My wife and I took a bus from Dubrovnik, Croatia, a beautiful, ancient city on the Adriatic coast, to Budva, in newly independent Montenegro, where we were to meet a former exchange student of mine and she was going to take us into the capital, Podgorica, where she lived.
We went from very tourist friendly Dubrovnik across a border to where very little English was spoken, for example, with the bus driver, who instead of taking us to the bus station, dumped us on a street corner somewhere with one word: "Budva!" at 10:30 PM.
Standing there with our backpacks looking conspicuously American, it became obvious very quickly that we were some distance from where my student was going to meet us, and we also obviously did not speak a word of Serbo-Croatian.
The streets were filled with mostly young people out on a Friday night, dressed to the nines and headed for the waterfront parties. They were spectacularly disinterested in us. When I tried to "charades" a request to passersby to call our friend for us, we were mostly ignored, with a few eye rolls and annoyed looks. It took us a full 45 minutes to finally convey to a kind someone to make a call for us and all was well, but that is as immersed in a foreign culture as I have ever been, and also about as alive as I've ever felt.
In Podgorica, we were greeted at our friend's family flat as visiting royalty, and given dinner at 2:30 in the morning. They had been waiting to eat all this time until we arrived. We were served something that looked like marinated, raw chicken, covered in garlic. We politely asked what the dish was called, and our host responded "paprika". So we plunged in, and it tasted pretty good really. Then we proceeded to sweat out garlic the rest of the night!
Though disconcerting at times, it was a wonderful experience, getting that far off of the grid that was familiar to us.