Embracing Cultural Differences
Visiting different areas of the world is an incredible way to broaden your horizons and appreciate this world in an entirely new light. However, leaving your comfort zone to go explore unknown locations can understandably be unnerving. It's not uncommon for travelers to experience some degree of culture shock during their trip. Such examples include how people greet one another, the language, the adequacy of the restrooms and accommodations, the type of cuisine, facial expressions, currency, mannerisms, the list goes on and on.
Hit The Books
Researching your destination in advance is the key to a comfortable, enjoyable journey wherever you end up going. The internet is your best resource for finding information that you need. Reading books or even watching certain television shows will also help you feel more prepared. Keep in mind that most of the world expects a certain amount of naivety from travelers, so don't worry about trying to know everything beforehand. For example, it is not customary to tip in Japan, eat in public transportation in Singapore, or eat with your hands in Chile, the locals are likely to quickly forgive such cultural faux pas since it's understood that their social norms are new to you. Focus on learning the basics for everyday social interaction
Bear in mind that wherever you touch down, most locals are likely to be welcoming and thrilled that you decided to make their homeland your getaway destination of choice. Provided you share a common language, talk to them, share stories, share food, learn about their humor and way of life, and teach them the same in return. Move outside major tourist areas to find real, genuine locals to truly immerse yourself in the culture and learn new things.
Keep Top Of Mind
Sitting with legs crossed is common in North America and some European countries, but showing the sole of your shoe to another person is considered disrespectful in Asia and the Middle East.
- Bargaining is often an expected part of transactions abroad. Learn to haggle and demand better prices.
- Showing the peace sign in the United States is the equivalent of giving someone the finger in the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa. Just remember that this only applies should your palm be facing you. If your palm is facing outwards then you're in the clear.
- The "a-okay" hand symbol is equivalent to giving the finger in Brazil.
- In Morocco it is considered impolite to see someone you know, say “hi”, and keep walking. Be prepared to chat for a while about family, children, health, etc.
- Experiencing new foods, sights, and ways of doing things is one of the best parts of travel, but can be hard to adjust to if you don’t travel often. By using these tips as a guideline, you can better organize and prepare for your trip. Stay tuned to Travel Tip Tuesdays for more in-depth information about the best way to travel.