Please, ask about anything other than how it was.
Whether you meet someone after they completed an exciting trip, or you’re the relative or friend of someone who has just been abroad, you’re probably eager to ask all about it. Just know that someone who has been abroad will get asked mostly the same questions: “How was it?” and “Did you have a great time?” or “Did you see [insert stereotypical noun pertaining to that location]?” and “Do you miss it?”
This is like the jet-lag of all conversations: it puts you to sleep and you just want to get past it because it’s annoying and exhausting.
The questions below are meant to give both you and the person you love a chance to learn, reflect, and share about their experience. It doesn’t need to be a boring and dry conversation, and hopefully these questions are enriching for both parties.
Here are some suggested questions to ask someone who has just been abroad, so they feel like you actually care and you may get some cool information about their trip/adventure/life:
1. What was the hardest adjustment you experienced?
This question opens up the person’s thoughts about their experience and how it relates to your own culture too. Their answer will probably come bubbling out with examples and maybe even a great story!
2. If I ever travel there, what should I see?
I love asking this question when I meet someone from another country. It gives you a chance to dream of a trip, but also allows the person to brag about their home or experience. How great would it be to actually visit the recommendations too?
3. What food(s) are you going to miss?
Food is one of the most important parts of a culture. A lot of cultures are centered on food and you can learn a lot about how people live. I’m sure if you asked Erik Fruth this question, he has a list ready and some great stories about eating the food on that list!
4. Did you ever have a culture- or language-related blunder?
I mean, this is a jackpot question for someone who has been to a very different culture than their home base. I have a few golden memories and some pretty embarrassing stories, but those stories hardly get told unless someone really digs in (or asks this great question).
5. If you could describe [location] in three words what would they be?
Yeah, this one is a bit cheesy, but so good! Asking someone to describe a place with three words is a challenge, but it gives the person a chance to reflect and offer their perspective in a way that the media or tour books can never explain.
6. Did you meet anyone who changed your experience or impacted your trip?
Well, hopefully this is a good question and the person met someone who impacted them along their journey. Whether it be a great tour guide, a really cool friend, or maybe their host family, this question gives the person a chance to share about something other than themselves and opens the door to what a culture is like.
It’s important to note that someone who is just coming back from traveling abroad is probably constantly processing what it means to be back home.
Everything and nothing is the same when someone returns. With time, the memories fade and the urge to show pictures over and over subsides, but the search for giving meaning to the experience sticks.
A final tip is to be patient with someone who has just traveled, especially if it’s for the first time. Our world is big, beautiful, and full of rich stories that should be shared.
Let your loved ones share but remember to set a boundary if they begin to repeat themselves or overshare about how great it is to be everywhere other than where they are that moment.