The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - Travel

A heady hit of culture shock

- Chris Leadbeater

The old adage about first encounters leaving the firmest impression­s is rarely more accurate – in terms of

travel, at least – than the moment you arrive in Asia. Admittedly, there is also a certain inaccuracy to making so broad a statement

about an even broader region – the world’s biggest continent; a vastness that,

by general consensus, stretches to within fingertip reach of Alaska and Australia

in two directions, to the Indian Ocean and the banks of the Bosphorus in others. But, equally, if you fly in from Europe or North America, and you are landing in one of the more humid, tropical pieces of the jigsaw for the first time, those initial minutes will imprint themselves on your brain, perhaps forever. It is an immediate thing; a surge of warmth – so powerful that it almost feels like a gentle slap to the face – as the plane door opens. There is the noise, too, a cacophony of taxis and mopeds at the steps of the airport. And there are more

subtle prompts – the afternoon air hot and heavy with the aroma of jasmine and magnolia. If the length of the flight has not already given the game away, you can now be certain that you are a long way from home. Wherever you are in the Asian tropics, this sense of distance stays with you. In a good way. “Culture shock” is sometimes described in

negative terms, as a dislocatio­n that leaves the

traveller confused and weary. But, really, culture shock is a positive thing:

a swirl of different experience­s, thrown at the inexperien­ced from all angles at all times. It will take in food, music and religion. It will, for a while, indeed be a shock. But the after-effects will linger long after the plane door has closed for the flight home – and, in most cases, will spark a keen desire

to return.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom