Tips for Interacting with Local Cultures
Are you traveling to another country? One of the best ways to have a stellar experience while traveling is to learn how to interact and be respectful of the cultures where you are visiting. Doing so will not only get you friendlier service and local friends, but also helps preserve the local culture.
Here are a few tips for interacting with local cultures.
Learn the local Taboos
Various different cultures have various different “no-no’s.” For example, in many Buddhist cultures, it’s considered rude to touch a child on the head. A foreigner who just ruffles a kid’s head in a friendly manner is actually doing something extremely rude in their culture.
In other countries, even the side of your hand that you show towards someone can be an insult. Palm in or out? It would be terrible to insult someone by not taking a little time and learning some of the taboos before traveling.
Learn these taboos before you land in the country. Just a basic Google search of “Taboos in (name of country)” will give you a lot of information.
Don’t Expect Them to Speak English
While a lot of people may speak English as a second, third, or fourth language, just assuming that because the location is a tourist spot, you will be able to communicate may lead to problems. I’ve known people that although they understand the English language well enough, they do not speak it and will not respond until they get to know you.
Being offended that local shop keepers do not speak English can lead to problems. This attitude will not only alienate the locals, but you’ll miss out on a lot of rich potential interactions. Just because someone doesn’t speak the same language as you doesn’t mean they can’t communicate with you. Consider using a translation app or device. I really like this translator that uses pictures because the little ones can use it too.
Even with language barriers, you can have some incredible experiences with the locals. Don’t distance yourself just because you don’t speak the same language.
Learn a few Conversational Words
There are really just a few words you need to know in any language to be able to get by.
These words include: “Please,” “Thank You,” “Hello,” “Where is X,” “This one” and numbers.
With just these few words, you’ll be able to make most basic requests. You can point at objects and say “one of this one please.” You can ask for directions. You can get around the country.
You won’t be able to have real conversations with people, but with a basic vocabulary you’ll be able to show that you care enough to actually learn to interact with them. You’ll also have a much easier time navigating the area.
Learn One or Two Things Unique to the Culture
When you visit another culture, for example visiting a Hindi area of India, consider learning a thing or two about the religion. What does it actually mean when someone worships Shiva? When you go to Bali, learn a thing or two about shadow puppetry. Why do they love it so much?
Try to learn a thing or two that’s unique to the culture before setting foot in the country. It’ll give you some common ground with the locals, as well as give you a few things to explore during your visit.
While you can’t possible learn all about a location or culture before you visit, investing some time and energy in learning about the taboos, customs and language will certainly enrich your travels. Not only will you enjoy the experiences you encounter, you will have an easier time making friends, finding interesting experiences and get more of a local experience in general.