November 17, 2010 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Traditions

Growing up we all had our version of normal and I’m pretty sure we thought the world worked just the same way that we did. Everything was just fine and dandy until we traveled abroad and suddenly realized that normal looks completely different somewhere else – maybe the cars drive on the opposite side of the street, or perhaps dinner isn’t served at 7:00pm but instead at 10:00pm. In many cases, these differences might be somewhat expected, but every once and awhile we’ve surely come across something that has just made us go “what the…??” I had a moment like this in Vietnam when at first the I-carry-my-world-on-my-motorbike concept seemed ridiculous, but then, upon closer consideration, it indeed made sense. With that in mind, it made me think – don’t we all have cultural quirks that make others do a double take? Since I surely can’t travel the world to discover all of these idiosyncrasies on my own, I thought who better to pose such a curiosity than to the Lonely Planet BlogSherpas? So, that’s what I did and here’s what they had to say:

“I admit, we, Filipinos, love to sing,” admits Claire over at First Time Travel. But she’s not just talking about in the shower and along with the radio in the car. According to Claire, “do not be surprised to find karaoke and videoke machines along the seaside or by the narrow streets in a remote town.” Before you become too charmed by the Filipinos’ passion for belting out their favorite tunes, you best read more about their hospitality, or else you should expect to be singing right along with them.

Do you remember your thermos? I do. Do you remember the last time that you used it? Probably not. This apparently long forgotten product seems to, however, have been given new life in Peru according to Jason of AlpacaSuitcase. Jason, who now looks at the “lowly termo (thermos) in exalted light,” tells how the undrinkable water in the country has resulted in a thermos resurrection of sorts that will have you singing its praises all the live long day. Read more about why you should consider starting a new love affair with your thermos.

Amy over at The Q Family Adventures Travel Blog brings new meaning to the family road-trip. Gone are the days of traveling across your country and stopping on the side of the roadway for some fresh-from-the-farm fruit while the kiddies romp around in the back seat. Oh no, not when you’re road-tripping it through Thailand!! While driving through the country, Amy recalls,“From a far, we saw several bags hung from the pole. As we got closer we noticed that those bags held something that moved.” It turns out that a few of these roadside stands boasted live lizards, buckets of frogs, and toad skewers for purchase.Take a virtual road-trip through Thailand’s array of unique roadside goodies. You know you’re hungry.

Who’s tired of tame and safe cultural gatherings? I think I am. Good thing Todd at Todd’s Wanderings has pulled together some of the gnarliest matsuris (festivals) that take place in Japan. And let me tell you, these gatherings aren’t for the weak. One of them seems to take on some parade-like characteristics, but don’t be fooled, this isn’t Disneyland. Todd explains, “When other floats are encountered each side spins their one ton float in a show of strength culminating in a mad dash at top speed into each other in a bone crunching crash. Teams battle for dominance until one float has pinned the other to the ground.” Fabulous! Who’s up for a trip to Japan? OK, maybe let’s just pretend – read more here.

There is an unfortunate similarity between the robes certain Latin countries wear during their Holy Week processions and those that are worn by the KKK. Yes, that KKK. The tragic infamy of the cone-shaped hood was most definitely not lost on a couple of Lonely Planet Bloggers. Abigail, from Inside the Travel Lab, who witnessed the processions in Sevilla, Spain, reflects, “It’s a shame that the outfits, a tradition that dates back to the 14th century,…now trigger images of the Ku Klux Klan, lynching, fire and fear to those of us more familiar with stories from America than Andalucía.” Here, Abigail brings to life images of Spain’s most famous Holy Week processions in hopes of creating new and more positive memories of the historic and controversial costume.

Meanwhile, Tanya of Are we there yet? World Travels with Three Kids recounts her experience witnessing similar processions in a Brazilian town. Here, she tells how she battled with whether to purchase her children the keepsake puppets (with demonically lit-up red eyes) and also sheds light on the tradition and where it comes from. She explains, “It turns out that the symbolism…is actually quite sinister. They, after all, are the bad guys in the story as they are the ones hunting down Jesus to crucify him. This background helps to explain a bit this unique custom.”

Captured in photos, the duo over at Photito’s Blog take you on a journey into the watery wonderland of Venice. Through their words and pictures, it becomes evident that Venice is more than just the canal-filled city that we may all know it to be, but rather a city that lives with water in so many more ways than we can imagine. “People have adopted a way of coping with the ever present water ways which means that they all own a pair of hard core, waist high wellington boots. They all know what it means when the tidal alarm sounds…,” tells Vibeke. See for yourself a side of Venice that you may not have yet discovered.

I don’t know about you, but my parents have never called ME “mom” or “dad,” but perhaps if I were Lebanese, they might just have. According to Georgia of Ginger Beirut, “Lebanese dads call their kids ‘daddy’ and mums call their kids ‘mummy.'” This is only but one of the strange yet humorous quirks that she has encountered during her year living in Lebanon. Read more about why you should get rid of your credit cards and start investing in couture gowns here.

