A new country for me is all about the people and the culture. Although I love seeing the major iconic structures, it has been my conversations with locals and very hands-on traveling and volunteering that has proven the most memorable and rewarding.
And perhaps it’s this very reason why Belize caught me off guard; my expectations for the local culture have been stepped on and shattered really. They speak English in Belize for starters and the Queen herself graces the face of their coins and dollars. Though I knew all of this going in, I still had expectations that there’d be a stronger tie into what you see in the rest of Central America.
Well, that’s just not quite the case. Yet, for all that they are a British Commonwealth, there’s something else there that I only discovered once I stripped off my expectations and just took the country for what it is.
They’re incredibly friendly for starters. In fact, this may be the only developing country where locals followed me through the streets, offering advice and recommendations with no expectations for a tip.
And I feel a bit ashamed that I didn’t trust any of them at first.
After crossing the border we arrived in the transient town of Corozal after dark and had to follow our map with a flashlight to locate the guesthouse.
No less then four Belizeans tried to help out and show us to the hostel we had picked. Often in this situation a tout will bombard me with other choices, or offer to carry my luggage for a fee…or something. I feel like such a cynic, but it’s so often the case. But yet, the Belizeans seemed to have no ulterior motive and merely wanted to ensure I made it to my hostel.
Then over the next several days, once I made it to the Cayes (islands just off the coast and sitting nearly on Belize’s barrier reef), this characteristic was only intensified with the island culture mixed in. Everyone just wants to help.
One man even called me over as I was rapidly walking down the beach; he absolutely insisted that I come over to hear what he had to say.
“Slow down my friend. You’re on Belize time, what’s the hurry?”
I mean, it’s just an unreal experience. It surely helps that they all speak really great English…it means that there are less misunderstandings. I feel like sometimes when I am in a foreign country I am quick to dismiss “friendly help” if they can’t clearly communicate their purpose upfront.
But in Belize, it’s just a different experience. I haven’t encountered the traditional ethnic clothing that you’ll find in Guatemala, there’s no exotic languages widely spoken all around, but it sure is relaxing.