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Respecting Local Cultures

respect local cultures

‘One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things’

- Henry Miller

Visiting another country means leaving preconceptions at the airport and appreciating the difference. It is easy to feel scared or threatened in a new environment but reading up and doing some research before you go can prepare you for what is lying in store.

Avoiding offence is always a top priority. But of course, every traveller feels like they stick out and that all locals are looking at them. Needless to say that an apology goes a long way to making both parties feel more comfortable. So learning the word for sorry in all the languages you need and holding a sense of humour will warm any local to you as the foreigner.

Wearing the right clothes is one of the most important ways to show respect, particularly if you are a women in Muslim and Indian sub-continents. Cover your shoulders, wear long trousers, do not strip down to only one item of clothing on a public beach. Look at what the locals wear and follow suite.

Being respectful in a place of worship will include clothing but also the removal of shoes and your hat and you may be required to cover your head. At Hindu temples you may need to remove any leather items, such as a belt, before entering. Don’t point at Buddha, particularly with your feet.

As a general rule, always ask someone’s permission before taking their photo so as to avoid causing unintended offence. If you get a positive answer, share the photo with them afterwards but, be aware, some may request a payment for being your ‘model’! Check for permission with regards to photos around religious monuments.

Hospitality is the perfect chance to engage with a local family or community and understanding any particular eating and drinking manners will be respectful to your hosts.

The ultimate challenge for us all is the impact that we create on the communities that we visit. Here are some everyday things that you can do to protect the community you are visiting:

  • Refill your water bottles from dispensers or have a water filtration system in your bottle
  • BYO shopping bags so you can refuse plastic bags offered to you
  • Throw litter away responsibly
  • Remove all disposable waste when you leave the mountains, rivers or lakes particularly batteries
  • Take public transport, cycle or walk.
  • Don’t buy animal based souvenirs
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