Learn these 7 Cultural Tips for an Amazing Vacation
One reason we all go on vacation for, common to all no matter our place of origin, is to leave the ordinary behind for a few weeks. It is about unplugging from your daily routine to be delighted, inspired and amazed by other ways of living.
As an intercultural consultant I have prepared managers to work effectively abroad and in my current work creating travel experiences for our clients, I felt particularly motivated to prepare and educate people on how to travel in a culturally sensitive way. Consider these 7 travel tips below as global, smart, and respectful behaviors, that apply across all cultures and will likely enhance your vacation experience and your interactions with locals.
1. Leave your cultural baggage behind
While there is nothing wrong with being yourself and proud of your values, it is important while traveling outside your country to loosen up and park your cultural values at the long term parking at the airport, ready to be picked up again upon your return.
This is to say that when traveling abroad you have to understand and be okay that the way of doing things will not be the same as in your home country. Expecting things to be the same will only lead to disappointment. Have an open mind, relax, and observe how the locals do “it,” whatever “it” may be! This attitude is sure to lead to pleasant surprises.
2. Tap into local knowledge
This is key to intercultural and experiential travel. Don’t be afraid to ask locals the way of doing things around certain situations you feel unsure about. By asking, you show interest in their culture, and you will be viewed as a respectful and sensitive person, plus the conversation can lead to more fascinating interaction. At VoomaGo we strive to provide you with the best local knowledge you can ask for, and put you immediately at ease!
3. Go with the flow
You carefully and thoughtfully chose your destination, right? So immerse yourself into the culture you are visiting, and there is no better way for a full immersion than to go with the flow. Don’t get upset or annoyed when the outcomes don’t match your expectations, by tempering your expectations you will be delighted with every interaction and encounter. It is all about starting on the right foot, while judging is a natural tendency don’t let that process taint your attitude with negative thoughts.
4. Always err on the side of formality
In the majority of countries and cultures people use a framework that guides interaction among people where respect for gender, title and socio-economic status is shown by treating people formally. In countries like Canada, USA, and Australia the opposite is true. Whether you are a doctor, a grandmother, a lawyer, a professor, or a farmer, informal and friendly interaction is likely to take place. When abroad, it is best to never refer to a local host by their first name until they let you know and give you permission to do so. Also, dress code is part of a non verbal language, avoid too relaxed an attire, especially for dining out or if you are invited for dinner at someone’s home. It would be wise to err on the conservative side, or if unsure, look around and notice what the locals wear depending on the situation, or better yet ask.
5. Keep your language as simple as possible
It is always best to assume that the locals don’t speak very much English. To avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretation, keep your vocabulary simple, and most of all, do not use slang or jokes, 99% of the time they do not translate. Using clear and simple language makes for better interactions and outcomes. Take the time to learn a couple of useful phrases in the local language, locals may smile at your pronunciations because you sound cute to them, they are not laughing at you. Locals will appreciate that you value their culture if you even attempt to speak in their language.
6. Accepting gifts
It is very likely (as you might with visitors in your home), that the local will make or select a present to give to you. This is more of a token of their honor and appreciation to have you in their home and country. So accept it with the utmost gratefulness and ask if they want you to open it, they will let you know. Make sure you thank them in the moment as well as later to confirm and assure them that they were great hosts. In many cultures the art of being a great host is a duty and taken very seriously.
7. Use non verbal gestures carefully
In some cultures nonverbal communication, such as gestures, account for 30% or more of the meaning in a conversation. So if you are from a low-context culture relying mostly on verbal messages for the essence and meaning of conversation, you have to be particularly careful when traveling to high-context cultures which rely on many nonverbal nuances for conveying meaning.
A peace sign in one country can be a rather offensive message in another, so refrain from following your own cultural map. A smile can be a simple greeting and acknowledgement in your country but an invitation you did not mean to send in another. The “ok” sign, such a great sign for agreement in some countries and yet a big offense in others. And finally another one, eye contact: a sign of respect and engagement in some countries and yet a disrespectful and confrontational act in others.
No one is fully prepared to know it all, nor are you to be expected to know the ways of the land in every country you visit. Respect is the key, no matter where you are or where you travel. So ask politely and curiously before you dive in. Happy culturally sensitive travels everyone!