Eric Weiner on ‘going native’

“Those who have gone native are easy to identify. They speak the local language, get the local humor. They wear the local dress. In some cases, they develop immunities to local microbes. I remember meeting an Englishman who had lived in India for so long he could actually drink the tap water and not die. The term ‘gone native’ is almost always used disparagingly by those who have not. Yes, we diplomats and journalists are supposed to learn the local language, eat the local food, know the lay of the land. But only up to a point. We’re expected to maintain a certain professional distance. The gone-natives are seen as weak souls, traitors of a sort, who should have known better. Going native is like marrying the girl you had a fling with during a drunken Mardi Gras party. Likewise, our time abroad is supposed to be a fling. Nothing more.”
–Eric Weiner, The Geography of Bliss (2008)

Posted by | Comments (2)  | August 31, 2009
Category: Travel Quote of the Day

2 Responses to “Eric Weiner on ‘going native’”

  1. Lindsey Says:

    Truly a great book, However….
    Remind me to never be a diplomat or journalist! My professionalism has already tipped over that point of fling, indulging in the surrounding culture, both in clothing and language. Honestly, those local people have learned how to be comfortable in their surroundings, which isn’t a bad thing to know as a traveler. Guest that would make me a traitor of sorts! Through wanderings, I’ve picked up several localized terms (that I use quite often, In fact!) And been known to blend y’all and Eh within the same sentence. Just can prove difficult when someone asks where you are from. But I’m OK with that, no worries on this end!

  2. Jackie D. Says:

    Hmmm…I don’t know about this. I may be taking this out of context, but I think comparing one’s travel experience to a “fling” totally undermines the value of travel (and vagabonding). Sure, everyone has his rules and limits, but is it really so bad to give yourself fully to an experience? What happens to the person who becomes an ardent lover of a foreign land and its people that he decides to call it home? Sometimes adapting and exploring a new place can evolve into an unexpected calling for a new life. To whom/where exactly are you being a traitor? Was Thoreau a traitor for isolating himself from society to live in Walden Pond? Or Henry Miller who left Paris and found his spiritual nest in Big Sur? I don’t get it.