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Why Cultural Understanding Is So Important When Travelling

Why Cultural Understanding Is So Important When Travelling

Travelling is not just about sight seeing and taking insta worthy pics, it's also about developing cultural understanding.

Travelling the world – seeing new things, trying new foods and meeting new people – it’s something we all aspire to do. But how often do we think about the cultural norms and practices of the places we travel to? Travelling is not just about sightseeing, it’s about broadening our horizons and learning to see the world from different people’s perspectives. And cultural understanding is so important to do this.

So why is cultural understanding important when travelling? Why can’t we just go to go to other countries, see the sights and head home? Well, there are a number of reasons.

Avoid misinterpretation

Learning what is accepted or considered the norm in other cultures is very helpful for your day to day interactions when in another country. It will also ensure you have a better time abroad. For example, in France it is natural for people not to smile a lot, which for foreigners may seem rather rude and blunt. Having this cultural understanding will help you understand the people and how to communicate. This will also help you to blend in with the locals, as it is usually the travellers who stand out as gullible tourists that get scammed and pick pocketed.


Develop tolerance and growth

Looking at the broader scale of things, cultural understanding allows you to develop tolerance, acceptance and empathy. Most of the times, biases and judgements come from a place of ignorance or a lack of exposure. So experiencing cultures that we are unfamiliar with can improve our personal growth and make stronger our human connections to one another. This reduces conflict or frustration and instead allows for harmonious interactions where we embrace our differences.

So how can we develop cultural understanding?

Research the cultural norms

Doing a quick google search about your travel destination will allow you to feel more at ease when you arrive and help you avoid any cultural mistakes. For example tipping is not a common practice in Australia, but in America it is expected you tip your waitstaff. Looking up handy tips to find out the rules for etiquette in certain situations is a super easy way to improve your cultural understanding of the norms.

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Learn the language

No you don’t need to learn an entirely new language in a couple of weeks, but learning a few key phrases will not only help you out during your day to day interactions, but it’s also respectful towards your host country and will be much appreciated. When I was in Madrid I found it quite hard to communicate during everyday activities like taking a taxi or buying clothes because everyone spoke Spanish. This made me realise it’s quite ignorant to assume other countries will speak the same language as you, and a few phrases would have actually gone a long way!

Respect the culture and religion

Simply learning the cultural practices and etiquette is not enough, you also need to respect them. Even if you don’t agree with or practice certain cultural or religious behaviours yourself, it is important as a visitor to simply observe and respect the ways of your host country. This is important to develop our tolerance of others.


Of course developing our cultural understanding is a process, so things may go wrong and you’re bound to make a mistake at one point. But remember to have an open mind and a positive attitude when travelling. Learning about different cultures can be a fascinating experience and it can open your mind to just how amazingly diverse our world is.

What are your thoughts on cultural understanding when travelling? Let us know in the comments below!

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