Show Your Respect and Savoir Faire: Learn the Local Customs2 min read
For many people, travel provides unique opportunities to get to know another culture. You can learn history through museums and monuments, but if you want to embrace the culture, you need to taste local foods, enjoy local entertainment and follow the local customs. Our post last week offered a brief overview of some unusual local foods you might be expected to ingest. Today, we point you toward some resources that can alert you to some unusual local customs. It’s our way of helping you avoid potentially embarrassing or even dangerous situations arising from offending your hosts or hostile locals when you are away from home.
For instance, did you know that in Poland flicking a finger against your neck is an invitation for someone to join you for a drink? That the symbol used in the U.S. to mean “ok” means “money” in Japan? Or that in Indonesia neither men nor women should wear shorts, even in the heat? This video from CNN helps you avoid some other miscommunications abroad.
These cultural traditions are important to know, especially for business travelers dining with locals or students lodging with host families. Some of the best advice you can get will come from people you know that have lived in your destination country. If you don’t have personal contacts, you’ll want to do some research.
Two places to start learning are the web sites Kwintessential and Cyborlink. Both are geared towards business travelers but provide valuable information for anyone on the issues of attire, behavior, gift giving, and communication. If you’re going to be visiting a country for a long period of time or if you plan on staying with a local family, you may even want to consider buying a book about the culture of your country. Both Culture Smart and Culture Shock books get generally good reviews.
Take the time to learn some customs of your destination so you can make a good impression—you’ll see nods of approval when you eat your banana in Bolivia with a knife and fork!