You are abroad and your plane just landed, the first person you see wears a huge cooking pot on his head like a hat. You may think “mmh that’s the custom, I should probably do that to fit in culturally”.So you go the first store, get a pot and here you are, ready to embrace this foreign culture.
What if the person was part of strange sect, or maybe lost a bet. He could also simply be crazy. He isn’t the majority, he is one of them but he isn’t all of them. The line between individual differences and cultural differences is blurred when you are abroad because you don’t know the custom, therefore you could think that if someone seem rude to you it might be cultural whereas they could simply be a jerk :), to what extend culture affect one’s behaviour, and to what extend is it his own personality? That’s a question I would love to answer someday.
Therefore if you want to integrate to what extend should you strectch your values and change? To the point when they break and you aren’t even yourself anymore, too scared to be put aside?
Well the good news are that as a foreigner :
- You are weird anyway for everybody else. They will pobably blame it on your culture, therefore don’t worry too much about any social faux pas, some use alcohol as an excuse (a quite bad excuse if you want my opinion) , be creative use your nationality!
- If you are a great person, people will like you. If they don’t want to make the extra effort to be friend with a foreigner, they may not be worth your extra effort to be friend with them (they are foreigners to you aren’t they?). It’s great to be curious and want to know different people, but friendship goes both ways. So be true to yourself, don’t try too hard to fit in because you won’t and they are tons of different individuals in a country, the one you met, that could be careless aren’t the majority, they are a part of it, a part you can put aside, to spend your time with the one that matter, the one that prefer that you don’t become danish :)
We are all different no matter where we come from still we usually want the same things: connecting with others, feeling we belong somewhere.
While trying to be culturally aware and sensitive when we travel it’s good to keep in mind that nobody likes to be seen as walking cliché. We are all individuals and especially in western society we like to emphasize how unique we are, how different we think from our neighbour therefore, therefore don’t jump into conclusion when you meet a foreign person (or background it can apply to any situation) , they might be like that because of their cultural background, or because it’s their personality…probably a mix of both but at the end what matters is how open you are to the communication between the two of you.