We don’t want to be tourists. Tourists snap pictures of the famous landmarks, point at the locals attired in their traditional clothing, and never really engage with the culture. Tourists may roam the world and not remember much of what they saw, unless they pull out the photos on their cameras and phones. If we’re going to be anything, we strive to be like the locals when we travel. But you can’t expect that you will integrate seamlessly into a local’s daily routine in a matter of weeks or that you will know everything about the culture after digging into a few guidebooks.
Being the culturally sensitive traveler that you are, you may have pored over destination blogs and immersed yourself in movies or documentaries in the weeks leading up to your trip. Despite the steps you have taken to gain an understanding of the culture you are going to visit, you will make cultural blunders. Maybe you’ll use the wrong greeting or forget to leave your shoes at the door, but things like this happen to the best of us. You’re not a local, and that’s okay.
There are so many vagabonding adventurers who choose not to take any steps toward cultural understanding whatsoever. If they plan to stay on American-owned and operated resorts for the duration of their stay, that might work. But if they have even the slightest inclination to leave the familiar and engage with the unknown, a Google search of the culture is a bare minimum requirement.
If you are taking those steps to appreciate and understand the local culture, your experience traveling will be enriched dramatically. The vast majority of people will recognize and appreciate your efforts, rather than pushing you away for not behaving exactly like a local.
You aren’t a perfect traveler and no one expects you to be. So long as you can roll with the punches and be respectful of the people who live full-time in your travel destination, you’ll be just fine.
Author: Debra Harris
As founder of Life’s Journey Travel, I’m deeply passionate about creating custom travel experiences that allow my clients to truly savor the journey.