Cultural Travel Shock

Cultural travel shock is an experience that occurs when we travel to a different culture and find ourselves in stark juxtaposition  to the beliefs, ideas, language and economic differences with another culture.  Opening oneself to experiencing culture from the inside out means allowing and opening to the differences, smells, tastes, and traditons of a culture, and suspending the “frame” around what we think and know about culture. Dealing with cultural travel shock means walking through walls of fear, and being uncertain withing the context of the culture that you are visiting. There are many places where cultural travel shock is more acute. These places are usually places where the culture is still somewhat intact. Places in the South Pacific, certain islands of Indonesia, and numerous other places in the world, have cultural story and traditions still in place. There is a certain protocol that is important to remember while in another culture.

Here’s what the travel dudes say about cultural travel shock:

To start, one thing that you can do is to change some of your perceptions and think of culture shock as the first step towards learning about other cultures.

Remember that in every culture some things may be right and valid while in your own culture they might not. Remember that each culture is shaped in response to peculiar environmental challenges that differ from society to society and from country to country. So if people dress or eat differently it is because it helps them to adjust best to their local environment. If you have this understanding you will be less likely to feel offended and disturbed by local customs.

Research on a culture’s beliefs and traditions can also go a long way in understanding cultural differences. As an example, women in Malaysia wear sarongs and long skirts, and it is way out of context to wear short shorts, or skirts that are really short. As a visitor to another culture, it is really disrespectful to stand out like a sore thumb.  It is better to do the necessary research, and find out in advance what customs and beliefs a culture embraces, so that you can gain cultural awareness and immerse yourself fully in the experience of embedding yourself within a culture. Cultural travel shock has much less impact on you when you do your homework before getting on a plane, or ship to travel to the other side of the globe. Cultural sensitivity is an attribute we could all foster, and it makes us better citizens of the world. Read the whole article on how to deal with cultural shock here.


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