8 Things a First Worlder Can Expect From a Trip to a Third World Country

by Wait But Why Oct 3, 2014
1. There aren’t nearly as many rules.

In Third World countries1, you can often kind of just walk into places and drive in the wrong lane and drink on the street and do whatever you want and no one cares. On some domestic flights in Myanmar, there wasn’t even a security checkpoint.

On the other hand… The same lack of structure can make travel a logistical nightmare.

Goat illustration

All illustrations courtesy of the author

Goat illustration 2

2. If you’re friendly, it’s not hard to get to know local people.

I acknowledge that I might think this is true because I just act friendlier in the first place because I think people in other countries are friendlier and then they respond in kind. Either way, I’ve been invited into dozens of homes in Third World countries simply by being smiley and starting a conversation. One time, a family in a tiny apartment all slept in the kitchen to give me their one bedroom (against my pleading protests). I’m yet to be invited anywhere by a New York stranger.

New York finger illustration

On the other hand… The language barrier can ruin everything if you don’t learn some phrases from the country you’re traveling in.

3. The food is often great and totally different than what you’re used to.

On the other hand… The food can be terrifying.


4. The culture is usually completely foreign to you and eye-opening and fascinating to learn about.

The way I like thinking about it, I live in a world that is a product of centuries of a certain population of humans and the way they learned how to live life. When I travel to any really different culture, it’s a chance to see what a totally different population of humans ended up with when they took their own crack at how to live life. What could be more fascinating than that?

On the other hand… You might inadvertently horribly violate some cultural taboo.


5. There are cool animals.

I seem to come across elephants, (sedated) tigers, cobras, emus, and a number of monkeys and apes in Third World places. Not much chance to do that where I’m from.

On the other hand… There are lots of stressful stray animals everywhere.


6. You can buy amazing crafts you can’t get anywhere else.

On the other hand… You’re the target prey for relentless shop owners.



7. It’ll remind you that you live in a palace back home, and that you did nothing to deserve that.


All it takes is a little time in a Third World country to be blown away when you return home by the sheer quality of life you get to enjoy — the pristine cleanliness of the streets, the vast abundance of food in the grocery stores, the utter comfort of everything — suddenly the immense wealth of the First World is blatantly apparent everywhere you look and you remember that everyone you know lives like a king without realizing it. Then two days later you forget too and start complaining about everything again.

On the other hand… It’ll remind you that you live in a palace back home, and that you did nothing to deserve that.


8. You won’t be one of the ignorant First Worlders who thinks it’s dangerous to visit the Third World or has other gross misconceptions of what Third World countries are like.

If you employ the same common sense that keeps you safe in your hometown, visiting Third World countries is zero percent dangerous. And anyone who tells you differently is either way too paranoid or has little travel experience.

On the other hand… You risk becoming a self-righteous douchebag who’s way too proud of themselves for their Third World experiences.

Douchebag illustration

1There’s a chance that the terms First World and Third World are offensive. I’m not sure. I googled around about this, and my impression is that there are like two more years before the terms become officially offensive — so I plan to get my fill while I can, because the terms Developed World and Developing World are far less amusing. These terms originated during the Cold War, when the countries aligned with the US and capitalism were called the First World and the countries aligned with the Soviet Bloc and communism were called the Second World. The non-aligned countries were the Third World, and since that time, the terms First and Third World have taken on the new meanings of Developed and Developing nations.

This post was originally published at Wait but Why and is reprinted here with permission. Wait But Why posts every Tuesday. To receive Wait But Why posts via email, click here. 

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