Recognizing Cultural Differences and Embracing Them in Your Travels
By :: Jason DiLoreti
For many people traveling to Europe, the cultural differences they experience (and unknowingly display) are something many overlook. As a traveler and guest in someone else’s country, you need to be sensitive to the culture of your host country, both for your own enjoyment and for the impression you leave behind.
Embracing Culture not Your Own
Culture is a tough thing to identify. It is unseen. It’s basic definition is: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group. It is what makes people stand out as Italians, Danes, Spaniards, etc. Dig in, figure out what makes France special. In the process, you will also be able to see yourself more clearly.
Let me give you two basic examples:
When attending a restaurant in America, what do you expect? For the most part, the main thing we expect is quick service! I mean, after all, we are there to eat. Dining in Italy will develop a new virtue in your soul or it will become the most hated time of the day. If you can’t get past the aspect of getting your meal, or basically everything without time precedence, you will lose your mind. Most of Europe, especially southern Europe, does not hold such a high precedence on time. Enjoy it, relax.
Work Ethic ::
Work and work hard so that one day you can take it easy. Americans basically live to work while places like Spain, work to live. You work to make money and then use the rest of your time to enjoy family and friends. Many places throughout Southern Europe close in the middle of the day to go home and take a siesta (nap) and if it rains and no one is out, why open back up. This does not make their work ethic less, it’s just different.
These are some very generalized differences, but there are thousands more that wait to be uncovered. Take the time to listen and see what someone else is showing you through their life.
Be Careful What you Leave Behind
Tourists from all over the globe leave behind a taste of their mother country with the residents of the country they have visited. It is sad to say that around the globe Americans probably have the worst reputation for ignorant travelers. But you the traveler have the greatest opportunity to change that stigma.
Here are some things to remember:
- Always be thankful and courteous.
- Just because you are not used to it, or it’s not how you do it, doesn’t make it wrong.
- You do not need to act on the notion to tell people how they can do things better.
- If someone offers you something, take it. You may offend them if you don’t. (within reason of course).
- You are not better than anyone you come in contact with. We’re all human!
- Don’t expect everyone to speak English. Try to speak their language. People will love the fact that you are trying.
- Try and taste something new.
- Try to be easy going… it relieves a lot of unnecessary stress.
- Be genuinely interested in the people and the country around you.
Keeping these things in mind will help you get more out of your vacation and will also help change the stigma many tourists leave behind.
If your stay in Europe is for a much longer period of time, you may experience culture shock. It is not a disease, or something you will die from. Adjusting to the major differences between your own culture and the host culture is not something that happens overnight, even for the professional world traveler. As with any major change in someone’s life, it may be hard to deal with.
Knowing that this can occur is the first step in getting through any cross cultural difference or conflict you may have. If you would like further information on adjusting to culture shock, please send an email and I will forward on some good books and other information.
In the end, culture is one of the greatest things you can explore. Knowing and realizing that you are different is exciting. Seeing the sights around Europe is only half of the fun. Make sure to dig in and truly see what makes up Europe! Together we will truly experience Europe!
Jason DiLoreti ::
Jason DiLoreti holds a bachelor's degree in Cross Cultural Studies and has travelled throughout much of Europe. He previously lived and worked in Copenhagen, Denmark while helping establish and administrate a college level school. Currently he is working in the internet marketing field. | contact |