Have you ever found yourself in a foreign country, standing outside a crowded bar or restaurant that’s brimming with local flavor, and locals, and can’t quite find the courage to walk inside?
I have and I think several factors come into play:
1) A fear of the language barrier
2) A feeling that you won’t be welcome and will have to extricate yourself from an uncomfortable situation
3) A general discomfort at not being, well, comfortable
At times like these there are two options to consider:
1) Acknowledge that you’re being silly, suck it up and walk inside
2) Move on to a more “agreeable” establishment
My wife and I found ourselves facing this dilemma a while back in Liguria, just across the Italian border.
Desperate for a cool drink, we made a late afternoon stop in the charming village of Dolceacqua.
A few steps from the main square we discoverd the very pleasant looking, and innocuously named, “Bar California”.
Just one quick peek inside, though, and my wife said “I don’t think so”.
The bar was full of older Italian men sitting at small tables in groups of four playing cards, smoking, and drinking.
There was not a tourist, or woman, in sight.
Not even an Italian one.
Now, let me be honest, it’s not as if we were standing outside a meeting place for Al Qaeda operatives, but there was just something about the situation that took us out of our comfort zone.
We quickly decided to cast away our inhibitions, and our embarrassment at feeling so wimpy, and walk in. Grabbing the first two stools at the end of the bar, we scanned the room for any signs of vitriol. No one sneered, glared, or even grunted in our general direction. The gentleman behind the bar quickly came up and asked what we would like to drink. He spoke no English and no French but we somehow managed to convey our wishes.
Two and a half hours later I couldn’t drag my wife out of the place.
Now, every time we travel to the south of France we make at least one trip across the border to our favorite bar.
Let me re-phrase that: Now, every time we travel to the south of France we make at least one trip across the border for the sole purpose of visiting our favorite bar!
The owner, Giacomo, has introduced us to his entire family, given us a tour of his private wine cellar, and has consistently been the most gracious host one could possibly imagine.
So the next time you’re having second thoughts about walking into a place that feels a bit intimidating, please, just suck it up and go in.
Especially if the name of the joint is “Bar California”.