If your spring break adventures have you venturing into another country, you’ll need more than your passport and a foreign language dictionary to navigate cultural differences. Misunderstandings about what is considered to be appropriate behavior can lead to a negative vacation experience, so follow these tips to help you adjust to your new surroundings and have the adventure of a lifetime:
Before you leave
Before you leave to visit a foreign country, learn as much as you can about their way of life so as to avoid a culture shock upon your arrival. Facial cues, symbols and gestures vary from country to country, which can make attempting to communicate especially difficult if you don’t know the language (and may explain why so many people think natives of a foreign country can be rude).
There are a number of resources available to help you gain some perspective. Beyond searching the internet, newspapers and magazines from the country you plan to visit can also help you prepare to relate to a foreign culture. Guidebooks can also be extremely helpful, and you should ask anyone you know who has visited the country before if they have any advice – they may be able to share some inside knowledge that you wouldn’t be able to find in a book. Just as you should not expect everyone in a foreign country to match your preconceived notions, you should also be careful not to play into any negative stereotypes about Americans (for example, being loud or impatient).
After your arrival
As you embark on your journey into a foreign country, be sure to keep an open mind. Your own societal norms and preconceived notions may make it difficult to adapt to cultural differences. However, if you’ve taken the time to prepare and know what to expect, your trip is likely to go much more smoothly.
Upon your arrival, you may encounter culture shock. This is a phenomenon whereby you experience a bit of disorientation as you attempt to navigate a culture very different from your own. It will take you a bit of time to adjust, but remember that you are there to learn about and appreciate the societal differences in this new country (if you wanted the “American” experience, you would have vacationed in Florida with all the other spring breakers).
As you experience these new customs, remember to be flexible and try to be tolerant of the differences that you find. Although attempting to communicate can be frustrating at times, if you approach each situation with a sense of humor and self-reliance, you will undoubtedly have a positive vacation experience.