes you perceive the world in a more positive angle.

    You pay more attention to people in the new place -> basically, most people are geniunely nice when you pay attention to them.

    People in service industry is trained to be nice to visitors.

    The more people travel, the more people get the idea that everybody everywhere is basically the same. Most people are friendly and nice people.

  2. Robin

    Wonderful insights, Wang Jianshuo. To add a few comments:

    1. It is a polite way of praising the host country for a visitor to report the friendliness of its people.

    2. Travelers, especially the first time in a new country, may be wary, not expecting much friendliness, so when they are treated in a friendly manner, the contrast with expectation amplifies the experience.

    3. Even if only a tiny minority of the host country’s people treat the visitor with noticeable friendliness, these good experiences stand out and are memorable.

    4. When I travel and have extended stays in China, which I have been doing for more than 25 years, I rarely have contact with professionals in the travel industry. I still find many (Lao Bai Xing) ordinary people are very friendly and helpful. Many cultures, especially China, have a long tradition of treating guests in a friendly and generous manner. Even during rush hours on the Shanghai Di Tie people are occasionally friendly. (Of course, Putong Hua [even with mistakes] coming out of my foreign face might be an entertaining surprise.)

  3. Fabrizio

    This entry and the above comments certainly cover a big portion of this phenomenon. Sometimes I also wonder if they feel that their vacation needs to live up to the standard of those before them, and find it convenient to remember the folks who were welcoming instead of those who were not. I think in addition, we must emphasis two things. Time plays a huge aspect in that people on vacation are living in a temporary moment. Having a specified duration of time in which they will be in a certain region changes the way that they interact, in that they know that after a certain they will depart for home. It is almost as if there is nothing to loose in interacting with anyone that they meet.

    I also find that in many cases (Particularly China), visitors receive a very different treatment than natives. Beyond which, in some cases what is interpreted as friendly by one culture can be perceived differently by another.

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