Before jumping into cultural specifics, there are a few general tips to follow when traveling abroad. Adjusting to a new culture is not easy, and sometimes you may not have been briefed on the culture. Here are five tips to help the adjustment into any culture.
- Expect things to be different. Traveling is exciting because it will broaden your horizon. This being said, do not expect things to be the same as the United States.
- Keep an open mind. Ethnocentrism is the key ingredient to culture shock. If you have the mindset that your own culture is the “right” culture, then it will make it extremely difficult to adjust. Be open-minded and do not compare everything to how different it is from the United States.
- Do not stereotype. There is nothing more insulting than using a preexisting stereotype to dictate how to treat people. You are more than likely to hear many American stereotypes when traveling and many times, they are far from the truth and offensive. Also, do not judge an entire culture just because of one person who may have given you a bad impression.
- Listen and observe. Try to do this rather than simply hearing and seeing. Take time if possible to go sit at a café or in a plaza wherever it may be to people watch. It is amazing what you can learn from a culture if you just sit and observe daily interactions between friends, family, strangers, etc.
- Have a sense of humor. Making mistakes in a new country is inevitable. Being able to laugh at yourself helps ease cultural blunders and makes you more approachable. If locals see you struggling, yet you come off as friendly and laughing at your mistake, they will be more inclined to help you out.
These are just a few tips to keep in mind when traveling. To make the most out of your trip, make sure to do research on the specific countries or cultures you will be traveling to. Also, try applying these five tips to your own life to raise personal cultural awareness. Think about how your personal culture may come off to someone visiting the United States. If you were surprised at what you found, leave a comment and share your thoughts.