We all know this expression Culture Shock.
Yeah well and I was thinking such a thing does not exist for me. That was after I travelled some European countries, South Africa and New Zealand - Guess what happened next?
Well, I went to China then. Everything was just so different! The gestures, facial expressions, language, writing, streets, houses, the shape of people, hygiene, the smell, temperatures and even the rain is different.
Naive stupid travelling China for more than 3 weeks with my two girl friends: One of them blond and tall, the other one with long wild curly hair – wondering why everybody stares at us. I definitely learned my lesson. We were so many times so freaking lucky, that we had just a right feeling of how showing respect to Chinese people and their country. Moreover we were lucky to have met so many nice people who helped us in the end!
So here are some advice to do better than me:
This is maybe not new to the people who worry – but it will be new to the naive traveller like me. So just read it. Those websites have a clear language to describe what is officially allowed and what is officially not allowed.
The negative part about reading the Foreign Council websites is that you will be terrified. And reading it to your mum is probably also not the best idea.
But don’t forget: It's simply not in their job-description to tell you the nicest hidden spots. It is important to be aware of the rules of a very different culture to pay them a minimum of respect when you will be guest in their country.
Just be aware of the fact, that it will scare you and you probably overthink twice afterwards – This leads to the next point: It is not enough to read the Foreign Council.
What I mean is, forget the obivious! Only then you go to experience a very different culture and don’t go for the best Hotel and the nicest restaurant. Get in contact with the real life of where you going and read a Travel-Guide which focuses on culture. Knowing the history of a society makes you understand them a lot easier. Also very handy are some useful translated words and phrases in the back of those books. My favourite brand for travel-guides for the best recommendations is Edition Erde.
Ok, that might sound a little bit posh here, but it really can help you. There are a lot of good blogs out there! Blogs just give you an honest individual perspective on something. They tell and share their experience right away and maybe already wrote something about your question. I list some of my favourite traveller blogs here:
Yehy, finally another use than uploading Selfis and Holiday Pic’s! There are so many handy groups on Facebook like “Free your stuff in…” “Free rides to…” “Schnäppchen für Studenten” “Travelling…” or Facebook pages like Urlaubsguru, Travelletes, Free Traveller and so on.
Also couchsurfing.com can become very handy, even if you don’t plan on couchsurfing, you will find a lot of very good discussions and tips there – especially if you go to countries where Facebook and Twitter are forbidden.
I know, this a little bit connected to “get out of your comfort zone”. But hey – if you go on a trip in an absolute different culture, you need to do this anyway! So get active in forums, write e-mails to people who wrote books, made movies, said something in the newspaper or wrote a blog... Just write them - write me! You will be surprised how many people are willing to help you!
The language problem is something you can’t solve in a short time preparation. So just learn some words and phrases like “Hello” “Thank you” “I am…” “How much does it cost” – In China I used something I called Magic Paper. Every time we met someone who spoke English and Chinese we ask to write something like the days of the week, our names our destinations and so on and on. It really worked and the biggest compliment you can make a different culture is to show the will of communicating with them in their language.
You already communicate a lot in the way you dress. If the culture of the country you go to is very different to yours than probably even more than you think. Check out on their Do´s and Dont’s in Travel-Guides and Blogs. Especially when it comes to colours. Many cultures have white as a colour of dolefulness, or just don’t allow women to wear anything else than black or the other way around, as they love colours like in India. Moreover certain things like, its important to cover arms, sometimes feed, sometimes hair and then sometimes it is not nice to cover anything – like when using a Sauna in Finland or certain parts of East-Germany (FKK!) or even going out around Temple Bar in Dublin somehow :P
The point is you are not very nice wearing the Burka in Temple Bar in Dublin, but you also wouldn’t be nice wearing a party dress the Irish way visiting a Mosque – and no! I know us handy Germans, who love those all-rounder clothes with our Jack Woflskin rain jackets and trekking trousers with a sipper that makes you change from long to short trousers within a minute: Those are not appreciated in a Temple Bar neither in a Mosque. Showing some style - or at least the will of dressing up - for a special place is already a way of showing some respect.
And of course, I mean, you just bring sustainable or fair-trade clothes :) Hello, this is TheStoryBehindTheLabel!
I hope that is helpful in some way.
Let me know