I am spending my holidays in Jose Ignacio, Uruguay. This small village of around 700 homes has become over the last 3 years quite a magnet for sophisticated travellers from Europe and North America. Last night my wife and I were having dinner at Marismo, an extremely original restaurant that is basically a huge bonfire built on a sand dune surrounded by low lying tables where people eat great dishes made out of Uruguayan produce. As we sat down I noticed that most people around us were not native Spanish speakers, a new phenomenom around here. I´ve been coming to Jose Ignacio since 1985 and only recently have foreigners been seen in this town. But as opposed to the typical gringo visiting Mexico demanding that everything be explained in English I was pleased to see that most foreigners managed to make their way through the Spanish menus and order in Spanish. Last week I was in San Francisco at a Japanese restaurant where curiously when you were at the bathroom they would play a tape that taught how to count in Japanese. I loved the idea. An unexpected cultural experience. I think it´s time that we all made serious efforts to understand cultures in their original languages. Being part of Spanish culture myself I am thankful to the Jose Ignacio visitors for making the effort. Maybe the difference between a tourist, a traveller and a visitor relates to their relationship to local culture. A tourist wants to find his own culture everywhere else. A traveller wants to enjoy what´s foreign, a visitor wants to be part of it and in so doing…becomes our guest.
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