Who are the most rustic, pre-modern people you've ever met?

Here are a few anecdotes of mine. Add yours.

I was once touring the back roads in Romania in the 1960s, and in the undeveloped world, if you stop your car to ask directions, everyone going that way feels welcome to climb in and rides along and thanks for the lift. One old woman in the back seat remarked that it was the first time she had ever been in a car. I felt very proud to be a milestone for someone whose long life had been rich and varied in ways I cannot even fathom.

Wandering a back road in Colombia, we came upon a family that for some reason had been hired to sit in the road and break rocks with a hammer, a couple of chiildren along too young to do any useful work. We stopped to chat (my feral wife recognizes a universasl bond of motherhood, which makes her a resourceful traveling companion), and apologized that our Spanish was not very good. “Why?”, they asked. They had no idea there was anyone n the world who spoke a different language than theirs. Later I recalled that in third grade, our subject was called “Language”, not “English”. To me, then, the two words were synonymous, and to untraveled adults, may still be.

My inner-city grandmother was very premodern. Whenever we visited, I never saw her outside the kitchen, until I was nine and saw her in a casket. I never had a conversation with her. I learned decades laer that she had never learned to speak English, although my grandfather wold not let the kids speak anything but English. So my mom and her mother were unable to speak to each other, for their whole lives. It was as if she had never left the old country and her children were raised like livestock…

I was traveling in Indonesia in 1995, with my dad, I was a teenager. We took a plane from Australia to Ambon, and a much smaller plane from Ambon to Saumlaki, and a boat from Saumlaki to… I don’t even know. I couldn’t point it out on a map. A small island in the Tanimbars. There was no electricity, no running water. We stayed with the village head guy and his family. They took us snorkeling from their outrigger fishing boat. There were no shops, no restaurants. We got along OK with the little bit of Indonesian he’d learned in the Army – they spoke their local dialect on the island, which was incomprehensible to us.

He told us we were the first white people that had ever visited. Now, looking back, I’m not sure it’s true, maybe it’s a story he told all the tourists. But it was a neat experience. Great snorkeling too.

I drove from Adana to Istanbul about 25 years ago & traveled through some very rural parts of Turkey. I stopped in one village where little kids were playing outside. They had no toys, so the extraverted kids were all playing what looked like some version of ‘Tag’. Then there were several little kids who had created an entire village out of mud. It was very elaborate and had little mud houses, carts, people, dogs, cats, goats, water pump, etc. Reminded me of kids in the US who create things out of Legos.

Well, that explains my story, I was in Romania in 2004 on a motorcycle trip. I was trying to figure out where to go so I was stopped on the side of the road looking at a map. Some young guy came up and asked me where I was going, pointed towards the correct road then hopped on the back! I was very confused, very. But I gave the guy a ride. I always wondered about that, now I know.

Tibetan nomads on multiple trips 1985-89. First white person they ever saw. Lived a pastorial herder lifestyle with practically no modern anything except for the hand cranked butter fat separator. Fantastic people and experience.

Who’d they buy the snorkeling gear from? :wink:

Probably the Dogon people in Mali. They’ve seen plenty of white people, but they continue to live their lives much as they did 800 years ago, in huts at the bottom of the Bandiagara Escarpment, burying their dead in the openings of the cliff face.

Kathmandu, Nepal. I was there for a few days about 20 years ago, a side trip for me and some colleagues after a business trip to India. I remember thinking that it was like stepping back in time, a juxtaposition of the modern with the ancient. I remember riding along and seeing people in robes with hand tools stooped over plantings in terraced fields.

This probably happens all over the world but I had never seen it and was so charmed when a man stepped down from a bus in front of us, opened up the luggage compartment and pulled out a baby goat. I couldn’t speak to the people, but they seemed to show a gentle interest in us. I remember walking by an old wooden cart in town, piled high with goods, with a tiny little old lady perched on top. She returned my nod with great dignity. I saw a group of young women seated on the ground with a baby, and I talked to them for a moment about how pretty the baby was and they smiled, they knew what I was saying. Such a beautiful place, it was enchanting to be there. And I got to fly around the top of Mount Everest in a little Buddha Air jet, which was pretty cool too!

