With a new year comes new resolve! Here are ten resolutions for an intercultural-minded new year.
#10 Resolve to be HUMBLE: No one culture has an absolute lock on “right” or “wrong”, your culture or theirs. Resist judging what you see, hear, taste, experience, until you have ALL the facts. Now go renew that passport!
#9 Resolve to be CURIOUS: Work to get outside the “tourist bubble”, stay open to the different and unknown, expect the unexpected. Take a deep breath, jump in, and remember there is a hotel room to return to at the end of the day if you really need to!
#8 Resolve to be CHANGED: Managing the discomfort of culture-shock is a far better strategy than putting energy into avoiding it. No change, no gain! Now, for the specifics of exactly how to manage it, check out, dfaintercultural.com, of course!
#7 Resolve to be INFORMED: There is always more to know, and the more you know before you go, the richer your travel experience will be when you get there. Read blogs, articles, or even download a book on understanding the culture (such as “The Global Etiquette Guide…” series by Dean Foster)
#6 Resolve to ASK QUESTIONS: Stuck for how to strike up a conversation abroad? Ask about their culture: food, weather, practical tips on getting around, how the local football (soccer) team is doing, current events (non-judgmentally, of course), etc. Everyone loves to talk about their culture and help foreigners understand them better. Too many travelers simply don’t ask. So, ask away! (But don’t opinionate, unless asked, in turn!)
#5 Resolve to be an AMBASSADOR: When traveling abroad, you are not just a tourist or businessperson, but a representative of your home country, and you are the face of your country to your hosts. Do it right. Present the kind of person you want your hosts to know, respect and enjoy being with. Now go build those bridges of understanding!
#4 Resolve to be a TEACHER: Most people do not know nearly enough about life and work in your home country, even if your home country is a big player on the world stage, like the US or China. Therefore, always be a teacher when it comes to helping your hosts understand you and your home: share information objectively, and help them to overcome the inevitable stereotypes that people with limited information of experience rely on.
#3 Resolve to be a STUDENT: Admit that you don’t know enough about their country and culture, and seek their help to understand what life and work is like in theirs. When it comes to being a good guest, be a student.
#2 Resolve to ENJOY: All cultures have elements of good and bad, but your hosts typically don’t appreciate hearing about the difficulties you’ve experienced while abroad in their country. They do, however, enjoy hearing about how much you’ve enjoyed their country (food, sports, climate, people, etc.). While you might eventually get to discussing that nasty bug you picked up over a local meal, nobody wants to hear it first out: they’d much rather hear about how much you enjoy what their culture has to offer.
#1 Resolve to NOT over-simplify: A dangerous tendency in an increasingly global world is to assume that superficial similarities, caused by globalization, means deeper similarities. They do not. That your hosts abroad may be speaking a version of English, or dress and eat as you do, or work in offices with technology as you do at home, does not mean that their culture is any more similar to yours. In fact, in an increasingly globalized world, those deeper cultural differences are precisely what cause problems. Stay open to the fact that there is a widening dichotomy between growing superficial cultural similarity, and growing fundamental cultural differences.
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