For many, the chance to have meaningful cultural interactions with other women and community members living in our destinations is the highlight of an international trip, and it’s something our guests tell us that they love most about going on AdventureWomen trips.
To sit in a classroom filled with Spanish speaking children who are trying out their English; to visit a Maasai woman’s home and stir Ugali with her; to talk to your guide about how he met his wife – these are the gifts of traveling. Language barriers can make it challenging to communicate, but there are still plenty of ways to have rich cross-cultural interactions.
Here are a few suggestions to help you maximize your connections while on an AdventureWomen trip :
1. Learn about the culture you are visiting before you go
The first step to being culturally sensitive is to know as much as you can about the culture you are visiting: what are their customs; their values; their religion; their social structure? Did you know for example, there are more than 300 different ethnic groups in Indonesia, each with their own dialect, customs, and traditions? Learning more facts like these before you leave on your trip helps you get a better sense of what to expect abroad.
2. Be aware about aspects of your own culture that might differ from other cultures
It’s just as important to examine your own culture, customs, and history in order to be culturally sensitive. Think about your own set of values so you have an idea of the lens you are using as you meet other people. For example, how does your culture view polygamy and why? How does it view the equality or inequality of men and women? Your culture may use strollers for children, but why not wraps or the Peruvian Mantas? Investigating the beliefs you’ve grown up with can make you more accepting of other customs.
3. Embrace differences
One of the best parts of traveling is being exposed to cultures that are completely different from your own. This encourages you to keep an open mind and let go of stereotypes and generalizations. By embracing differences, the world around us is less fearful and intimidating, and far more inviting and interesting.
4. View other cultures through the "eyes of a child"
Young children are some of the best teachers of cultural sensitivity. If you watch young children, who don’t carry preconceived stereotypes of others, you will note that although they’re shy at the start of meeting new people, once they begin the interaction, they totally embrace each other. Take this same approach with the local people, and you might be surprised what you can learn.
5. Believe in the best in everyone
Trust that people are good. While this might seem perhaps a bit Pollyannaish, a large dose of optimism will often enhance your experience with people who are different than you. People will usually reciprocate the openness and trust that you bestow on them.
6. Be kind and empathetic to those you meet
Kindness and empathy are well understood all around the world. A smile, the use of a cultural gesture of theirs, an openness to being together, or a welcoming or thoughtful gesture will be understood as just that: kindness. Try to put yourself in the shoes of those you are visiting. Understand the culture, the history and hardships, the laughter of the local people, and you’ll be able to make meaningful connections and lasting memories.
What have you found helpful in making cross-cultural connections on your own travels? Tell us on Facebook!
Written by Judi Wineland, co-owner of AdventureWomen.