As you explore the world and discover countries and societies very different from your own, it’s important to make sure your activities, behaviour and interactions are respectful to the local culture.
Taking the time to reflect and be aware of your own cultural-sensitivity will lead to the best and most meaningful travel experiences. It will open your mind, deepen your understanding and ensure your trip has a positive impact on the places you visit.
Read on for our top tips on how you can make sure you’re a culturally-sensitive traveller.
ONE: Learn as much as you can about the country you’re visiting
What are the local customs, the recent history, people’s religions and beliefs, the social structures? Research as much as you can before you go – read the cultural sections of your guidebooks, research on the internet, or seek out documentaries, podcasts and books about the country.
Not only will this give you a deeper understanding of your travel destination, but it will enable you to have richer and more informed conversations with the people you meet. It’s also good to be aware of any topics that might be socially sensitive and best avoided in conversation.
TWO: Spend time with local people
You’ll learn more about a culture in ten minutes of conversation with a local than a whole week of hanging out in tourist spots. Choose trips with local staff and guides and if possible try to stay outside of the overcrowded areas and within local communities.
At Camps International, we have local in-country staff working at all our camps. They’ll be able to show you the very best spots in the area, tell you what it’s like to grow up in the country or teach you how to cook one of the local delicacies. You’ll also be living right in the heart of the community, so you’ll be surrounded by local people rather than lots of tourists, giving you the chance to fully immerse yourself in the local culture.
THREE: Let go of judgements and embrace differences
During your travels you’ll encounter many things that are unfamiliar and very different to the way things are done at home. There might be a few things you feel uncomfortable with at first, but try to keep an open mind. Let go of your stereotypes and assumptions and approach these different cultural practises with a curiosity and a desire to learn – after all, discovering more about how people live around the world is one of the most exciting and fascinating parts of travelling.
FOUR: Stay in authentic accommodation
Try staying in traditional accommodation that is built in the local style. It will give you a better taste of the real way of life in the country and will really add to your travel experience. Experiencing longhouse living in Cambodia or rocking yourself to sleep in a hammock in a Bornean jungle camp are experiences not to be missed.
Staying in authentic accommodation also helps to make sure the cultural heritage of the area is maintained, as the buildings are in-keeping with the traditional design and often built using locally-sourced materials.
FIVE: Use a little of the language
You don’t have to be a fluent speaker, but learning a couple of phrases in the local language can go a long way. Teach yourself the basics – hello, please, thank you – and use them wherever you can. It instantly puts you on a closer level with the person you’re speaking to. Don’t be embarrassed by your beginner’s pronunciation – local people will often be more than happy to help you practice and will always appreciate the effort you have made to communicate with them in their own language.
SIX: Volunteer with a company that works with the local community
Making a positive contribution by volunteering abroad is a fantastic way to really engage with the local culture – but make sure you do it right. Not all travel companies are the same so do your research and choose wisely.
At Camps International, we work in partnership with the communities we are based in so that we can respond to the real needs of the community. We invest in sustainable projects with maximum impact – ranging from building new classrooms in Peru to installing access to drinking water for communities in Kenya. Every single project we start, we finish, without compromise, so when you volunteer with us you can be sure that you will be working on meaningful, long-lasting projects that are truly valuable to the local people.
SEVEN: Be a good ambassador for your own culture
Engaging with local people means you’re not only learning about their culture, you’re also representing your own. Take the time to reflect on your own cultural background with the same open-minded attitude you give to others, and be open to respectfully sharing your different ideas and perspectives on life. Travelling gives you a unique opportunity to see yourself and your own way of life through the eyes of other people – you’ll not only learn more about them, but you’ll learn more about yourself and where you come from too.
Our trips offer the perfect opportunity to gain a real, authentic cultural experience and give something back at the same time.
We’re freezing our prices this month – get in touch today to start planning your travel adventure before our price increase on 1st February.