Bird hunting, deer hunting, head hunting – those are all so yesterday. It’s time to get on board with mushroom hunting like those in Catalunya, Spain. “Most Catalans wake up early on the weekend morning and drive to forests with baskets in tow to collect mushrooms,” comments Jennifer of Orange Polka Dot. She goes on to tell about her “master mushroom hunter” gardner and even her own attempt at tracking down the potentially deadly delicacy. Indulge your curiosity for fungi by reading more about this peculiar Catalan tradition here.

Finally, if you’ve been tuned into my blog, then you already know that last week I introduced you to another one of Spain’s unique customs, which just so happens to come in the form of an extra trashy tip for finding good Spanish food.

With that, I leave you to your own comfortable surroundings, unique customs and whatever oddly normal tradition it is that you have in your corner of the world. Considering that I’m in Spain, I’m going to go to my local tapas bar and throw some dirty napkins and cigarette butts on the ground just so that I can feel right at home. What makes your part of the planet strangely special?

To read up on other LonelyPlanet BlogSherpa carnivals, you can visit the previous one hosted by Travel with Den Den, in which the BlogSherpas shared memorable moments from their travels. Meanwhile, stay tuned for the next carnival on regrettable trips, which will be hosted by The Turkish Life.

17 Responses to “Lonely Planet BlogSherpa Carnival – Unique Customs”

  1. Gayle Pescud Says:

    I totally concur with the love of Karaoke in the Philippines. I spent two weeks there for work a few years back. After the day’s training ended, tables pushed back, karaoke machine comes out. Singing all night! Not only that, the resort was famous for its karaoke and had 16 machines dotted around in different locations. I remember waking to the sounds of “Crazy for You” at 6 a.m. in the morning from somewhere behind us and falling asleep to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” somewhere up the hill. Finally gave in and joined in til 3 am one night, only to have to wake and teach the same group early. At least we were all in the same boat. Most surprising thing was that those young twenty-somethings knew all the words to all the songs I grew up with in 80s Australia. Everything. I did a lot of duets and songs in groups from Grease and really bad 80s hits and no one missed a beat. We have a lot more in common than we knew!

  2. Erin Says:

    Too funny! Karaoke may not be as big here in Spain, but I’m pretty sure that those 80s songs are just as popular. When any of the above mentioned tunes come on, the Spaniards can sing along to every single word, meanwhile, I have no clue! I guess there’s nothing like music to make the world feel a little bit smaller!

  3. David @ Malaysia Asia Says:

    Great roundup of this topic. I too am puzzled how people can do Karaoke on the streets, this is something I have to see with my own eyes. Thanks for sharing this.


  4. Sophie Says:

    Nice round-up of interesting stories, Erin.

  5. Sabrina Says:

    How interesting! Thanks for the great summaries! I really like all these unique customs everywhere and for me they are part of the reason I keep travelling. Well, that and the fact that my family is all over the place 😉

  6. Todd | Todd's Wanderings Says:

    Great job with the Carnival Erin, it looks beautiful and reads well. And as far as I’m concerned 80s Karaoke is the only way to go, especially if you’re on the street 🙂

  7. Sarah Says:

    VERY COOL, Erin! I love hearing about different customs around the world.

  8. LeX Says:

    Hi Nice one!!

    “Lebanese dads call their kids ‘daddy’ and mums call their kids ‘mummy”

    Amazed me! :D:D

  9. Erin Says:

    Thanks everyone! Reading about all these customs was quite entertaining to say the least. I’m thinking about adopting them all for a day just for fun!

  10. Amy @ The Q Family Says:

    Great round up! A great way for me to spend the afternoon armchair traveling. 🙂

  11. Jason Says:

    Awesome job, Erin.

    Thanks for hosting and doing such a great job. It’s tough to tie lizards, mushrooms, karaoke, dolls, festival hats, et al into a cohesive post yet you’ve done it.



  12. Dimitri Says:

    What a fun read!

    For anyone interested, I have actually collected the most bizarre traditions of Switzerland:

    Goose piñata, anyone?

  13. Erin Says:

    Friggin hilarious Dmitri! Where was your blog when I was writing this post? I was laughing out loud over the sausage throwing and cow patty bingo. Good times in Switzerland for sure!

  14. Claire Says:

    Greetings from the Philippines! I like this carnival. It shows the multi-faceted cultures all around the world. Thanks for including mine here. Keep it up!

  15. Jennifer Says:

    Wonderful job on pulling together all the diverse, interesting and unusual customs from around the world.

  16. vago Says:

    Absolutely wonderful. This world is so filled with amazing things that it makes me itch. Not amazing things that make me itch (there are those too) but that it gives me the itch to get up and see everything at once. Thanks for sharing all these.


  17. Erin Says:

    It kind of makes me itchy too, especially when I think about the frogs, toads and lizards. Oh yes, and itchy to travel as well ;). Thanks again, everyone, for the contributions and kind comments!

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