Backpacking is a melting pot of opposites; it’s the most relaxing, tiring, inspiring, exhausting, awesome and frustrating time of your life. You have amazing adventures and find yourself in the occasional tight spot while feasting one day and being faced with nothing but crisps the next.
You oversleep, undersleep, taste the terrors of jetlag and stay awake for days. Oh, and did we mention the people? You meet a hugely-varied mix - some are great, some not so. But one thing you want to avoid is spending all your time abroad with other Aussies or Kiwis. After all, putting yourself out there and getting to know some different cultures are hugely important. So here are five nationalities that you might not have had on your ‘best travel buds’ list, but that we reckon you should consider spending a bit more time with on your next trip.
You may have heard that Brits are funny, friendly and excellent travellers - and guess what, you’d be right. Brits are by far the best hostel-buddies you could ever hope for. Out of everyone we’ve travelled with, they’re a) the nationality most likely to adhere to the ‘no noise after 11pm’ rule and b) not attempt to have sex in the showers. They’re also great to be sat near on a flight, as most Brits seem to have an ingrained fear of talking while on public transport, so they’re very likely to pop their headphones on, turn away from you, and spend the flight looking thoughtfully out of the window while they listen to Morrissey.
Do say: ‘I’m not keen on David Cameron either, to be honest.’
Don’t say: ‘Cuppa tea, love?’ in a wobbly-sounding ‘Cockney’ accent
When it comes to humour, you can’t beat the Germans. Dry, witty and equipped with perfect timing, we’ve enjoyed many a hazy night out with them. Don’t buy into the tired old stereotype that they get up at 6am and they insist that everything’s regimented; much like the Brits, they’re fairly relaxed when it comes to plans changing and unforeseen developments changing travel arrangements. Oh, and did we mention that they can and will drink you under the table? Don’t even think about challenging them - it will end in tears. Don’t forget that Germans are usually well equipped with any travel gear or gadgets you might need. Plus, there’s a good chance that they speak at least some of the language of the country they’re travelling in.
Do say: ‘I’ve got a bottle of vodka in my bag and two glasses, if you fancy it?’
Don’t say: ‘Are you a fan of ‘The Hoff?’
The South Africans:
Bold, brassy, friendly and guaranteed to make you laugh, there’s no way we would have coped with boring train rides and evenings spent cooped up in our rooms in Thailand during curfews without our travelling companions from South Africa. The best thing about South Africans is they’re excellent mixers - if you arrive in a crowded dorm room and you don’t know anyone, if a South African’s got anything to do with it, within 15 minutes you will. This lot are also the unfussiest eaters on the planet, so if you’ve got anything on your plate that you don’t fancy, they’ll gladly take it off your hands. No wonder they sleep so well on planes - they’re so laid-back they’re basically horizontal.
Do say: ‘Let’s get everyone together and go out for an evening of absolute drunken madness.’
Don’t say: ‘Is biltong supposed to be this chewy?’
Caution, all travelling singletons - there’s something wonderfully addictive about the Spanish. As a rule, they’re outspoken but not rude, flirtatious but not pushy and passionate without being too clingy, which, as you can guess, is a hugely attractive skill set. They’re also tremendous cooks; if you find yourself in a hostel with a kitchen, there’s a good chance that they’ll be willing to cook the evening meal if the rest of you get the ingredients together. A word to the wise - keep your opinion on bullfighting to yourself, if you can. Nobody likes a know-it-all!
Do say: ‘This paella is the best thing I’ve ever tasted.’
Don’t say: ‘Where is Spain again? Is it the big country near Germany?’
South Park gave these guys a bit of a kicking back in the 1990s (unfairly, we might add), but there’s no denying that Canadians are some of our favourite people on the planet. They’re incredibly warm, they have great accents, and their use of sarcasm wll have you either crying with laughter or just crying, if it’s directed at you. The nation that gave us basketball and the Blackberry are warm and welcoming, and if you have the fortune to bump into a massive gang of them who take you under their wing, stick with them. You’ll be glad you did.
Do say: ‘I went to Vancouver once, and it was the best place I’ve ever visited.’
Don’t say: ‘Why does your milk come in bags?’
Think we’re generalising? Of course we are! The real beauty of backpacking is that we get to meet individuals who make us rethink the ‘boxes’ we try to fit people into. Remember to keep an open mind and meet as many people as you can - in the long run, you’ll be grateful that you’ve left your comfort zone.
Where are your favourite travel buddies from, and what makes them so great? Have you been able to overthrow any stereotypes your travel friends had of your nationality? Let us know on our Facebook page.