Do you look for fellow countrymen when you travel?

One of the best parts of traveling to unknown lands is meeting people from a culture that is not your own. However, it is inevitable that I look out for people from my country, whether I want to hang out with them or not, I will always (if even on a subsconcious level) look out for them.

I do this especially in countries where I don’t expect to see Indians easily; for e.g. Cuba, Jamaica, Czech Republic, or even Portugal, France and Spain. There are a lot of things that interest me about spotting Indians in random countries: What are they doing here? How did they land up here? What passports do they have? Do they speak Hindi?

After being in Madrid for 6 months, I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t met any Indians. Not travelers, nor residents. Some were found working in kebab shops, but other than that you can’t really spot that diaspora. When I got in touch with the Indian Association in Madrid, I found out that there are about 5000 (extremely rich) Indians living in Madrid’s suburbs, of which my generation were Spanish. I live in the center of the city, and 18 months into it, I still haven’t run into any of these people. Where do they go? What’s their story?

Same goes for other nationalities like for instance the Chinese. There’s a Chinese run shop on every corner of Madrid, yet outside these shops, I’ve hardly ever seen a Chinese person in a bar, in a non-Chinese restaurant, or in a cafeteria. Where do they go?

I think the immigrants in a country, although foreign, also play a large role in the place’s culture. What do you think? Do you look for fellow countrymen when you travel? If so, why?

Posted by | Comments (6)  | July 22, 2008
Category: General

6 Responses to “Do you look for fellow countrymen when you travel?”

  1. João Almeida Says:

    Whenever I travel I usually leave everything behind, including my nationality, this means I rarely find myself comparing places situations/places/people to Portugal neither try to find traces of my country (portuguese food, etc). But Portugal is a country of immigrants so usually gets a way to find me in the most unusual places, at least in the rest of Europe.

    PS- It’s not hard to find Indians in Portugal, specially in Lisbon. I don’t know the numbers but my wild guess is that is a bit larger than Madrid’s community.

  2. Craig Says:

    Like João, I also leave home behind. I try not to do or eat anything that I could find at home — after all, I’m traveling to experience some place that’s different.

    Plus, to be blunt, as an American I avoid my fellow citizens like the plague.

  3. Geir Says:

    As the others Nationality doesn’t mean very much while travelling. But sometimes it is like a refreshing break to meet someone with a similar background to yours speaking you lingo after speaking a different blurb for an extended period.
    Problem is, too many times encounters with your own kind turn sour. Meeting fellow Norwegians in Thailand for instance, is great until you find out they’re there for reasons of exploitation.

  4. Sabrina Says:

    I look for them only to be able to stop running into them! It never fails that when traveling that my husband and I run into another American couple who thens thinks we should stay together that day. If I wanted to do that , I would have just stayed home and talked to my friends. We do our best to leave America comepletly behind when we travel — its the best way to really get a feel for the country you are visiting. We even go so far as to purchase clothes when we arrive in a country to fit in with the locals and really understand how they go about every day.

  5. Shaula Says:

    When I worked in Japan and new anglophone foreigners arrived in town, the trick was to stand behind them at the bar and quietly hum the theme to Hockey Night in Canada. If they whipped around with a big smile on their faces, you knew you’d found a fellow Canadian.

    Canadian immigrants and expats are certainly found all over the world, but without the HNiC test, they aren’t always easy to spot.

    When I do run into other Canadian outside the country, there is almost always a certain affinity. I don’t know how I’d seek out local Canadian in most countries, but I do enjoy them when I stumble across them.

  6. Mark Says:

    I certainly look out for fellow Germans – but only to make sure I avoid them 😉

    Not sure if it will be the same with the Americans – I lived the last 5 years in the US.

    Not that all American or Germans are idiots – all my best friends are either German or American.
    I just want to meet people with new / different backgrounds from the once I know – and learn about their culture and history!

    That being said it can be quite nice to meet a fellow country men – and if it is just to be able to speak your mother tongue once in a while.