Travel and Culture

Travel and Culture

According to the website, some definitions for ‘culture’ are “the total range of activities and ideas of a group of people with shared traditions, which are transmitted and reinforced by members of the group” or “the total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action”. In sum, culture is straightly related to the habits, traditions and behavior of a group, and they will reflect the ideas, beliefs and values of a certain society. ‘Travel’ is a word that doesn’t ask for definitions and the connexion between both words is very simple: a great way to get to know other places and their cultures is travelling.

Travelling is even more effective than reading books, which is also valid. Actually, more than getting to know, it is a manner to feel the culture, the environment, the weather, the people. Such experience can also provide a lot of self-knowledge, especially when travelling alone, as, away from home, people have the opportunity to observe themselves, identify and admit their faults, far from the judgemental eyes of the ones who already know them very well. In contact with all sorts of people, they can learn how to be more tolerant, respectful and accept the cultural differences; they can find out how different they are too and, eventually, they can even get enchanted with such differences.

The cultural differences may be noticed in infinite ways, especially by students or workers who are going to spend a long time abroad, because, considering the time they will stay away from home, soon or later, they will probably have to face problems concerning housing, food, transportation, loneliness and money, among many others. Perhaps, the greatest problem is the communication problem though, provided that it may be frustrating for one, so eager to interact with native speakers, not to be able to express one’s ideas. The obstacle of the language is, undoubtedly, one of the most difficult ones.

For Asians, the language difficulties are even worse, because their linguistic system is completely different from the occidental countries’, to start with the alphabet, which, in some cases, has more than three thousand letters or symbols. Also, they have a real strong accent and, not rarely, they are not understood or are misunderstood when trying to speak a foreign language in a country of the Occident. Aside the practical difficulties, that have just been mentioned in the two paragraphs above, there are general cultural differences too. If one, for instance, is accustomed to living in a big city and travels abroad to live in countryside, one may feel really bored with the quiet and slower pace of life. The opposite also holds true.

In some European countries, it is not a habit to take shower every day. If one is used to living in a country where the predominantly weather is the hot weather and where, because of it, people usually take shower twice a day, one may feel a little uncomfortable having to take a shower every other four days. The same way, one may not feel very comfortable having to belch at the table after the meals, as it is often done in Japan, as a sign that the food was good, differently from many other countries, where such an attitude represents impoliteness or even an offense.

In Sao Paulo - Brazil, the climate is very different from Chicago – United States. Never, in Sao Paulo, have there been temperatures below 50°F whereas in Chicago temperatures can drop below 0°F in the winter season. Needless to say how hard it is for a person from Sao Paulo to live in Chicago during this period. Actually, in Brazil, there’s another very common thing that is not very present in most cultures: the ‘physical contact’. Brazilian people are known for being a very outgoing and spontaneous people, and most of them greet others with one or two kisses in the cheek and, frequently, they are hugging friends. If you try to do that with an Asian, for example, he might get scared. As a matter of fact, before travelling abroad, most international students from Brazil are normally told about that. In other words, they are kind of advised to be less outgoing, even because, nowadays, such approach, in many countries, can be considered harassment or something worse. So, they should be really careful about it. Some Brazilian women may, occasionally, face one or other awkward situation. As Brazil is famous for Carnival and its naked women, it may happen, sometimes, that one thinks that all Brazilian women knows how to dance samba and do it naked in the Carnival. Actually, in some areas, there are people who think that Brazilians still live only in forests.

Other countries, such as Morocco, have habits and traditions quite different from most countries around the world. The women, for instance, are not allowed to show any part of their bodies when they are not at home, regardless of where they are or how hot it is. In such a culture women either obey the law or undergo severe punishment. In this case, it is even more complicated, because not only is the visited country different for them, but they are also very different for the country and call a lot of attention, so different they are or seem to be. Nonetheless, putting all the obstacles together, they still don’t counterbalance the advantages of travelling and living different cultures. Either through pain or through love, travelling will unavoidably make travellers more mature and widen their knowledge, which, by the way, is never enough. Also, depending on the country they live in and depending on the place they will go to, the first impressions may be better, as you can find a better transportation system, for instance, or a better security system, or nicer people, and so forth. That is, not necessarily will the culture shock have a very negative impact over the foreigner. It depends a lot on the person too, as people think differently and feel differently too.

Furthermore, it is important to have a wider comprehension of different behaviors, to see how other peoples live and how the same situation may have an upshot other than in one’s own country. This is the opportunity to get rid of old prejudices and to become a better person. Professionally, it may open a lot of doors, after all, mastering another language has become essential in the business market. Besides the opportunity of knowing another culture, sometimes travelling also provides moments of reflection, the chance to keep some distance from old values and impressions and to go over them. More than this, it is an opportunity to get to know new people, to make some friends and to learn from them too.

As the reader can observe, when it comes to travelling, there are obstacles, as everything in life but, at the same time, it is an amazing way to see different cultures and to see things in a different way. So, once the first impact is gone and the culture shock is overcome, the only thing to do is to enjoy the ‘freedom’ and make the most of the trip. This is the experience that can change people’s minds, people’s lives, people’s love-lifes; the experience that can make them become better persons; the opportunity for them to “…set new goals, to dream new dreams, to try their wings and see what lies beyond.”
(Graduation Poem -