Travelling through developing countries is an exercise in patience and adaptability. What I would take for granted at home isn’t often the case here.
I went out for dinner last night. It was celebration day across Laos marking the end of Buddhist Lent and Luang Prabang’s busy streets were filled with thousands of lights, festive people and decorations. Being served at a restaurant can take a lot of time on the best of days, so I knew last night could be a good test for my patience.
Indeed, it took one hour and a half for the food to appear. That could have annoyed me, but it didn’t. What bothered me a bit more was the lack of service I had (which the family sitting next to me received), the fact that I had to re-order and remind them several times that I was waiting for food and, to top this off, after waiting for a long time for the bill, I decided to go check with the waitress again only to discover that she was chatting with her colleague rather than preparing the bill.
I left the restaurant feeling unsatisfied (oh, and the food wasn’t good either!), but thinking that it was OK because I’m in Laos…
But then, this morning, I received the best customer service from another local restaurant. So I started wondering: is there a time when it is OK to expect certain behaviours from people (particularly from different cultures)? Or should we let all our standards out the door and really just go with the flow?
I’m tempted to opt for the latter while travelling (or else I could get frustrated a lot of times!), but what about back at home? When is it appropriate to have expectations and when should we let them slip a little?