Article: Cows, couchsurfing & cultural dilemmas in Tajikistan

Didn’t we want to Couchsurf in such a remote place?
Well then, this is the time to suck it up.

An article from the Perceptive Travel blog about a standoff between people caught between the norms and expectations of their own cultures and those of another culture they are keen to learn about.

In No Country for Honest Men, when Marco Ferrarese and his girlfriend go in search of a remote, local couch surfing experience in Tajikistan, a failure to tell an untruth means they get a deeper cultural insight than they expected as they run up against the moral and religious beliefs of their hosts.  

The story is humorously told and nicely describes the social awkwardness of sitting down to afternoon tea with a family in Central Asia where there is no common language.

It is also a reminder that if we want to travel deeply and experience other cultures, that means respecting local customs and beliefs even if they are different to our own.  In this case, the extent of the cultural divide seems to take both host and guests equally by surprise, even though both have some understanding of the other and the encounter is one wanted by all concerned.  

From covering up at religious sites or eating with the correct hand to not stripping off at the top of sacred mountains or having sex on beaches, (almost) all travellers adjust their behaviour to avoid causing offence and out of respect for local laws, customs and religion.  

The custom may not always conform to our own values or morals but whatever our views is it right that, as a visitor, we should expect those in countries we have chosen to visit to adjust their attitudes to suit our values rather than the other way around?  

Sometimes, as Ferrarese points out, you have to be flexible when travelling and just suck it up.

Author Marco Ferrarese is based in Malaysia.  Read more of his travel writing at or follow him on twitter @monkeyrockworld.

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