Things I’ve Learned Along the Way – Being Open

1.     “The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.” – Albert Einstein

     There’s a temple of rats in India. The Karni Mata, known as The Temple of Rats, is home to some 20,000 or so rats (who’s counting?). Just imagine it…..the defile rummaging through the holy. Or so it seems. These rats, regarded as Holy, are called Kabbas and draw daily visitors and tourists from near and far (Karni Mata Temple).

The point? Be open

The temple sounds disgusting, right? Well, a lot of things seem disgusting-wrong-rude-unpleasant-distasteful-etc along the way. Why? Because it’s a different place than where you are from. There are different customs, foods, people, etc. That’s why we travel. But somewhere when hit with something that offends our sensibilities, we quickly judge it as wrong and bad. But is our reaction in fact what is wrong?

I am not advising for you to seek out places teeming with rats. I am using the rat temple as a loose analogy for the concept of not instantly judging things that are different as being wrong or bad (a very loose analogy).

One thing I struggled with a lot when I hit the road was accepting other people’s customs that seemed wrong to me. For example, in the States- and the UK- customer service is paramount. There’s even a saying “the customer is always right.” This customer centered ideology is far from reality in many parts of the world (ever eaten at a restaurant in Paris?). I remember feeling utterly offended time after time when service felt customer-non-friendly.

It was really bothering me. I was wondering if I was the only one feeling this way. I also pondered if my bias is misinterpreting interactions. I started talking to local residents and asking if they too felt offended. They were usually surprised by my feelings about this. To them, the service is not rude, it is in fact efficient. I’ve come to learn that some cultures even regard American customer service as fake and condescending. Who knew?

Lesson learned: Don’t be so quick to label another culture’s custom(s) as wrong. Just be open. It’s different. And experiencing these differences are some of the reasons we travel, right?

On a side note, I can wager you didn’t know there’s a lady who adores, feeds, and cares for rats. LADY WHO LOVES RATS. Maybe she’s not the only one.

Your turn

Would you visit Karni Mata, Temple of Rats?

Why? Why not? 

Have you experienced a similar foreign cultural phenomenon during travel that brought out the judgmental side of you?

*Photo by Ocima

Get free weekly updates
Updates + more purposeful travel tips