Fifteen things that couldn't happen anywhere else

You've gotta love travel. You've gotta love visiting foreign countries and discovering things you would never get the chance to see at home.

That's what makes the world great, these differences. It may sound like travellers are poking fun when they shake their heads and say, "Only in America", or, "Only in China", but really, it's a compliment. You've got something that no one else in the world possesses – that's something of which to be proud. Well, mostly.

To celebrate these unique features, here are a few of my favourite "only in" moments. (I should also point out that there will inevitably be exceptions to all of these rules, which I'd love to hear about.)

Only in ... America

Will someone in the hospitality industry tell you to "have a fantastic day" and you'll actually believe they mean it. Only in America do you have to choose between "white, multi-grain, wheat, rye, sourdough, bagel, English muffin or biscuit" before someone will bring you breakfast. Only in America are guns considered a fundamental human right. Only in America do gyms have escalators.

Only in ... Japan

Do you receive a message of apology when a train is two minutes late. Only in Japan can you drink in a bar built for a maximum of four customers, served by bartenders dressed as manga characters. (Oh, and most of the bottles of spirits sit on the bar all night, unattended.) Only in Japan can you safely leave your handbag outside a restaurant while you go in and order. Only in Japan can you eat sumptuously from a convenience store.

Only in ... Brazil

Will you find people enjoying "comida por kilo", a smorgasbord-type meal where plates of food are charged by how much they weigh. Only in Brazil will you find a traditional, conservative society where people wear practically nothing to the beach.


Only in ... Vietnam*

Will you see an entire family of five riding on one scooter. (*Actually, you'll find this in a few South-East Asian countries, but most often in Vietnam.) You'll also see live pigs on scooters, huge bits of building equipment on scooters, entire T-shirt stalls on scooters ... You're getting the idea.

Only in ... Scotland

Do they think it's a good idea to deep-fry Mars Bars. And slices of pizza. Only in Scotland are men forced to wear skirts without underpants. Only in Scotland does the Coca-Cola Company not own the country's number-one-selling soft drink: Irn Bru.

Only in ... Ethiopia

Do they use a completely different system of time to the rest of the world. Each 24 hours is divided into two 12-hour periods, one of day, one of night. Day begins at our 6am (when their clock is at 12), and ends at our 6pm (when their clock is back at 12 and night begins). Makes sense when you think about it.

Only in ... Canada

Do weather forecasters "call for" rain or snow. "They're calling for four inches tomorrow." They are? Who are they calling? God? Wayne Gretzky?

Only in ... Russia

Is smiling at strangers considered bad form; but leopard-print mini-skirts and knee-high boots are considered good form. Only in Russia is a bottle of vodka ordered with dinner like it's a fine wine.

Only in ... India

Is a wobble of the head considered an accurate, viable form of communication. What does it mean? Yes? No? Welcome? I'm not sure? I wish you'd go away? As far as I can tell it means all of those things, and probably several more.

Only in ... China

Is progress so frighteningly fast that you might wake up to find a new 30-storey building was erected across the road last night. Only in China will communism be widely embraced – until you try to buy anything from anyone. Only in China will you be constantly amused by "Chinglish" translations like, "If you have any trouble, please feel free to hang your employees."  (Er, that's an error, right?)

Only in ... Italy

Will train workers be striking, buses won't turn up, national monuments will be randomly closed, garbage won't have been collected in a couple of weeks, and no one will bat an eyelid. But if you add one tiny extra ingredient to the carbonara everyone will go mental. Only in Italy are envelopes not sold at the post office.

Only in ... Albania

Will you find McDonald's that's not McDonald's. It's called Kolonat, and it looks like McDonald's, it tastes like McDonald's, but it's... Kolonat. There's also "AFC", a fried chicken joint that is a bold rip-off of Colonel Sanders' better known franchise.

Only in ... Dubai

Can you go skiing in the desert. And play golf.

Only in ... Thailand

Does riding a scooter, despite the fact you've never ridden a scooter, seem like a good idea. Only in Thailand will you be hit on by more lady-boys than actual ladies. Or actual boys. Only in Thailand will you find that politicians are universally despised, but the royal family is universally revered.

Only in ... Australia

Will you find friendly, laidback people who have strict rules and laws covering just about everything. Only in Australia will you consider thongs as formal footwear. Only in Australia do we eat the animals on our national coat of arms. Only in Australia do we consider AFL to be a proper sport. Only in Australia do people pride themselves on giving everyone a fair go, without actually giving everyone a fair go. Only in Australia will you find anyone who knows that the way to spell Woolloomooloo is "sheep-toilet-cow-toilet".

What are your favourite "only in" moments from your travels? Post your comments below