Kindness of Strangers

While on the road for 6 months or more, in foreign countries where we do not speak the local language, we are often reliant on the kindness of strangers to help us resolve problems, big or small, and to keep us moving in the right direction.

Being somewhat more vulnerable or dependent than we would be on home ground, we have become very aware and appreciative of small acts of kindness, people going out of their way to be helpful, or simply good customer service.

And conversely, we are also aware of the stark contrast with the small handful of times we have encountered unhelpful, unmotivated or miserable people along the way. It really doesn’t take a huge additional effort to show a little consideration, but it is amazing what a difference it makes to the person on the receiving end. A simple smile goes a LONG way.

A few special mentions:

Thank you to the patient fellow drivers at the first motorway toll gate in Slovenia. I had caused a minor delay by queuing in the incorrect payment lane. But instead of the expected aggravation and horn-honking, recognising our foreign plates and general lack of an idea, a couple of friendly drivers helped indicate the correct lane to me and get us back on our way. It felt like a very warm welcome to a new country.

Thank you to the kind woman passing by who stopped what she was doing to help translate Italian for me at the DHL office in Verona.

Thank you to Jan at St George Bank telephone banking service, who listened to the difficulties we had encountered with our banking from overseas, and who felt it was her duty to resolve them. Instead of the usual routine of making us jump through the hoops of red-tape, she and her manager cut-through the formalities to solve our issues in one call, turning a frustrating encounter into a pleasant experience.

Thank you to Yusuf, our tour guide at Gallipoli for going out of his way to make Angélie feel special and included (as she was the only child on the tour). It made her day that little bit more enjoyable and memorable.

Thank you to the hotel porter in Istanbul who spent half an hour accompanying us to the post-office, translating and helping pack and send off a bunch of parcels, before continuing on with his other work. (Conversely, no thanks to the incompetent and unmotivated staff at the post office in Italy who were not very impressive in taking over an hour to process sending one box of goods to Australia and 4 postcards).

Thank you to the visa issuing officer at Shiraz Airport in Iran, who (at 3:00am in the morning) greeted us with a warm smile, handshake and “Welcome!” before beginning to receive our passports and process our paperwork. What a brilliant first impression to give of your country!

I guess for me this blog post is a little Note To Self: a little kindness goes a long way. I think it is good lesson in life and in business. A smile, some compassion, taking time to understand the issue and assist if possible, a desire to resolve the problem, or simply a random act of kindness. These require only awareness and perhaps a small effort, but it can mean everything to the person on the receiving end, whether they be a customer, a friend or a complete stranger.

 

Finally, while I am focusing on the kindness of strangers here, or people who don’t really have anything to gain by being friendly or going that extra step to assist us but do so anyway, it also increases my sense of gratitude towards friends and family members who we have relied on to enable us to unplug for 6 months. Your assistance is some thing we really depend on and don’t take for granted. Your welcome and your hospitality (for those we visited en route) were very much appreciated and we hope we can return the favour one day. You all know who you are… Thank you.

 

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