What is the difference between a tourist and a traveller? A traveller has learned how to take the stress of travel and make it work for them rather than trying to work against it.
If you want to understand how you can learn this yourself, here are the 5 skills you need to become a Travel Virtuoso (a person highly skilled in an artistic pursuit)
Five steps to learn the cultural rules
Start practicing these 5 simple steps to succeed cross-culturally
The first clue that you are experiencing a new cultural rule is that awful feeling in your gut that you just made a big mistake. Rely on that feeling and identify it. Be glad you felt it! This is the first step to cultural understanding.
Give whatever you are experiencing the normal meaning from your home culture. Don’t start by guessing what it means ‘here to these people …” Tell yourself exactly what this circumstance would mean if you were at home in your regular circumstances.
Just remember that you are not home and the meaning is almost definitely not the same.
3. Re-interpret Wrong
The number one mistake that well-intentioned travellers make is simple assumptions about the meaning of a new culture. This is a quick way to build a stack of facts that will sound about right, but eventually fall apart under any sort of closer scrutiny.
Start your assumptions off in the right way by purposely choosing an interpretation you know is wrong! Why?
You are going to be wrong anyways, so you might as well know it from the beginning.
4. Ask a single question
A variation of the following question is the single best tool you have to understand a new culture:
“At home, when I show up on time and others show up 30 minutes late it means that they don’t value my time … what does it mean here?”
Use this question as often as you feel stress – it is a great way to learn local customs.
Never rely on one witness.
This is particularly true if you are asking this question to a fellow expat. The problem with asking a fellow expat is that they are also outsiders to the culture. Even if they are convinced they truly understand – an outsider will never be fluent in local customs.
Take more advice from people who were born and raised in the community.
Do you have any other tips for learning a new set of cultural rules?