Travel and culture do not necessarily go hand in hand. They are many people who have traveled extensively but are still culturally unaware due to their unconscious biases. When thinking about traveling, travelers must always be aware that they will experience cultural differences and be respectful of the culture they choose to place themselves in, even if they don’t accept it. Here are five ways to become a more culturally sensitive traveler.
1. Know that culture is not limited by race or ethnicity. People have different cultures based on their upbringings, language, gender, religion, or sex, to name a few. As a traveler, expect to see people who have different experiences, backgrounds, or viewpoints.
2. Know that you will see, hear and possibly feel things that will be different from what you are accustomed to. For example, queuing or standing in line is common when traveling through airports in the boarding process. However, in some cultures, the boarding process can be chaotic as some cultures are accustomed to a “me first” mentality.
3. Know that even though you might recognize your destination for a particular culture, this does not mean that you have to abandon your own culture. Be culturally sensitive as many places are multi-cultural, and you can add value to your destination with your own culture.
4. Know that culture influences people’s attitudes, beliefs, values, and behavior. Try not to judge a person based on what you presume to be their culture; oftentimes, your judgment is based on your own unrecognized bias.
5. Know that travel becomes a much more pleasant experience when you have learned to accept and respect people and their differences. You will become much more open to new knowledge and experiences and add value by sharing your own culture with others.
It has pained me to see the new wave of Asian racism as much as it has been to experience it as a person of color. What I do know, however, is that traveling has opened my eyes to see people as they are and not what I think they are. Has traveling opened your eyes culturally? I’d like to know.