Some of my volunteer work has brought me into contact with the Amish of the US East Coast. They are a little bit different because they know a lot about the modern world but choose to not take part in most of it. They are extremely nice, sometimes almost to a fault, and almost all of them grow up from childhood as fluent bilinguals (English and German) which is a rarity for native-born Americans. The Baku people of Star Trek: Insurrection are an almost perfect illustration of their attitudes and world view.

There’s a surprising number of Native Americans that have no electricity or plumbing, some that don’t speak English and believe in witchcraft-in the middle of the United States!

I’m very dubious there are any Native Americans in the United States who don’t speak English. As for witchcraft, plenty of ‘modern’ white Christians believe in it too.

I’ve lived in an East African country for about three years, and I visited Nepal when I was younger, those two are probably tied for the most ‘backward’/premodern country I’ve ever been in. India would not be far behind, though they’ve made a surprising amount of progress in the last couple decades.

In my OP, I meant to elicit responses of your experiences personally meeting and relating to individuals that were particularly rustic within their own culture. Rather than to cast an entire nation as being relatively unadvanced.

One of my indigenous field assistants in a study in a remote area of Amazonia in Peru, a man of about 40, told me he had grown up before his tribe was contacted by outsiders. He said he was about 20 when the first missionaries came to his village.

One day he asked me very seriously whether there could be problems if a brother and sister had a baby together. He told me that in his tribe it used to be permitted for brothers and sisters to have sex, but when the missionaries came they told them that could cause problems with the children. I told him that was one thing the missionaries had right.

My other assistants on that trip were also from tribes that mostly lived a traditional life style, but which had been contacted for a while.

I’ve worked a lot in the Darien and other parts of Panama where indigenous people still live in a traditional way, in huts without electricity or running water. I’ve often stayed in such huts, or camped next to the village.

On project in the Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire) I went out net-hunting once with 20 Mbuti pygmies.

My grandmother was born and lived until adulthood in a saddlebag cabin without running water or electricity. I can listen to her talk about that life by the hour. She’s sort of puzzled by why I’m so interested.

On the opposite end of things, I worked with a beta reader who had grown up in a normal 1950s sort of farmhouse, but as an adult lived for several years in a cabin in the woods without water or electricity. His advice? Always boil water before you drink it, and don’t let the fire go out.

When I was in college, I received an unexpected marriage proposal from a tribal prince from Burkina Faso. He was urbane and well-educated, so not exactly a rustic person, but still his main concern before moving into the meat of the proposal was whether I was on good terms with my male relatives. ???

Yes. My husband went to Bible college in Tennessee. He played Dungeons & Dragons. Their dungeonmaster got brought before the Dean on accusations of witchcraft. Like, seriously, ready to expel the guy for practicing black magic. For playing Dungeons & Dragons.

I’m personally of the mind that prayers and spells are indistinguishable, so in my mind, all Christians practice magic.

I’ve got a lot of friends among the Amish/OOD but I’m not sure I would qualify them as meeting the OP. Most are more aware of modern lifestyles and tech than you would think but its just not something they want to be a part of or need.

(Although cell phones are making inroads in some parts of PA and Indiana.)

Head on down to the Hopi or Zuni reservations and ask them.

A place I used to work at occasionally had a small cluster of young Mennonite women coming in with their long dresses and small white bonnets.
Always the most polite, respectful customers.

Dad’s also pretty rustic and pre-modern.

We brought our own with us.

In 1976, my high school class flew from the west coast to the east coast (US) for the Bicentennial. On the plane was an old lady and it was her first time flying on an airplane…

-When she first traveled to the west coast, it was by wagon train and it took 6 months.
-The flight we were on went from the west coast to the east coast in a few hours!

Then in the 1960’s, I would visit my grandmother’s house and she was around 80 years old at the time - born in the 1800’s…

-She grew up with kerosene and gas lamps (lighting). When she asked someone to turn off an electric light, she would say “close it”!

-She also said “You do not know someone until you have known them for 7 years.” (VERY good advice!)

-And she said “You have your health, you have everything!” (More very good advice!)

-Note she did not drink alcohol - was adamantly against it. However she bought cheap Gallo wine by the gallon and used quite a bit in her cooking! :slight_smile: