Acknowledging Cultural Diversity – Tips for Travel

By ICDO Member – Lizaveta Vozjakova, From Russia with Love.

Have you ever thought about how many ways different people can understand the same story? Cultural diversity influences our perception, imagination and interpretation. As a Russian individual, who encountered many different traditions and beliefs during my travels, I’ve learnt to ask and listen first, rather than assume something.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in her Ted Talk, brings attention to the dangers of hearing a single side of the story. Her speech points out the stereotypes placed on the African people around the world and her personal encounters of cultural differences. While listening to Chimamanda Adichie’s lectures, I caught myself thinking about all the stereotypes that were forced on me during the course of my life.

Here are some tips that I learnt from my trips around the world, that helped me become more open and engage with different cultural notions.

1) Before assuming something about one’s culture – read about the country’s history and traditions.

When I plan to travel to a new place, I open Wikipedia and learn about the place. Even though Wikipedia is sometimes biased and can be wrong, it is a great starting place, since it offers links to other sources where you can conduct further research.

2) The most engaging part is looking through social media!

Whenever I want to learn something interesting about the new place, I go to Instagram and look at travel bloggers. For example, Alberto Nodale has amazing pictures and stories about the Philippines that can guide your experience of the country.

3) Don’t argue – listen!

This point I had to learn the hard way. The Russian upbringing gave me a very short temper, so when I first came to the United States, I used to argue on various points without listening to others’ perspective until the end. However, both, my professors and friends, taught me to be more patient and understanding. It is important to remember that we grow up in different families and are taught different rules, sometimes practising different religions and traditions. Once we become open to new people and their backgrounds, we also develop ourselves.

4) Take mental notes of your surroundings

In order to understand another country and its people better, it is crucial to note every little thing around you. The architecture, structure of the streets, traffic, nature; they are all meaningful conditions that shape the country’s cultural diversity and your experience of it. In order to get the most of the culture, you can visit the national museum. In some countries, you can find museums that showcase the cultural heritage of various countries. For example, before travelling to Mexico or the United States, you can go to the Weltmuseum in Vienna. This museum has representations of objects, clothes, and traditions from almost anywhere in the world.

5) Be open to new experiences

Once you arrive in a new place, you should let your brain work like a sponge – take in all the information available to you. In some cases, it is best to talk to the natives in order to get first-hand experiences and opinions. Be careful though, some countries do not welcome the idea of talking to strangers. Be considerate and research first in order to avoid problems.

These are the few tips that helped me experience cultural diversity when travelling. How do you explore new places? Do you have any interesting tips that work for you?