Want To Get Perspective? Become a Cultural Tour Guide

Want to appreciate your world/country/city/culture more? A lot of people say you should do things like “being a tourist in your own town.”

While that’s not a bad idea, I’d suggest looking into being the *tour guide*, too.

This weekend while traveling for a wedding I split an Airbnb with a friend originally from Hong Kong, one of the world’s most populous cities. He was in for a different experience.

As our trip to the Airbnb took us further and further into a Tennessee countryside, my friend got more and more baffled/fascinated/spooked by the lack of people and the seemingly abandoned small town environment. Nothing was stirring around 10:45 PM – a far cry from city life.

As we drove around in the daylight for the couple of mornings, he started to express more appreciation for the cozy, quaint, country surroundings and the friendliness of the people. He especially enjoyed seeing animals with which his city upbringing didn’t give him much contact.

These scenes of the South weren’t new for me, but they were so interesting to share with an outsider. In explaining why southern small towns are this way or that way, I got to criticize my own culture for its good and its bad elements. It’s great that strangers wave back at me, but it’s also bad that I might not get that friendly wave if I was of another ethnicity.

A highlight of my stint as “southern culture tour guide” was taking my temporary roommate to Cracker Barrel. Those of you who are from the South know that this little “country store” restaurant dots every interstate in our region. It’s a go-to favorite for Southern comfort food when on the go.

I should have been more concerned when my friend chose to dive into the deep end of Southern food with gravy-topped country-friend chicken. But to my amazement, he was a big fan.

Now I’m gearing up for a visit from some European coworkers, a couple of whom I presume have never seen my weird corner of the world before. And I intend to keep savoring the experience of being a tour guide for my region and culture. If you want to get new perspective – for better or for worse – on where you’re from, you should try it sometime.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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