Guest blogger: Autistic Globetrotting

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Today’s guest blogger is Margalit Sturm Francus, who runs the wonderful website, Autistic Globetrotting. Margalit has travelled extensively with her sons, and asked them what the top 10 strange things that they’ve encountered on the road are. See her (and their) answers below.

http://www.autisticglobetrotting.com/

Our kids have travelled extensively and therefore have their own views on how the world differs from our suburban Los Angeles enclave. So here they are, my children’s top ten “strange” things they have encountered on their trips:

#1 Is that a toilet?

Even after potty training my children for two years, I could not prepare them for the surprise they encountered in Turkey while using the restrooms. The shape and even the function of toilets worldwide does vary. For example, in Turkey—and many Arab nations—toilets (especially in poorer areas) are frequently replaced by a hole in the floor, while in Japan, some public stalls are equipped with electronic water jets and heated seats. (Itchee Feet note: Many toilets in Japan also have a ‘noise maker’ beside the toilet—cover up any “sounds” with the sound of the ocean.)

#2 Pay-per-use

In Europe toilets often come with a price tag. My children were puzzled when confronted with the cleaner’s tip jar. Remember to keep a few quarters handy for those bathroom visits when travelling.

#3 That other sink in the bathroom

While bidets are a staple in many European bathrooms, my kids were astonished to see another sink in the restroom. Retrospectively entertaining, my autistic son rushed excitedly to me and alerted me to the “water fountain” attached to the vanity floor.

#4 Siesta Time

American-born and raised, my children had grown accustomed to the de facto “24/7” plastered on every store and restaurant logo in much of their home country. So, imagine their surprise to see whole cities shut down for a few hours—in the middle of the day, no less—from restaurants to even entire malls!

#5 Food, best served cold

Living in the USA restaurants are seldom closed and restrictions (past those pertaining to health) are rarely imposed. As such, my boys were in for a shock when they visited Israel; unlike in America, the Israeli “Shabbat” laws (not laws per se, but the Orthodox majority imposing their beliefs) prohibit the cooking and warming of food from Friday to Saturday night in hotel restaurants. They managed, however, to get by, replacing the usual omelets with a plentiful array of cold buffet items.

#6 Lunchtime Siren Call

One of the most bizarre encounters on our travels involves our visit to the Central American country of Nicaragua on a cruise. While waiting in a café and sipping a soda, we flinched at the sound of an air-raid siren blaring through the streets, horrified at the thought that war was upon us. However, we were baffled when we heard from a local that the siren was used to alert the citizenry not to brace for cover, but to come and eat lunch!

#7 Bread and butter is their bread and butter

My boys are avid bread eaters, especially when freshly-baked or a specialty. While most diners in the United States serve bread and included assortments gratis, many establishments in Europe not only supply bread by request instead, but also charge a significant fee for the pre-dinner set.

#8 Drink Ice

While it is the norm in American restaurants to serve sodas, juices, and ice teas with ice, in many other countries ice is a commodity that has to be asked for, or sometimes not offered at all.

#9 Air Conditioning (and lack thereof)

While air conditioning is ubiquitous at home in the US, many countries lack any room acclimatization system. in others, there may be strict restrictions as to what time of year and to what extent they utilize their air conditioning (and for the winter, heating).

#10 Pushy salespeople

My family and I often encounter aggressive merchants of all ages, using any method imaginable to convince you to buy their trinkets. My kids sometimes felt guilty or at least uncomfortable when little children utilized these pushy tactics, ending up buying some unwanted souvenirs.