As you know from my previous post Collaborative Conservation, I have been in Cape Town for the past week at the Shark and Ray Symposium. I wanted to highlight the conference in its own post due to its value in my learning, experiences, and development as an intern; however while attending the conference the other interns and I stayed at a hostel that brought to light global cultural differences.
Upon arrival to Cape Town, we found housing at the Atlantic Backpackers Hostel. I was not familiar with hostels before this experience, but it was a pleasant surprise. The hostel was more or less a dormitory. We were lucky to get our own room, but most other rooms had a residency of up to 6 people. An outdoor area connected various halls and was the “hangout spot” for those that were staying an extended period of time.
Being the social butterflies that we are, we quickly made friends and met people with backgrounds from around the globe. This was my first time meeting individuals from countries like Germany, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Almost every night ended with a conversation in the outdoor area regarding educational, social, and cultural differences between our home countries and South Africa. Although everyone had varying perspectives, we all agreed that we could learn something from one another.
From this experience I discovered how others think outside of the mindset held by those I am surrounded by daily in Washington State. It was a humbling event that made me realize how much I take for granted back home, such as clean water or the freedom to express myself. I thought I would share my encounter with the individuals at the hostel in this post because it changed my perspective for the better and shaped a new way of thinking.
Outside of the hostel, I found that individuals in Cape Town were more open to tourists than those that reside in Hermanus. Cape Town reminds me of a smaller and slower New York, but the people are extremely friendly and inviting. For example, on our off time an intern and I went shopping (a big mistake by the way…my wallet is hurting) and came across a thrift shop where the workers were dancing and invited us to join in! When you walk down the touristy streets of Cape Town people smile, wave, and spark a conversation. The same cannot be said for Hermanus. Most people will smile, but they go about their day or ignore you all together. I think some of the differences between people in Cape Town and Hermanus come from the amount of tourism interaction that takes place as well as factors like academics, businesses, and wealth.
I would love to explore Cape Town more before I leave the country as I believe it has more to offer than what I was able to experience in my short stay there.