Hosting International Travelers: What I learned at Pike Place Market


So these thoughts don’t have much to do with family travels, but have none-the-less been swirling around my head since a chance encounter at Pike Place Market. I live in Seattle and unlike the throngs of folks who fill the popular Pike Place Market, I actually shop there on a regular basis for groceries and a cup of coffee etc. The other day, I was in line at my favorite bakery/coffee stop behind a thick line of tourists. I was thinking “Crud, this is going to take forever!” The couple immediately in front of me were speaking German (a language I happen to know). The poor folks were having trouble following the odd ordering rules for sandwiches versus coffee and where to pay etc. They had already waited in another line incorrectly (signs were in English)–if you are a regular you know the routine. They barely spoke any English. They finally ordered at which point the harried clerk pointed them back to the sandwich area, which they interpreted to mean that they had to get into another line. Their frustration and anger had them in tears, the clerk was startled and no meaningful communication could be had. I offered in German to help them; translated for the clerk what they wanted and what their experience had been about the confusion in the first place. International crisis avoided. It brought to mind the numerous times I had been confused with various transactions in Europe, not sure who to trust, feeling insecure and uncertain, remembering the few times when the natives had been impatient. Overwhelmingly my travel experience has been one where the local folks were unfailingly patient, willingly to help, translate, steer me and my family in the right direction, stand behind me and my wiggly kids in line without sighing heavily (this includes France–love those people). So I am re-evaluating my attitude when I am at Pike Place or other Seattle tourist destinations. Have I been a good host so-to-speak? And have I extended grace as it has been extended to me?


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