In a few months, my best friend will be heading overseas to do missions work in a Middle Eastern country. After hearing about the work she plans to do there, I realized how little I know about the culture of countries beyond my scope of travel (mainly Europe and Asia).
Although a quick Google search brought me in touch with some local customs, I still walked away from my computer with a hazy grasp on Middle Eastern culture. What does it feel like to be walking the streets, feeling the breeze and listening to the sounds of Yemen or Qatar? Google wouldn’t tell me.
The age of technology cruelly pries cultural fact from cultural elegance. There’s a drama that comes with tactility: in smelling a tin of dried rose petals, listening to Bedouin street music, or savoring the low cardamom notes in a cup of Arabic sweet tea.
It’s that cultural drama that I want, and it’s that cultural drama that hours of web search won’t give me.
So I thought, is traveling the globe the only way I can truly experience these countries the way I want to experience them? Thankfully, the answer is… not necessarily.
This past week, I stumbled across an article in Cool Hunting that brought me a little closer to what I’m looking for.
The relatively new company, A Box From, curates gift boxes full of artifacts from various cities that allow the recipient to taste (literally and figuratively) a bite of the local culture. A Box From Tehran includes cultural treats including a handmade woven basket and a gram of saffron, and A Box From Seoul includes a collagen face mask and cold noodles.
At 40 euros a pop, these creative packages aren’t cheap, but they’re cheaper than a plane ticket to the other side of the globe, and they effectively sate the appetite of any culturally curious soul. Take a look: