Traveling to different cultures can be an exciting experience. Before leaving for your adventure, it is good to be aware of the culture you will be a part of as a visitor. Here are 4 easy ways to travel with cultural appreciation:
Research local customs
Before you are immersed in a new culture, learn about different customs that they may have. For instance in India, do not use your left have when eating or when handing items to another person, this is considered rude...as your left hand is your "toilet hand." Learn if there are any customs you think are normal that would be considered rude in the culture you are traveling in. If you are unsure about any customs, don’t be afraid to ask a local.
Learn a few key phrases in the local language
A few words can go a long ways! Language is a big part of culture, and knowing simple greetings, thank you, pardon me, etc can make a big difference. Keep a little cheat-sheet for yourself if you need it!
Know a bit about local history
Traveling with a context makes the experience more meaningful. And learning a bit of history before takeoff can make your experience not only deeper, but when talking to locals, it shows that you really do care about their customs and way of life. And always be respectful of the history, if a subject is taboo to talk about, stay away from it unless it has been brought up by a local.
Eat the food
Unless you have an allergy to an item on the menu, it is always polite to eat the food given to you. Your host has worked very hard preparing the meal and not eating your meal would be considered rude. Now, in some cultures it is necessary to eat everything on your plate, in others it is good to leave a little bit left. So do a little bit more research or ask a reliable source, but this is something useful to know before sitting down to dinner.
Be responsible with your camera
Please remember that while you're traveling and many things will feel new and exciting to us, they are other people’s daily realities. Think critically before taking pictures; you don’t want to make people feel like they are “zoo animals” or only valuable to you for the pictures. On the same thread, my general rule is to only take pictures with people who I know their name, so you’re taking pictures as friends and not as “foreign savior.”
Know that you can only do your best. If you are unsure about a difference in cultures all you have to do is ask. If you make a mistake, just apologize and move on. Traveling is a form of learning, and just doing your best to appreciate the culture that you are in is all you can do.
Now that you have done your best to prepare for your next adventure and can travel with cultural appreciation, don’t forget to be present and just enjoy the experience!
Interested in learning more about how to travel, visit our blog post about how to travel sustainably.