I can tell you about the adjustment we had to make in ordering food at restaurants in the Philippines, when the food was never brought to the table at once, but one person's order might arrive half an hour before the fourth person's food would come (and once, it was two hours, which was an outlier), and the 'appetizers' almost always came no sooner than the first order. I could describe the food, the delay between orders, the delicious flavors, smells, and exotic fruits and fresh seafoods- but this doesn't tell the full story. To a westerner unfamiliar with certain aspects of Philippine culture, this information alone, however well written, would communicate a strange sort of inefficiency for a business. But that's not what was happening.
In the Philippines, eating together is a communal activity, and sharing food is a given. So although the four members of my family were ordering individual dishes, our servers never imagined for a moment that we selfishly intended to eat the dish each of us had ordered all by ourselves. So they would bring perhaps my son's order, and put it in the center of the table and give us each a plate and/or bowl, and utensils, and it was assumed we would courteously share the dish amongst ourselves. And then later they would bring perhaps my order, and set it in the center, again expecting that we were eating as a family should, sharing our food together, perhaps over-eating, as Americans do (many times we were told a dish ordered would serve three people and it was a single serving for my 6'4" basketball playing, scuba diving, athletic son), but sharing, because community is vastly more important than individualism, and food is shared. Of course, there were restaurants which catered more to western tourists and so did things in a way more familiar to us- but they were also typically more expensive and the food was less interesting to us as well. Once we realized we should not expect to place four orders and receive them at the same time, nor should we expect to eat our orders entirely by ourselves but to share them with the rest of the family, eating out became a much more enjoyable experience. My husband and I also came to prefer this more family style form of sharing a meal, although I suspect my ever hungry son would have liked to eat all of his own order by himself, and possibly some of ours as well.
I could write about the time when we were living in Japan and I tried to make an appointment to get our utilities turned on. We were the only American family then living on our street, and not many lived in our community. I wanted my power turned on by a certain date, and the lovely and very polite and totally noncommittal city employee kept telling me, "Hmmm. I am not sure. I think that will be difficult." And I kept trying to get her to explain what was difficult about it and see how we could clear the difficulty away. And her smile would falter and she would reiterate that it was difficult but not tell me why or how to fix it, although she would suggest that perhaps I would like my power turned on an entirely different date (that didn't work for me). If I tell that story, no matter how clear, accurate, and perfect my depiction, even to the point of placing you on the scene, it will not convey what was happening accurately to most westerners. What was really happening is that within her culture, that poor, beleagured young lady was telling me as politely as she knew how "No, that is impossible, you need to accept a different date." Any Japanese would have understood her instantly. She couldn't have been more clear on the subject- within her culture. And I, blundering badly, culturally oblivious, was rudely ignoring her polite 'no, that is impossible,' and insisting that it must be possible.
So I am going to suggest a few free and a few not quite so free travel reads which give a good feel for the scenery, the place and the experience (mostly from a western point of view). And then I'm going to share a couple of my favourite resources on one of my favourite topics in the world- cultural differences.
Free and slightly more than free travel writing:
Alaska The Great Country by Ella Higginson
"Seaforth Channel is the dangerous reach leading into
Samuel Hall Young here is writing about his adventures with John Muir and Hall's Dog Stickeen,
not that Stickeen belonged to anyone according to the book. So if you've read Muir's
book "Stickeen", this is where it started.
The stories about Muir are beautiful for lack of a better word. Samuel Hall Young was a missionary
and John Muir was doing what he always did. They were going to the same places so they went together
and continued writing to each other until Muir's death. Samuel Hall Young lost all those letters when
the "steamer went to the bottom of the Yukon".
It's too bad those letters didn't survive.
Anyway, if you know who John Muir is, and you appreciate what all he did (Sierra Club etc..) this is a
great book that is a first hand account of what he was like.The part where Muir rescues Hall Young after a fall while climbing is worth a book in itself.
Truly awesome book,, this is what Kindle is all about..
by Alexander Kingslake. I read this and loved it. Do you know that scene in Sense and Sensibility (the movie with Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson), where the youngest girl asks the Colonel what it was like in the East Indies, and he says, "The air is full of spices"? That's what I thought of when I read this book. Maybe you will feel differently, but it had that sense of the exotic, a whiff of foreign odors.
In her fourth travelogue, Susie and her husband take to their bikes to explore the Marne valley, following in the carriage tracks of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI in their abortive escape attempt from the French revolution.
Days of Déjà vu (this is not free, unless you have Kindle Unlimited. It's 4.99)
A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 17 Arranged in Systematic Order: Forming a Complete Historyof the Origin and Progress of ... from the Earliest Ages to the Present Time
Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes- I loved how this dovetailed with so many of our own experiences in the PHilippines. One of the authors served as a missionary to Indonesia for years, and the insights on culture differences between eastern and western Christians were fascinating to me (and resonated with my own experiences). I am sure there are others just as valuable, and there are very likely excellent oks from an Eastern perspective rather than western, but being western, I can't really presume to access their quality, accuracy, or usefulness. I'm open to suggestions, though!
$5.00- Education for All, a new CM journal, Feed Your Mind! This issue contains several articles on handicrafts, outdoor play, nature study and science. See sidebar for purchasing options if you are in the Philippines.
$3.00 Five Little Peppers and How They Grew Copywork (grades 2/3, carefully selected with an eye toward finely crafted sentences, lovely bits of writing pleasant to picture in the mind's eye, and practice in copying some of the mechanics of grammar and punctuation typically covered in these years.