For three hours we talked about the International Monetary Fund, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s movies, Charles Aznavour’s hit song Je Suis un Mort Vivant, Joan Baez’s and Bob Dylan’s activism, John Kenneth Galbraith’s economic theories, Bayern Munich’s season, Andrea Bocelli’s Time to Say Goodbye, the global reach of the Siemens engineering company, Jacques Brel’s easily translatable lyrics and Susan Boyle’s incredible audition on Britain’s Got Talent (yes, this was all in one conversation). I was taking advantage of my in-the-know host uncle visiting from Germany. I can confidently say I have never had a conversation quite like this in my life.
That’s the beauty of living abroad and talking with people who are coming from an entirely different place than you. If there’s one thing living within a different culture teaches you, it’s how to better communicate with people. Despite the vast cultural differences and intimidating language barriers that exist within unfamiliar cultural settings, communicating with others is actually never really as hard as it seems. Sure, you might have to communicate in sign language from time to time, but you mostly find that you can get by with even just a few words or phrases.
But that’s only in cases when you can’t speak the native tongue. If you’re lucky enough to be able to converse in another language, then you will really benefit from the intercultural exchange. Through these types of conversations, of course, you will learn about another culture through the point of view of the natives.
You will hear about the different holidays they celebrate and the different religious beliefs they hold. You will compare and contrast your government and theirs, only to find that they really aren’t that different after all. You’ll talk about music, movies, books, TV shows, sports and more. All of that is a given, but the most important thing you learn is the art of a conversation.
What’s your story?
Each new conversation is structured so that this very question can be answered. Sure, everyone has lived different experiences, but we all, nonetheless, have a story to tell. The way in which we describe our memories and experiences, whether that is through metaphors, comedy, analogies or some other way, is the art. Every new conversation has the same goal of discovering the other person’s story, but what makes each conversation fascinating and distinguishable from all the rest is its originality and unpredictable plotlines.
Everyone has been somewhere, and most of the time that somewhere is some place you’ve never been. So be friendly when traveling and don’t hesitate to talk to people even if the language barrier appears impenetrable.
Everyone has been somewhere; that is indisputable. But by conversing with others, you also discover that everyone is going somewhere. That’s the beauty in the art of a conversation.
“What is your name? Where are you from? Where are you going to? What do you do? The back and forth uncovering of a new person not only [occupies] my time, but also [reiterates] to me just how important these conversations are to travel.” ~ Suzy Guese
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Brennan Weiss and I am an aspiring international news reporter from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I am a Journalism major with French and Global Studies minors at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Since spending my freshman year of university in Florence, Italy, I’ve grown to love adventure and travel. I hope my work as an international journalist allows me to navigate the world endlessly until every culture, land, and people has been met.</span></p>