Theme from ‘642 Things To Write About’ :

Your first time in a foreign country

toilet images“British toilets!” I gasped as I stepped into the public restroom at Heathrow International.

The words had scarcely left my lips when the stranger at the urinal turned and with more withering scorn than a drag queen who’s spotted someone else wearing the same wig, he asked “First time, is it?”

I was 25 when I took my first trip to a foreign country. I should have known it would have kicked off with abject embarrassment because if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s making a fool of myself. Sometimes, even intentionally.

As a child, any object that came from overseas was cause for major curious examination. Why were their things so different to ours? Of course they were far better, more modern and infinitely more expensive. That’s because I grew up thinking South Africa was an evil outcast, which for much of my youth, it was. So anyone lucky enough to travel to the free world and bring something back was, in my eyes, a spirited adventurer, bringing back amazing treasures that only the very luckiest of the evil muckraking citizens of South Africa, like myself, would get to see and touch: a can of coke; a bus pass or toy – these were all holy relics to me, when they originated overseas.

So when I found myself on British soil for the first time, what else could I be but overwhelmed by the very first things I saw after stepping off the plane: the bogs in the bathrooms at Heathrow,

I was like a kid in a candy store, those ten days in England. When I returned, my book of memoirs contained everything I considered to be a valuable prize from my tour, as if some holy man had blessed them for all eternity, to cure the sick and the miserable and to bring wonderment and envy to those I showed them to, in a series of retellings of my British sojourn, aptly titled “OH MY GOD! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? ENGLAND!”  These holy holiday relics included bus tickets; tube passes; receipts for cheese, and even the cheese rind; crisp packets; old toothpaste tubes and the dark ring left on a page when I spilled some proper English tea.

I am much more genteel these days. I can enter a public restroom anywhere in the world without registering much amazement, even though I may well still be feeling it inside.

And THAT makes every overseas trip just a little bit less special…because isn’t it amazing, to have made a trip in a great big metal flying tube, to experience a whole different culture’s    …er…culture? Shouldn’t you be all excited and overwhelmed at the wonder of it all, each and every time you take that trip?

© Dave Luis 2013. All Rights Reserved.


  1. My first time overseas was India and unfortunately the restrooms at Mumbai Airport wasn’t a pleasant experience, in fact no loo in India is a pleasant experience come to think of it! But I can identify with the exitement of the trip, I also kept everything from that first trip, still have it in a shoebox somewhere, however one thing still fascinates me of India and that is the food – Bliss – and I will go back there again and again for it!


    1. Hmmm…the loos were not overly amazing, but they weren’t shocking. The food, however, on my first visit to the UK was horrendous!

      1. No, they were actually not shocking, you used the correct word for the UK food, those loos were horrendous!

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