Having lived in Africa and Belgium as a child and having many opportunities to travel as a teen has given me a broad perspective of the world. I don’t know everything about every culture, but I do know a few general tips on how to adjust to a new culture. I thought I would share some of that insight asI prepare myself for a culture I’ve never experienced!
1. Keep an open mind. You certainly will not agree with or like everything from that culture, but remember that you don’t agree with or like everything from your own culture either. Realize that this is the time for you to experience something new that you may never get to do again, not the time for you to stick your nose up at something different.
2. It will smell weird. Each country that I have been to has a very distinct smell, whether it was delicious cheese and fresh bread in Belgium (preferable) or something more along the lines of sticking your face in the trashcan in Africa. Yeah it’s gross, suck it up. By the third day you won’t even notice it any more. Okay, yes you will. But you don’t have to wrinkle your nose every five seconds like you’re the Queen of England, choose to be gracious and make the best of it.
3. Try new foods! You are missing on out a huge portion of a culture if you don’t try the weird dishes. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it ever again. By this token I can now say that I’ve eaten fried grasshoppers. At least it sounds cool!
4. When you don’t know what to do, stand back and observe. If there is a cultural situation that you’re unsure of, most of the time the locals are more than happy to show you what to do. If it’s too awkward to ask, wait until you see someone else and then follow suit.
5. Have a positive attitude. If you are grumpy about having to do things you aren’t used to, or things you’re uncomfortable about, you aren’t going to learn anything! And you will make yourself and everyone else miserable. Put on your big kid britches and decide that you are going to have a good time.
Clearly these are pretty general, but they work every time! Just be excited and ready to learn new things.