You can’t just jump in a saddle and expect to know how to ride a horse, how it will act or what it expects from you. So to with travelling or immigrating. If you don’t know where you’re going, don’t go there! Many of us tend to visit places off the beaten track. We temporarily immerse ourselves in the culture because it’s conducive to a good trip and then we go home, giving no thought to the idea that we may have just swapped cultural skin.
On a subconscious level we have just become an integral part of these people’s lives and they of ours. Perhaps we have changed ideals, piqued imagination and inspired creativity by painting a picture of who they think we are and how they think we live in a world they have yet to visit. When I travel I am a student, when I return home I am a teacher. I am a participant observer never afraid to experience the Culture – because in those shared moments prejudice, ethno-centricities, hardship and everyday trials of life seem to evaporate on each held breath of wonder, if only for awhile.
Through all of my travels the biggest complaint I hear from the locals is, “Tourists don’t even know who we are!” I personally make it a point to learn the customs and culture wherever I travel. It saves a lot of headache and heartache. I research pre-departure and immerse myself upon arrival. I don’t forget to return a favor or bring a gift to Cultures that practice social reciprocity such as Japan and Russia, I don’t shake with the wrong hand and insult my new found friend. Yes I can only learn so much before I go, but I try to learn everything once there.
Because after all, how can I possibly enjoy my trip if I offend everyone out of lack of respect or ignorance. There are 196 countries and millions of people just waiting to be understood, so let’s kick off our shoes and respectfully try on a pair of theirs! I am you and you are me – we are ONE. How can we respect each other?
“I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible…” Mahatma Gandhi
“Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit.” Jawaharlal Nehru