Travelling Teaches You to challenge your preconceptions. We often go into a situation failing to realise that we are looking at life and viewing our new experiences through the lens of our cultural and societal conditioning. It would be hard not to do so, and it’s not necessarily ‘wrong’. However, travelling is a perfect opportunity to take off those metaphorical glasses and try wearing those of another culture for a change.
Perhaps a specific example might help to illustrate my point. Before I went to Italy a couple of weeks ago (not for the first time), I did a bit of research online. As well as looking at guide books and videos I also watched ‘vlogs’ by real Italians, and read travellers comments and thoughts from sites such as ‘TripAdvisor’ and I gleaned some insights that actually came to mind when I was in Italy. One particular learning point occurred when I was reading comments from someone who had been upset at the seemingly ‘rude’ behaviour of Italian shop owners who ‘refused’ to give this person their change in their hands, but instead left it on the counter top. The person struggled with it and felt like they were being treated rudely. As someone from a visible minority I am aware that such experiences for me might trigger negative feelings and memories of being treated unfairly or in a prejudicial manner. However, as I read on, I saw responses to this person’s comment saying that this was not unusual practice, and might even be considered polite. When I encountered this myself a week later, I could smile to myself remembering the insights that I had gleaned earlier.
In short, different cultures do things differently. One behaviour might seem ‘rude’ or uncaring to someone whereas it might be the standard of politeness to another. Things are not always as they seem, so be aware of the cultural ‘tint’ in your glasses, and try on another pair for a change on your travels from time to time 🙂
(Do you have any examples from your own travels or experience of times when you have been challenged to think outside of the lens of your cultural conditioning?)