On our travels around this planet we call Earth we’ve seen all sorts of people doing all sorts of things but one theme that runs through every culture is games. Every country has their own but some have grown in to the very fabric of society and are now a sociable event. Played on the streets, in the parks, down alleyways, in cafes and pubs or even in purpose built venues. They’re a great way to see a local culture and you can even get involved yourself. I was recently asked to pick a few of my favourites from around the world, no doubt there are many many more but these are some of the best that you should track down when you travel
Chess in Central Park, New York
This has to be one of the most iconic scenes and something that has come to symbolise the New York way of life. A walk around Central park is a must for any visit to New York but its the Chess & Checkers House that is absolutely mandatory. While you’ll find people playing chess in most parks in New York, Central Park is definitely the best. You can borrow pieces here and play strangers at any of the 24 tables neatly arranged surrounded by floral pagodas and a wonderfully secluded spot to concentrate on your game. There’s plenty of eager players so you’ll always have someone to battle against. There’s also tournaments and festivals where Chess grandmasters take on multiple players, quite a sight! So if you’ve got what it takes, or you just want to see one of New York’s finest traditions, head to Central Park for some outdoor Chess.
Bingo in England
Back in the 60s and 70s Bingo was all the rage in England, a national pastime that had a venue in every town and city in the land. Numbers dwindles in the 80s and 90s but a resurgence in this simple game grew in the early 2000s and now you’ll find plenty of purpose built venues in entertainment complexes. A night out at the bingo has once again become a lively alternative to bars and clubs with plenty of prizes on offer and drinks to be had too. If you’ve never played it before check out bingo online to understand it better. It couldn’t be simpler really and its the anticipation of a win that keeps people coming back every weekend. Its image of grannies and the elderly sipping sherry and shouting “House!” has very much been replaced with the “girls night out” and a younger more lively audience. While there are plenty of games that are typically British, Bingo seems to be the one that brings thousands together every weekend for the chance to win big.
Mahjong in any park in China
This ancient game is more an addiction than a tradition in China. Often played for money you’ll find people playing Mahjong in every park in the country. There are many local variations and its a fairly complex game to follow but once you’ve played a few rounds and been ridiculed by the locals you’ll soon get the hang of it. Hong Kong is a great place to play it with some great local parks and plenty of people willing to let a crazy westerner try there luck (and lose a few bucks in the process).
Slamming Dominos in Barbados
When you think of Dominos you probably think of old men playing a dull game in a quiet pub somewhere. This is most definitely not what happens on the Caribbean island of Barbados where Dominos is a national pastime and and a chance to let of some steam with some controlled aggression! With a very portable set of Dominoes you’ll see local Bajan men playing after family meals, under palm trees on the beach or at night markets where its often played for money. This very animated version of the game is great to watch where a quiet moment of contemplation can turn in to an aggressive slamming down of the Domino piece, presenting your move in the most theatrical way possible. Its great to watch and you’ll soon recognise the sound of a game of dominoes from a hundred metres away or more. One of the best places to watch is Oustins, the popular and lively night market and outdoor eating area. This place comes alive at the weekends with live bands and amazing freshly caught Flying Fish. You’ll also hear the unmistakable sound of dominoes being played in various bars and outdoor tables. Spectate if you like but don’t be shy in joining in, the locals will happily show you the Barbados way.