My Djibouti (D)Jones family traveled to Disney World for a family reunion during Christmas vacation this year. Every time we travel internationally, we encounter culture shock, and I enjoy keeping track of the funny things our kids say, the interesting perspective we each bring to what will blend into normalcy in just a few days.
So, going to Disney World was sure to bring some interesting observations from each of us. I have noticed that some expats like to complain and sometimes we can come across as judgmental or critical of our home cultures.
Sometimes it would be easy to fall into that trap of comparing and complaining, of judging excess or differences. Long, long ago, another expat gave us invaluable advice before we headed to the US for our first trip back.
“Enjoy it,” he said. “Be thankful. It might seem like excess, it might feel overwhelming. Be thankful and have a good time.”
We go back and forth around the world now fully conscious that we are making this choice of gratitude. Disney World was no exception. Minnesota feels like Disney World to our family, when we come straight from the developing world. That must make the real Disney World … Disney World Gone Wild?
We did notice some things. Here are a few of our family’s observations regarding the differences between Djibouti and Disney World. Truth be told, there are more than ten differences, in case you were wondering. And if you have never been to one or either of these places, you will just have to take my word for it.
Djiboutians in Disney World 1 of 20
Click through for 9 observations my children and I made during our trip to Disney World ...
(If you look closely, the green t-shirt with the camel on it even says Djibouti down the side.)
In Disney World the Rodents Dance! 2 of 20
Disney World has clean, sanitary, well-dressed mice trained to talk and sing.
In Djibouti There Are No Dancing Rodents. 3 of 20
Our rodents don't sing and dance, and we try to keep them out of the house. Sometimes that takes going on special hunting missions, armed with brooms and buckets and traps. We also don't dress our rodents in clothes.
(This is "Bunny." Sorry, we have no photos of our mice or rats.)
In Disney World There Is No Garbage. Anywhere. 4 of 20
Disney World has less garbage. We saw a woman carrying a broom and dustpan, and my youngest asked what she was doing. "Picking up garbage," I said. "No, she isn't," Lucy said. "There isn't any."
In Djibouti? There’s Certainly Garbage. 5 of 20
Djibouti isn't as spotless as Disney World. There is a garbage truck, and we dodge the trash that falls out the back of it while it bumps over the roads. There are also women who sweep the streets at night and in the early morning. They do a truly heroic job fighting back the dust and trash.
Disney World Has Nice, Orderly Lines. 6 of 20
There are actually lines for rides, food, bathrooms, and character visits at Disney World. People stand in them, patiently. This is borderline miraculous.
Djibouti Has No Lines. 7 of 20
I'm not sure how Americans become so adept at waiting in lines. Does it start in Kindergarten? It seems rather ingrained. Sometimes I like the organization of lines, but sometimes I prefer the interesting chaos of no lines, the ability to maneuver through a crowd, the knowledge that asserting myself is not offensive but desirable.
There’s No Pushing in Disney World! 8 of 20
There is no elbowing your way to the front of those lines in Disney World. If you do, beware the cool and strong uncle who might swoop you up.
Pushing Is Allowed in Djibouti. 9 of 20
My kids have adapted well. As have I. The first few months in the Horn of Africa it took me a long time to get what I needed in shops. I kept waiting my turn. Now I know better. Elbows, a loud and firm voice, and banging coins onto the counter work great.
In Disney World, Busses Aren’t So Packed. 10 of 20
Disney buses don't know how to pack people in like sardines. Even if you are standing, it is likely that the person behind or in front of you will not be standing on your toes or breathing in your face. There are no live goats on buses at Disney World and no feather boas or decals of Michael Jackson's face pasted on a female model's body.
In Djibouti You’re Lucky to Get a Seat. 11 of 20
Djiboutian buses don't leave until they are filled, or over-filled.
In Disney World the Toilets Flush By Themselves! 12 of 20
Disney toilets flush by themselves. Disney toilets are in a hurry. More than once one flushed while I was still on it. My girls tested this and also got flushed while sitting. Give us a minute already, Mickey!
(Here is me in front of my favorite childhood ride, since I didn't happen to get a photo of myself being flushed on.)
In Djibouti … the Toilets Certainly Don’t Flush by Themselves. 13 of 20
Not all Djiboutian toilets need to be flushed at all. Squatty potty.
(You didn't really want to see that, did you? Quick, click to the next slide!)
In Disney World There’s Lots and Lots of People. 14 of 20
More tourists come to Disney parks in one week than live in Djibouti total, all year, all towns included. We were there the week before the busiest week of the year and still, lines and wait times were quite reasonable. But we could see the crowds begin to pick up.
In Djibouti, There Are Vast Deserts. 15 of 20
There are huge empty spaces in Djibouti. But if you get a flat tire, rest assured that a helpful goat herder or curious child will emerge out of seemingly nowhere to be of assistance.
Eating in Disney World is a Unique Experience. 16 of 20
Food in Disney World is delicious ... but expensive!
In Djibouti, You Don’t Eat in Tea Cups. 17 of 20
In Djibouti, food is also expensive, but we don't sit in our tea cups or dance with our utensils.
In Disney World, People Rush Around for Fun. 18 of 20
There is a rush to have fun in Disney World (and to flush toilets). The preschoolers (blue short-sleeved shirt) gotta keep up with those teenagers (blue long-sleeved shirt). (Not sure why the teenager is barefoot. Maybe the pristine streets inspired him.)
In Djibouti, There’s No Reason to Rush. 19 of 20
In Djibouti there is rarely a rush to do anything unless there is a race.
Home, Sweet Home 20 of 20
We had a fantastic family reunion and vacation in Disney World. But I wouldn't want to live there. The toilets are too bossy. Back to home, sweet home, Djibouti-style instead of Disney-style.