I like to think of myself as a good and responsible traveller. Certainly, I’d imagine many people like to think this of themselves. Though I always like to try and make an effort when I’m going elsewhere. I’ve always considered it a huge perk of the job that occasional travel is all part of living the academic lifestyle.
Whenever I travel anywhere, I like to do two things before anything else. Firstly, I always like to read up about the place to which I’m going. What to do, what not to do, what to see, what to avoid. That kind of thing. Secondly, I like to try and learn at least a little of the local language. As may be quite clear by which language you’re reading right now, I’m an English speaker. And we English speakers have something of a reputation for arrogantly assuming that everyone speaks our language. I, for one, have vowed never to become this kind of person. Remember, if you’re a traveller then you’re a guest in someone else’s country. Behave accordingly, and be well mannered.
All of this becomes even more the case when staying anywhere for an extended period of time. Conferences are fun, but you don’t really have much time to see the place you’re staying in. You’ll typically spend all your daytime at the conference venue and all of your evenings with your fellow delegates – though it’s certainly wonderful to get a taste of the local culture during the evenings. Where possible, it’s nice to get recommendations of places to go from people who work or study locally.
However, if you’re staying for a while, that’s when the fun really starts. One thing I really enjoyed a couple of years ago when I was working in Hong Kong was the way you can truly immerse yourself in the culture of the place you find yourself in. It’s quite lovely, because you’re released from the tourist compulsion of seeing as much as you can in a limited space of time. You find yourself appreciating the little things more. Although, if you’re like me, you’ll probably take no less photographs. Mind you, I take photographs all the time anyway.
The thing is, with a two year postdoc position around the corner, I realise that I’ve never spent so long living outside my home country before. And it’s exciting. For the next two years, I’m going to have a different part of this planet to call home. And after that, who knows?
So I’m starting a whole new section of this blog dedicated to chronicling my entire experience of being a scientist working in Japan. After all, the chance to work in a different country with a completely different culture to that which I’m familiar with is a rare thing. This post will, I hope, be the first of many! Hopefully, I might also resurrect my sadly neglected travel tag…