Many of us don’t really pay attention to how we react to major events or decisions with an influence of our culture. It is amazing to observe how culture influences our everyday lifestyle and entire life.
Starting from waking up early to brushing your teeth in the night, we end up doing minute particulars tied up to our culture. Have you ever experienced how people from various backgrounds react to one specific task or event in different ways? Some might feel offensive, some might not care and some might be in amazement! I believe that understanding culture is highly important while travelling in a country on work or for vacation. In fact, it is the most powerful knowledge one acquires during travels to adapt with different people and conditions.
For instance, when I moved to Korea for the first time. I found our landlord to be quite aggressive at explaining things to do in a rental house. We met again after a few days greeting each other while recycling things. He instantly came towards me, helped with the recycling and insisted on explaining the process. I wondered if he really wanted to help me or if he was upset that I was not doing it correctly. It continued couple of times with him instructing and helping me on other tasks too while we saw each other around. I was convinced that this old man was quite upset with the routine we had set up in his house. Now though, after living in Korea for a while I understand that this is the way of doing things in Korean culture. Of course, not in an aggressive way but in a rigorous and prompt manner at getting things done. It is quite interesting to see that the Korean way of living insists on determination and seriousness towards every task, be it a courier or a decision. It took me some time to understand the culture and took many more days to understand my landlord. I realized that he tried to help me considering my newcomer status in Korea in an empathetic way. Therefore, I feel that cultural notions might misguide us in many situations. These particular cultural details might lead us to an entirely misunderstood impression and make a misplaced judgment on people and sometimes on the whole community.
It might be hard to understand cultural traits overnight but it certainly gives peace when you acknowledge the cultural significances. This can happen with friends or with travelers or with colleagues. Don’t get offended because it’s not about you or them or the situation. It’s a mere way of honouring their traditional system of doing things.
When we understand that it is not about us during our travels then, we don’t sulk if the Taiwanese don’t smile, we don’t get mad if the French don’t speak English, we don’t think rude if Indians don’t say sorry and thanks frequently. We certainly don’t think it’s arrogant if an American is self concerning, we don’t become angry if we see a Korean in hurry or we don’t think it’s superficial if a Canadian is too nice.