The last thing to be touched by a foreign hand is the hair.”
Arian, our ACT liaison mentioned this during one of our pre-departure orientation sessions. While I don’t think this just applies to foreign countries, as many college students prefer to cut their hair back home over break, she certainly has a point. I know of very few people who have had their hair done while abroad for a semester or less. A definite exception is the DR spring break and dialogue crews, which included a bunch of people who had their hair done, but not cut.
Nevertheless, few people are willing to get their hair cut abroad. For some reason, the travelers I know are more likely to get a tattoo or piercing abroad than a hair cut. Does that seem strange to anyone else? Of course, a few months after Arian said this, Kathy and I died each other’s hair in the Hotel Metropolitan bathrooms, and a few students had their hair cut. But it was fewer than 15 of us out of 151, and I feel like an at home dye job is the same no matter where you are in the world, so I don’t really count.
Others have rules about dating abroad. Some won’t enter into a serious relationship, knowing it will likely fail when they return home, while others won’t even casually date. Some people won’t date other people on their trips, but locals are fine; most of the time I find that the reverse is the case.
While in third world countries, many have rules about internet usage, and television tends to be vetoed by most travelers regardless of where they are. While people often fail at their internet bans as soon as they are given the chance, many others refuse. While in Benin, a friend said it would feel like, “cheating on Africa” to go on the internet to email or use facebook. Of course, a quick glance in the local internet cafe would argue otherwise, as well as the prevalence of our Beninois counterparts on facebook.
In perhaps the strangest example, several people on our Benin trip would not drink the tap water in Paris. I’m pro-germ, and Cuba made me incredibly appreciative of clean tap water, so this just confounds me. It’s a G8 country for crying out loud! They have a permanent seat on the security council! The idea that Parisian tap water is somehow drastically different from the water in Boston sort of boggles my mind.
Why do we abstain from certain things while away from home? Does it make travel feel more “real”? Are we afraid of the outcome? Are there things you won’t do abroad that are normal for you at home?