Wednesday, 19 August 2015

You Say "Tourism", He Hears "Terrorism" : When Writers Travel

This time next month I'll be in Dallas, Texas, for the American Christian Fiction Writers' (ACFW) Conference. It's been a couple of years since my last conference and I'm very grateful to my amazing husband who will be running the gauntlet of solo parenting our two preschoolers for the nine days that I'm away!

This will be my fourth ACFW Conference, so I thought it might be fun to share a few things I've learned in my travels.

Speak sloooooowly and clearly, especially at border control. 
The first time I went to a conference I said "tourism" and the American border official heard "terrorism". Fortunately, he must have wondered if he'd misheard, since I just got treated to a second level interrogation and my baggage searched (during which we worked out what the miscommunication had been) rather than immediately arrested/deported. But there were definitely a few nervous moments as I watched my luggage get pulled apart while I tried to work out what I'd done to warrant additional attention!

Money, money, money
In New Zealand tax is included in the price of everything, in the US it isn't. And you will never ever be able to work out what something is actually going to cost since the taxes vary by state. It used to drive me nuts. Now I just assume up to an additional twenty percent and roll with it.

And on that note - be a generous tipper. In New Zealand we tip only in exceptional circumstances. In USA you tip everyone for everything. Start at 10% for average service and go up from there. Many of the service people (waitresses, hotel cleaners) will be on minimum wage which is not enough to survive on and they rely on tips to make ends meet. Don't be the stingy foreigner!

Stay away from talking about politics and guns!  
Just don't (especially of you're from New Zealand and think our super intense gun control laws are normal!). Our cultural divide on these issues is HUGE and it gets awkward if you make a snarky remark about American gun culture and then discover the sweet homeschooling mom you're talking to is packing a handgun in her purse!

Anyone else got any travel stories or tips to share?

Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Close To You, will be an April 2016 release from Howard Books. When she's not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. She loves to connnect on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Writer and Twitter @KaraIsaac




11 comments:

  1. Hi Kara, I so loved my one ACFW conference in 2012. It was fascinating hearing all the different American accents in the same room. Add to the mix our various Down Under ones and our diverse use of language (e.g., they say candy, fries and such we say lollies and chips, etc).

    I like experiencing the different food habits. Ice tea served with everything and salads for entrees, etc. There's always good old ranch dressing and a good coffee can be hard to find. But it all adds to the fun of travel.

    Enjoy your conference, Kara. You'll be wearing an author or "First Contract" badge this time which will be a hoot in itself. I hope you get to share a post-conference post with us.

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    1. Iced tea - I'd forgotten about that! I will never ever understand the appeal of cold tea :)

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  2. Your 'tourism/terrorisom' story is so funny, Kara! I've been known to share it with friends in the past, so thanks for the dinner party amusement. :)

    I remember making little sense to our American friends when I'd forget to roll my Rs. Ordering wateR taught me never to assume they heard what I said. So.... don't forget to pack your best R sound, and have heaps of fun.

    Looking forward to seeing all your pictures and Happy Conference! :)

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    1. Hi Dotty! Unfortunately, I have not been gifted with the ability to roll my Rs and when I try I sound like I'm choking so that's fun :)

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  3. Kara, I can't wait to catch up with in Dallas next month! I have accumulated too many embarrassing travel stories. More than once I've had to rearrange luggage at a check in counter in the US to meet the carry on weight requirements. Just yesterday, I flew to Sydney for a work meeting and I'd forgotten to save the digital boarding pass for the return trip in my phone app. I'm at the gate in Sydney airport and wondering why last month's digital boarding pass for the same flight won't scan, lol.Thankfully I had my frequent flyer card with me and didn't create any delays. :)

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    1. The double-edged sword of technology, Narelle! So great when it works, so not so when it doesn't (or we suffer from operator error!)

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  4. Love your tips Kara. The 'tourism/terrorism' mix up must have been scary. My two tips - keep your immunization up to date & remember your passport.
    Story 1 - when I was 14 travelling to boarding school with my younger brothers we arrived at the Perth airport at 5am, they were allowed through immigration ahead of me, but I was stopped and escorted to a room and told to wait with a bunch of other people - no explanation given. I was worried, to say the least. After what seemed a very long time, I was taken into another room and jabbed with a needle (again without explanation) - apparently my yellow fever immunizzation had lapsed and I would not be allowed into Australia without it. Once released, I found my brothers and we were able to continue our journey - but it was a scary and disorienting experience.
    Story 2 - on our last overseas trip we were standing in line at the check-in counter when my husband says, I can't find my passport, I must have left it at home. Eek! Luckily we didn't have the full luggage allowance and we had plenty of time. My husband rushed off home in a taxi to get his passport while I took check his lugguage in with me and the kids and explained the situation to the lady at the checkpoint. She arranged so he could go straight through when arrived (I texted the info to him) and I then proceeded through immigration with the 2 children wondering if he'd make it in time. He did - with ten minutes to spare but I was praying hard there for a while :)

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    1. Oh wow. That would have been stressful! I'm always paranoid when we travel about making sure we have passports and credit cards. I figure pretty much anything else that's forgotten can always be bought :)

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  5. Definitely tip the waiters and waitresses - I found out tipped workers are exempt from minimum wage laws in some states, and can be paid as little as $3.70 an hour.

    My travel tip is pack light - easier to manage, and leaves you plenty of room for shopping.

    Enjoy the Oreos, and the conference!

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    1. Wow, I didn't know that. Do you know if Texas is one of those states? Certainly puts our $15+ an hour minimum wage in New Zealand into perspective!

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  6. I remember the tax issue also in the one state there can be one tax on food, another on other stuff so you never know. I had a half cast on my arm last trip so was drug tested at every gate. It was ok and they were apologetic about it.

    Also shoe that you can take off easy. I struggle with working out tipping. thankfully on my tour it was covered. Also my friend covered it when we went out.

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