I’m Okay. What’s Wrong With You?

Today’s blog post is kindly brought to you by Victoria Ugarte of Explore My World Travel

I live on Clovelly Beach, three beaches away from the iconic Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. Everyday, a coach full of either Chinese or Japanese tourists descend upon its golden shores. Regardless of weather or temperature, they go to great lengths to avoid the sun, covering themselves from head to toe. Despite the water calling to them like a siren, and Aussies beach-goers dotting the sand, soaking up the sun in various stages of undress, the “tourists” will not so much as take off their shoes and soak their feet in the surf. In fact, many of them fear the water because they can’t swim. They prefer to go shopping instead. Locals shake their heads in disbelief. They can’t understand how anyone could not feel drawn to experience nature at its finest.

On the other side of the globe are the villagers of Koh Phangan, Thailand, who host thousands of young Aussies and Brits every full moon evening. Seen by many as the ultimate party experience, the Full Moon Party is characterized by no-holds-barred partying, heavy drinking and drug taking until the break of dawn. So how do the Thai villagers see the Westerner, or “farang?” They see all Westerners as loud, aggressive, ill-mannered and ignorant of Thai customs. Because of the way that they seem to throw their money around, they also think all Westerners are rich.

Can you see what’s happening here? Isn’t it interesting that we don’t think we have a culture, that is, until we come across someone that isn’t from our culture. Then it’s really easy to point out the differences between “them” and “us”. There may be differences in the language, customs, behavior, dress, cuisine and way of life. There may be even more drastic differences between the way that they look; like eyes, hair, features and skin color.

Culture is not the product of lone individuals. Rather, it has been a powerful human tool for survival since time immemorial. Through the ages, it has enabled communities to teach their young what they have learned in order to survive in their own environment. Sticking to the people of our own culture gives us a sense of security.

But the difference now is that human beings are traveling the world more frequently and in greater numbers. We cross continents in a matter of hours, rather the months that it previously took on a ship. We come into contact with other cultures with far greater frequency, and yet, how is it that many who travel the world still have the notion that a different culture is a lesser one? I say it’s time to embrace the world’s diversity and the key that unlocks this new mindset is education, which inevitably leads to understanding and appreciation.

Here are a few simple steps that will help you embrace the world’s diversity when you go on your next journey:

1) Shift your Mindset: Mindset is everything in your travels. Relax your rigid values, beliefs and preconceived ideas of a culture. There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ cultures, just different ones.

2) Read Up on the Local History: A country’s history can give you valuable insight into a particular culture based on its historic influences. Learning about a country’s history will give you a better understanding of why certain ethnic groups behave the way that they do.

3) Find Out Where Locals Go and Where They Eat: Look into what local festivals are on during the timeframe of your visit. Be open to new experiences and soak it all in: sights, smells, sounds and tastes.

4) Learn a Few Key Phrases in the Local Language: Locals truly appreciate it when foreigners make an effort to speak the local language. Learn some basic phrases such as ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘good morning’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.

5) Respect Local Customs and the Environment: Always be sensitive towards the ecology and the culture of other lands. Always do your homework before traveling to any country that has a culture that is vastly different to yours. Find out the appropriate dress, gift giving and dining etiquette.

6) Learn to Blend in: Dress appropriately. Observe what the locals are wearing and copy them. Observe how the locals behave and mimic that too.

Lastly, as we journey through other countries and come across other cultures, let’s not forget that we are dealing with actual people, with individuals. We’ll eventually discover that we share far more similarities than we originally thought.

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About the Author:
Victoria Ugarte is becoming known around the world as one of the most recognized faces of travel and culturally correct behavior. She spends 3 months out of every year traveling the world, keeping her readers posted on exciting destinations, latest travel tips, and inspiring them to “Explore. Discover. Live”.
Based in Sydney, Australia, Victoria has authored several books with Amazon, including “Culture Savvy for Women.”
You can find Victoria, wherever she is in the world, by going to www.ExploreMyWorldTravel.com.

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