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Adapting to foreign cultures during travel.

places + travel

Every time I visit a different country (not as often as this phrase would have you believe), I love to experience what its local culture has to offer. Beyond the touristy facade, there lies a grittiness or a less-than-romantic perspective to each country that isn’t outlined in travel guides. Unless you choose to interact with locals, learn about the culture and tread the unbeaten paths, you’ll most likely experience what most tourists experience. I don’t mind that on occasion (and there is nothing wrong with it), but once in a while I like to dig deep. Here are 5 things that I’ve learnt along the way:

Learn some useful phrases in their native language. Not only will this help you to get around, but it also gives you brownie points with the locals for making an effort to learn it.

Smile. A smile really brightens anyone’s day. If you’re friendly and kind, there isn’t anybody who wouldn’t welcome you into their space. Unless they’re aloof for various reasons.

Go with the flow. There is nothing worse than a nit-picky tourist. By all means, you should get what you paid good money for, but sometimes being too fastidious in getting the “perfect experience” results in a poor one instead. Instead of kicking up a fuss. Be flexible and gracious, even when dealing with tough situations.

Be curious. There’s a huge difference being genuinely curious about a culture, interrogating people and being plain nosy. It’s important to distinguish between these three and it boils down to attitude. Take an interest in the lives of people especially, because they’re special and have tons of interesting cultural stories to tell. Learning about the history of a country can also help you to understand why its people behave and think the way they do.

Be aware of your surroundings. Not just your physical surroundings, but also the social climate and overall atmosphere of any given situation. Not only will your alertness and sensitivity help you avoid altercations, but it also shows consideration to the people whose country you are visiting.

I hope these few little tips will go a long way in making your stay pleasant for both yourself and those around you, wherever your next destination may be.

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