Traveling abroad is a great opportunity to hone your cross-cultural communications. Prior to moving abroad, most students are busy preparing for the practical matters of making a move; such as visa formalities, university requirements, researching for accommodation and getting all the requirements necessary to qualify for acceptance. People often think that being fluent in the language of the host country is ALL that is needed. However, social interaction is far more often about cultural subtleties.
Moving to a foreign country and learning about new cultures is exciting, but any smart traveller knows how important it is to be aware of and follow the traditions and customs of the host, especially when it comes to spiritual ceremonies. It’s important to always display proper travel etiquette when exploring the city, you’re studying in. Here are few tips to help you through:
Be open to new ideas, new cultures and new ways of doing business
People behave differently around the world. Learn what those differences are and adapt your individual styles and cultural preferences in various cultural settings to be more effective negotiators and communicators.
Avoid cultural misunderstandings
Never go to another country without first studying that country’s culture and understanding how it differs from yours. Know what phrases and gestures are considered in rude in your host country, and don’t pretend to be fluent in your host country’s language if you are not. If you are unsure about a word, gesture, or custom, ask someone. It’s a sign of confidence, not weakness, when you are able to ask for help or advice.
Don’t ask, “Do you understand me?”
It’s annoying and demeaning. Many people choose to say yes rather than appear as if they don’t understand you. Don’t finish someone’s sentences. Both acts project rudeness and impatience, which results in losing information.
Respect the religion, politics, culture and holidays of your host’s country
Showing consideration and respect for others’ beliefs and customs will always serve you well. Although one usually avoids discussing religion or politics with new acquaintances, you should be aware of the religions that are practiced in your host’s country.
Dining in your host city
Your table manners can quickly make you lose foreign friends. When exploring, there might be dishes that may sound unfamiliar to you. Advice is to not outright reject the dish, as it may show lack of sophistication on your part. Know what is considered appropriate table manners in your host’s country. Polished table manners will give you an edge over those with less polished table manners, since most cultures around the world place a high value on table manners and dining skills.
Subtle undertones to observe more about your host city culture
You will soon note innumerable unspoken attitudes and norms, which the locals simply consider common sense. Such unspoken rules that influence daily life could include:
- Personal space
- Eye contact
- Gender roles
- Familial interaction
- Relationship to time
- Relationship to money
- Approach toward authority or seniority
- Attitude toward rules and regulations
- Social class distinction