Every holiday season, there is always pent-up demand for travel from wanderlust travelers seeking to explore beautiful destinations across the globe.
Visiting a foreign country can be exciting - immersing yourself in the diversity of human cultures is one of life’s greatest privileges. To make the most of it, we need to pay special attention to how we interact with the locals and the environment by becoming more culturally conscious.
What does it mean to be culturally conscious?
This term describes an individual’s recognition, respect, and tolerance that they show towards other cultures and cultural identities. This can include their behaviors, values, customs, and beliefs.
Being culturally conscious is all about having a positive experience during your travels while being mindfulof the peoplewho live in the places we choose to visit.
Become a more culturally conscious traveler this holiday season by following these tips.
1. Do some research
Before you visit a new destination, do a little research prior to your journey to prepare yourself for any cultural differences.
Just knowing simple facts about the country can help you integrate better into society and avoid disappointment when you find out about certain restrictions.
Look up useful, everyday tips, like how people dress, how they greet each other, whether you should leave tips or not, etc. There are plenty of resources online that are specifically aimed at educating tourists on such matters. While it can be difficult to know everything before traveling, the best thing to do is to stay observant and open-minded.
2. Be personable
Learn a few key phrases from the native language so you can be able to communicate with locals and ensure your needs are met. Establish good communication by maintaining a positive outlook and always wearing a smile. Such practices will show you’re trustworthy and help you to connect with the locals with great ease. If things go wrong - you get lost, miss a bus, or get sick, don’t lose your cool and try to remain calm as much as possible.
Under unfavorable circumstances, be patient and speak with the locals in a reasonable way to seek a solution.
3. Dress appropriately
When visiting any country, it’s important to respect the culture and follow the local dress code. As a general rule, it’s always a good idea to dress conservatively when visiting any religious site or country. That means long, loose-fitting clothing that covers your shoulders, knees, midriff, chest, and back. In stricter countries such as Turkey and the Middle East, be prepared to cover up your entire body in loose-fitting attire, including your ankles, arms, and hair.
Also, remember to remove your shoes before you enter a Muslim mosque or a Buddhist or Hindu temple.
4. Ask permission before taking photos
Often when we travel we want to get photos of places and people in the destination, but we must always ask permission first. In some countries, it’s considered offensive to have your photo taken, and some cultures even believe that having someone else take your photo can take away part of your soul! Even if you don’t speak the language, use hand gestures and point to the camera to seek approval. There could also be places where photography has been banned or restricted; find out the rules from local tour guides before visiting any site.
5. Go local
Mixing with the locals is the best way to get to know the culture of a place.
Instead of going to that chain restaurant you’re so familiar with, ask the locals for tips on where to find native cuisine. To eat and drink what the locals do is an amazing way to have a truly authentic experience. What’s more, take public transport to have a glimpse of people’s everyday lives, visit the local farmer’s market and venture beyond tourist attractions to discover some hidden gems. Not only will you gain unique experiences, but it will also give you a lot of opportunities to put money directly into the pockets of local people.
6. Be respectful of any customs or traditions
Every country has its own religious and cultural way of life. Some things may seem weird or illogical to a foreigner, but they’re sacred to the local people. It is of utmost importance to engage with other cultures with the proper understanding that no culture is inferior or superior to another. Everyone has their own values, opinions, and lifestyle - respect and appreciate other cultures and remember that we all share this planet.
Traveling is an individual experience, but it is also an opportunity for genuine connections and cultural exchange. Following these tips while traveling will help you embrace cultural differences and leave a positive impact on the people you encounter this holiday season.