Preparing for Culture Shock
There's nothing worse than arriving in another country to be hit by culture shock and spend the next week in your hotel room wishing you were back at home. Unfortunately, this is a reality many travellers face when we arrive on our holiday totally unprepared. Here's a quick check list to try and lessen the impact.
1. Most importantly: try and research as much you can about the countries or places you are visiting. Read books, talk to people who have been to the area, or better yet - watch movies! Slumdog Millionaire may not be the most exact representation of your trip to India, but it will give you a better idea of the reality faced by the millions living in poverty around the country. If you really look into it though, you can find some great movies either made or set in your destination that can give you a pretty fair idea of what to expect when you arrive. Check your guide book or ask your local video shop for some recommendations.
2. Get used to the food! If you're not prepared it can be astonishingly difficult to get used to eating foreign food. For someone used to fresh fruit and cereal or bacon and eggs the endless bowls of steaming rice noodles and beef that is the early morning treat of Vietnamese Pho can seem like a cruel joke. Likewise, those meat-eaters out there travelling out of the major cities of places like Peru or Nepal, get used to a diet of lentils, stew and potatoes, and prepared for some serious iron-cravings! Experiencing new and foreign food is one of the best parts of travelling, but bringing cravings with you can spoil it completely.
3. Learn the language. You don't need to be fluent in the local language, but make sure you at least know a handful of the basics. Hello, Please, Thank you, Where Is and How Much can be your lifesavers when you're thrown in the deep end with not a word of English to be heard. Not only will this help you get around and prevent you being ripped off, but it is also an important sign of respect to the local people and shows that you care about the places you are visiting enough to make the effort to learn their words. Even if it seems like nothing, a polite 'hello' or 'thank you' can make the difference between being a likeable visitor and just any other tourist.
If you have these things down pat then you'll be able to fit into the local life more easily and hit the sites straight away. It's amazing the difference that just a little bit of preparation can make.
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