I like to travel and I have been travelling since I came to Norway in 1985. Arriving in Norway was my first travelling and living experience in any other country and different culture. Norway is a part of my life since I completed my graduate and post graduate studies. Living for almost 10 years in Norway is full of memories, which really need a lot of time to share them. I had made a lot of friends in Norway but three names, Camilla, Kristina and Marriane, will remain in my memories for longer period.

The opportunity to go to Oman was provided by Majan University College when they offered me a teaching position to teach Business courses. Like many people, I had a stereotype about Arabic countries and thinking as I was going to a very rigid Muslim country. After landing in Oman, I found it a very moderate Muslim country. I was almost shocked to see so many native female students in the class, so many native females working at the mall and so many native females on the roads; it was a real pleasant surprise because I was not expecting to see a face of a woman in an Arab Society. The other shock was that college staff was dominated by Indians. When I went first day in the college, it seemed as I joined an Indian college. However, it was a good experience to understand working style of Indians. I enjoyed my stay in Oman. Ahmed Al-Blauchi was my immediate boss and had a very good leadership skill, which one finds in a very few people. Oman has a beautiful landscape and among the cleanest countries I have visited so far.

After arriving in Norway, Sweden was my first destination that I visited as a tourist. In Sweden, I lived in the YMCA, which was my first and last experience of living in such places. Frankly speaking, I did not enjoy living in the YMCA. I arrived in Sweden by train on Friday and took a flight back to Bergen on Sunday though my original plan was to stay for seven days. The most memorable memory for Sweden is the young beautiful girl who walked with me all the way to show me where the YMCA was located. How did it happen: I just asked her the way on the stairs and without hesitation she asked me to follow her. She might have forgotten the incident but not me.

I really enjoyed visiting Mediterranean countries. Most of the time I travelled there for the purpose of buying ladies fashion garments. I had developed good contacts in Portugal and visited number of factories in Oporto. As a buyer, I liked Portugal because it was comparatively cheap and the quality was good. I found Portuguese were quite courteous and friendly.

My second favorite destination was Greece. I visited Athens which was quite busy city hence it was also quite hard to get even Taxi during working hours. Prices of commodities were bit higher than Portugal, so the quality too. According to my observation, young people were quite fashion oriented especially girls – at least more than Norwegians. No need to mention that Greek girls are quite beautiful.

Italy used to be my another destination as a buyer. Generally, it is considered that Italy is a hub of fashion in Europe but my opinion is opposite to it. Living in Italy by no means is cheaper to Scandinavia, at least in my experience as a visitor.

About Germany, many people have this impression that they do not like to tell even the way to foreigners in English language. However, my experience is opposite to commonly held impression. I did not find that people were reluctant to speak English language. I talked with many people on the streets and made a couple of short-term friends. It is not that the Germans are arrogant about their language but it should be appreciated that their English skills are not as good as we find in Scandinavian countries. I went to Germany to attend a textile exhibition. People should not go on travelling by taking a new pair of shoes 🙂 as I did.. I did it and paid the price :). It was silly of me that I just took the pair of shoes which I had never used and it started pinching so badly that I had to rush to a shop to buy a new pair.

Many people are fascinated to travel to USA but I fascinated Iceland. A small country which always fascinated me. If a country fascinates me, I just plan to go there and that I did in the case of Iceland. I stayed in Reykjavík, Capital of the country. It was a small tiny town. I was not expecting that I would meet a Pakistani there but to my surprise I met a nice guy over there. After a small chat, he offered me to go with him at his place for a lunch where I met his very nice wife who was from Iceland.

I could not forget the night of my arrival in Darwin Australia – hot and humid. Although, I travelled to Australia from Pakistan but still the weather was killing – far from my expectations. It was a small city in the North and I did not enjoy much while staying there. I also lived for some time in Sydney and Melbourne and I really enjoyed. I hope, Weiling from China, must be living in Australia as she loved to be there for ever. I enjoyed the company of Richard and James. I hope that Richard must be enjoying life in the USA. It was really good to know that James is running his own law firm in Darwin. Karla was a jolly person and always gave a reason to laugh. As far as I know, she is professional Nurse.

Kristina was the only reason to go to Austria. I lived in Salzburg for 3 months. After a long time, I tested my skills in cycling with Kristina.

Finland: After a long time I landed again in a Nordic country. I still remember when I came out of the airport building at the Helsinki airport and it seemed as I landed in my homeland. I took a train from Helsinki to Vassa and got the opportunity to view beautiful fjords and landscape. The university accommodation was so different than Norway. The accommodation consisted of small houses which was for three people. I enjoyed lunch with Vesa Suttri and had a very good time with students from East European countries. It was also great source to buy cheap cigarettes from them.

United Kingdom (UK): I visited UK number of times. First time I visited in 1986. It was exciting experience to go by ship, though it became bit tiring on the way back. It was pleasure cum business trip. It was also exciting to meet Camilla in UK. UK has changed tremendously as society over the period of time. Recent visits to Uk gave me the impression that nationalist movements had lost strong impact on society and politics. Compare to 1986, now there seems to more harmony and accpetance for foreigners. It appears the concept of diversity is more accepted. My impression is that ethnic groups now feel more secured in the system because racist attitudes had gone down over the period of time. It might be due to fact that there are many practicing solicitor from ethnic groups, who protect ethnic groups from native injustice. The law community of ethnic groups is very small in small European countries such as Denmark and Norway and that’s why the level of discrimination is not decreasing. Small European countries must learn from the experience of UK that promoting nationalist or racist attitude only invite chaos in the system.

China: I visited China in 2001 to deliver lectures to business students of Rizhao Polytechnic. Visiting China is exciting and challenging in many ways. The biggest challenge comes from the language. There are only a few of people who could speak reasonable English. It is generally expected that people at the reception in an international hotel will be able to speak English but this was not the case in China. From teaching to eating and from eating to shopping was a test of ones skills to survive in a foreign culture.

Keeping in view the students’ skills in the English language, I had to modify lecture slides.  After teaching, it was a challenge to go for eating and find the right food that I could eat. Chinese food in China is very different than what is available in other countries.  Moreover, one needs to learn skills of eating food by chop-sticks and I was not good at it; so it was safer for me to eat at the hotel or KFC instead of going out in different restaurants.

Food is indeed pretty cheap in China but don’t expect cheap prices of other goods in the big shopping malls. Shopping malls are as expensive as the Western Europe. However, I found that the variety and quality in Chinese shopping malls are much higher than Europe. If you wish to save money on shopping then go to Chinese markets (if you find them), which are considerable cheaper than shopping malls. I found one of them on the last day when I was almost done with shopping J

I was quite impressed to see the honesty of people in the buses. In the buses, there is a money box placed near to the bus driver in which you put money to travel. It is common in China that people jump into the bus from the back doors but that does not mean that passengers do not need to pay. They just pass on the money to the money box through the passengers standing ahead of them.  Another lesson for scholars, especially from the South Asia, who think that a country cannot be developed without English language, should reconsider their views. Overall China was quite clean except the educational institutions.

My personal reflection is that China has quite rich culture, which has not been exported as it should be. A funny thing with export of culture is that you need to import people from different countries; teach them language so that they will be able to appreciate the culture.

Soon, I Write about my travelling to Denmark, Singapore, and United Aarb Emirate (UAE)

PS: I am seriously considering to write in detail about my travelling and living experiences in different countries. When I start on this project, I don’t know myself :). However, I promise to update and share more.

Nadeem Yousaf