A Brief and Beautiful Immersion in Another World
November 6, 2015 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Short version: a friend and I would like to have some experiences that allow us to temporarily but deeply plunge into another world/culture/paradigm that is markedly different than our own. We don't want to actually BECOME [Francophones/farmers/Amish/rock stars/Uzbekistanis/etc.]; we just want to quietly, respectfully inhabit their world(s) for brief intervals of time. More under the cut.

A friend and I love, love, love visiting jjimjilbangs (Korean saunas). While the relaxation is nice, the thing we love MOST is feeling as though we're stepping into another world, one with its own rituals and customs, one in which we are very much tourists, NOT natives. My friend said that the only other time she's had a chance to experience something similar was when she sat shiva with a grieving friend (and obviously that isn't a desirable or voluntary activity). Can YOU think of anything that fits the bill?

- Activities in the PA/NJ/DE/NY area are preferable, but we'll travel.
- We're both suburban moms but open to ANY. ACTIVITIES. short of mass-murder.
- The more ritual, the better.
- Pre-packaged commercial stuff (e.g. Medieval Times, haunted houses) isn't what we're looking for.
- Durations of a few hours to a few days are preferable (e.g. WWOOFing probably isn't for us).
posted by julthumbscrew to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
Turkish baths come immediately to mind. There are several in the NYC area, easily found with a Google.

Also, what about religious services? Done respectfully, it's a wonderful window. (Catholic midnight Mass at Christmas, Stations of the Cross; visit an AME Church, a mosque, etc., whatever spells "different" for you). Just research beforehand so you understand norms, possibly offensive behaviors, and gender expectations.
posted by Miko at 10:04 AM on November 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Native American Pow Wows. Try the Chee family Pow Wow.at Monument Valley in May. Try a trail ride out on the res. Try a private drive through Monument Valley or Canyon de Chelly.
posted by Oyéah at 10:11 AM on November 6, 2015


I know you said you're not looking for pre-packaged experiences, but this is exactly why I love immersive theater. The feeling of "I don't exactly belong, but here I am, and here is this other place with its own rules that I need to untangle and follow ASAP" is surreal and startling and wonderful. I recently attended Houseworld in Brooklyn and I think you would love it. The chief conceit is that the house is a dream world - but you drive the action of the experience - and I believe it would scratch that same itch for you. It is most certainly NOT a haunted house, either in format or theme.

Related but different shows, and possibly not quite what you are looking for: Then She Fell, Sleep No More, The Grand Paradise.
posted by samthemander at 10:14 AM on November 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think this is big reason why people and/or move abroad. Life is Trip is by a travel writer and full of experiences like this.

Another way to get these exposures is by having friends of different cultures. Where I live (and probably in NYC/PA/NJ) there are a lot of 1st and 2 gen immigrants. I have been to many events where I am either the only or party of a small percentage of people from another culture - for example: days long Indian wedding celebrations, West African baby showers, Passover dinners etc through my friendships.
posted by seesom at 10:19 AM on November 6, 2015


Some of the Harlem churches that are known for their gospel choirs are open to having people visit them.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:27 AM on November 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dim sum could work. When it's crowded and full of families, it feels like an entirely different experience - confusing and chaotic and delicious.
posted by umwhat at 10:29 AM on November 6, 2015 [3 favorites]




What about having dinner with an Amish family? I did that once in Illinois and it was great. The family supplemented their income by having folks in for dinner, and in return they talked a bit about their lives and let us be part of it for a few hours.
posted by megancita at 10:52 AM on November 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have done a few sweat lodges and I highly recommend the experience. This being said, my access to them were via my landlord at the time and I am not sure how you would go about finding one on your own.
posted by deadwater at 11:02 AM on November 6, 2015


I believe there are several guided tours given by the Hasidim in NYC. When you go into their neighborhoods, you are totally in another world.
posted by Melismata at 11:02 AM on November 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Jane's Walks are ways to do this even within your own neighborhood.
posted by Miko at 11:46 AM on November 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would be careful in how you approach this. Some of the experiences mentioned are sacred to people in those cultures, and even if they're open to the public and you think you're being respectful, people who are using them for their ritual purposes can pretty quickly catch on to the tourism aspect. I am Jewish and would be pretty appalled if somebody sitting shiva with me was motivated to do it out of a desire for cultural immersion rather than out of grief, frankly. I mean, I know that's not actually what your friend was doing, but you might want to be aware how this stuff can look.

I really like the immersive theater and Jane's Walks suggestions because those experiences are designed expressly for the kind of immersion you describe.

(I hope this doesn't come off as scolding or as reading something into your particular situation. I just felt it might be useful to add a note of caution for anyone using these spaces for this purpose.)
posted by thetortoise at 1:36 PM on November 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Adding to what Oyéah writes, I'd suggest Taos Pueblo, particularly for the Dec 24 Procession of the Virgin Mary.
posted by artdrectr at 2:10 PM on November 6, 2015


I hesistated before suggesting churches, but most (not all) have the intention of welcoming visitors and newcomers. Researching first is the key.
posted by Miko at 2:59 PM on November 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have not used The Amish Experience myself. But friends from Hong Kong did so and recommended it. They did the Visit In Person tour, I believe.
posted by frumiousb at 4:49 PM on November 6, 2015


With regard to any religious service I would definitely clear it first with the head of the congregation. (It would be wildly out of place and potentially really wig people out in any of the synagogues I go to, for instance. Like, so much so that I wouldn't advise doing it even if the rabbi was like "uh sure I guess." Just because the leader might not prevent you, wouldn't mean it wouldn't be distracting and uncomfortable for people who are there to pray and be with their community.)

Zen monasteries run guesthouses sometime that welcome people into services as well, are there any of those near you?

How about stuff like Tango Night, Samba Night at nightclubs?

If you were willing to work for a caterer you could probably get to see some awesome weddings. My dream in life is to be invited to a Indian wedding.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:07 PM on November 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


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