I am a native

Waiting for the bus in Innsbruck

Waiting for the bus in Innsbruck

Everywhere I go, I am a native.  I had been in Oslo for less than an hour and was waiting for a bus when a British couple walked up to me and asked me how to use public transit.  And I knew the answer.  Four hours later, at a tram stop, a college-aged Osloan asked me in Norwegian if this was the right corner to pick up his tram.  I was like “English?”  When he asked again in English, I didn’t know the answer.  Just because I look like I know what’s going on doesn’t mean I actually do.  But surprisingly often, I have a clue. I’m aware of the “asking for directions” pickpockets and other scams, so I am always on the lookout for strange behavior.  But usually, people just want to get somewhere. I am not sure why people ask me directions wherever I go. 

Haltestelle (Bus Stop) Vienna

Haltestelle (Bus Stop) Vienna

Four days later, in Gothenburg, Sweden, a man had a map to an appointment, and I helped him find the right tram… this time completely in Swedish (which was neither his first language nor mine).  A week later in Vienna, a similar story.  Walking back from grabbing a coke at a grocery store in the Westbahnhof train station, a confused mom with two tweens got off an airport bus with a map to her hotel and asked:  “Do you live here?  Do you know where I can find this?”  Clearly, I live everywhere. (And I was able to point her in the right direction).

It is certainly not my clothes that make me a native.  I don’t wear skinny leg jeans or wear only black.  I dress like a strange hybrid between slacker American backpacker and non-quite European.  Maybe I look friendly.  Maybe I look smart.  Maybe there is something about my aura that says “I worked a dozen years in hotels and have given directions to a lot of strangers.”  I’m not sure what it is, but it’s fun to feel like I belong.  Although there is also the chance that I just look like a guy who rides the bus.

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