Summary: Travel is all about places and people. What attracted us more in the countries we visited? Sometimes the places, and sometimes the people. Sometimes both!
Needless to say, the people in a country are not all bad or good. You usually need more than a few weeks or months to get to know people well enough to judge them. Our intention here is to share our general impression of the places we’ve visited. Nevertheless, people are often a strong element of your travels and really “make the place.” This usually has a real impact on your stay.
We’ll start with places where people had a small influence on our opinion of the country, and end with the places where we loved the people.
The Galapagos Islands are one of the places where we spent a lot of time. In all, we stayed two months in the small town of Puerto Ayora on the main island of Santa Cruz. Though we loved the place for its amazing biodiversity in animals and plants, I must say that we were very disappointed by the people. I admit that seeing tourists coming for a few days and leaving doesn’t invite you to create a relationship with foreigners, but we stayed there two whole months, shopping at the same places every single day, but received the same cold treatment during our entire stay. Even if there was never any kind of obvious rudeness, this was very hard for us, as we are socially oriented and love meeting people. People don’t often smile in these gorgeous islands! Even speaking Spanish (sometimes language can be an issue) didn’t help. I remember meeting a guy in the street. He was from the place we had stayed for a whole month, and we barely got a cold “hi” from the other side of the street, as if we didn’t know each other! It was shocking to us. In addition, people sometimes lied to us, even about small things, and we didn’t appreciate that much. Our real friends ended up being the marine iguanas and other animals living on the island. Once again, this is our general impression. There are certainly some nice guys over there, they are just few and far between!
We started our trip in the Galapagos, so when we came back to Ecuador it felt like we were back to some kind of humanity! People were much nicer, though also much poorer than in the islands. Still, we felt it was difficult to establish a non-business-oriented relationship with people. Things would probably have changed if we’d stayed longer. We only spent three weeks in Baños. We very much enjoyed being in Baños, as we appreciated the moderate climate and the gorgeous landscapes.
Bolivia is the only country in South America where we made friends—not a lot, but we don’t seek quantity. Bolivia is also the poorest country we visited. I felt people were nice, but not very social and a little bit uncommunicative—not willing to learn about other cultures. They are very simple people, and to know them you need to enter their world. One thing I really appreciate is to be treated like locals most of the time. On the other hand, the landscapes in Bolivia were really breathtaking. I wish we could visit the country again to see places we missed and try to know the people better.
France is my country, so you’ll say that I can’t judge! Well, yes I can—first, from the perspective of my non-French friends’ experience, and second from my own experience of coming back to France after three years or more in Egypt. This was like being a foreigner in my own country (which is, by the way, harder than being a real foreigner, because you are simply not so patient or forgiving). Also, from seeing how foreigners are treated by the French (starting from the airport!).
France is a beautiful country, but French people are anything but welcoming. Speaking French might help a little bit. That being said, I do know that with some patience you can make really good friends in France. There are amazing people over there too (like me!). And France is a unique and great country on other levels.
We did CouchSurfing all the way through the US, which of course helps a lot with getting to know people. Still, this could have been a bad experience (as it happened in France). We loved the United States mainly because of the amazing people we met there. Even short interactions in the streets gave us a really good impression of the country. People are nice, kind, helpful, welcoming and funny. We mainly stayed in big cities and didn’t have the chance to see the beautiful landscapes of the country, but I’m sure that even if we did, we’d still have loved the people more than the places. I wish we had the chance to travel more in the countryside like we did in Minnesota, as I felt country people are the “real Americans!”
We came to Spain from South America. I didn’t know how it would be to come back to Europe (but not to France) after several years abroad. We were both happy to have the chance to visit Spain, and we weren’t disappointed at all. We found the Spanish to be awesome people. I’d already met some Spanish people abroad and it had always been a good experience, as I love the way they are, and their sense of humor. When we arrived in Madrid we found a very welcoming country. People were more than helpful with us, leaving what they were doing to lead us or help us (it felt a bit like the Middle East). I also could really feel the struggle people were in with the economic crisis, but they were still smiling and laughing. We didn’t visit any places other than Madrid (which we found to be very beautiful, by the way), but the people definitely made us want to come back and visit their country properly.
Egypt is like our second country, as we lived there for 15 and 20 years. But as with France, I can share my experiences from when I was traveling in the country before I settled down. I have to say that even if Egypt is a small paradise on earth in regards to landscapes, seas and other natural treasures, the real treasures of Egypt are the Egyptians. I stayed in Egypt all this time because of the people. I didn’t just feel welcomed in Egypt when I was first traveling—I felt adopted! Bassel shares my opinion that you’ll never be welcomed anywhere as you are in the Middle East. Egypt is unique even in the Middle East. The thing that you won’t find elsewhere is the Egyptian sense of humor and the fact that it is almost impossible to get bored with Egyptian people around. Nevertheless, Egyptians do have their faults—but you have to take the whole package. It is well worth!
We’ve traveled to Thailand many times. We love Thailand—everyone loves Thailand! Isn’t Thailand “The Land of Smiles?” Of course, what we know about Thai people is very superficial compared to Egyptians, but as travelers, we have to admit that Thailand is the most pleasant place to travel. The people are very nice, interactive, peaceful and funny. Landscapes in Thailand are also gorgeous and very diversified. Some beaches look just like paradise. So what more could you ask for than paradise with such sweet people in it!