How to Plan an Asian Vacation : Navigate the Nuances. Part 2 of 3
Last week in part one of our How to Plan an Asian Vacation we talked about how to plan your perfect. This week we explore how to Navigate the Nuances of Asian Culture and why this is detail should not be over looked.
When visiting a new country, we often find ourselves venturing out of our comfort zones in new and exciting ways! When stepping foot on a new continent, that extension outside of your comfort zone is even more dramatic. New continents bring new cultures, languages, experiences, and ways of life! One of the most unique continents on Earth is Asia. Taking up an entire third of Earth’s land area, Asia offers 48 countries and 17,139,445 square miles to explore!
With its extensive history and an abundance of countries, visiting Asia can seem intimidating! Over 2,000 languages are spoken in Asia. And with its enormous size, there are a wide range of cultures and societies. Most boasting its own unique heritage and expectations. To successfully navigate the nuances of Asian culture during your visit, intentionality is necessary! By being mindful of what is happening around you, as well as being mindful of your own presentation during your Asian vacation, you will find yourself effortlessly blending into your surroundings…or, at least not sticking out quite as much!
When visiting Asia for the first time, it is critical to research the countries you are visiting! Leaf through travel books. Conduct a news search. Look at pictures. Explore blog posts. Watch videos online. There are many ways to research the countries you plan to visit, and this research will prove helpful as you navigate the intricacies of each place you visit! It is common for visitors to commit minor faux pas during visits to new places, and by learning as much as you can about a place before you visit, you can do your best to avoid these occasionally awkward situations!
Research also helps you understand the atmosphere and context of a new place. Without understanding of atmosphere and context, you can misperceive actions or behaviors from locals, and these misperceptions can negatively impact your adventure! For example, during a recent trip to Prague, Czech Republic, I interpreted the brusque manner of the locals to be cold and apathetic. I felt like the locals were disdainful of me, and it made the first few days of my trip less enjoyable!
After a few of these interactions, however, I decided to research Prague and its culture. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that people in Prague tend to be terse. Their nature was not a reflection of me, but rather a part of their culture. When researching the history of Prague, I learned about the impact of the Communist regime, World War II, and how those events have established specific attitudes and culture in the city. This understanding of the culture and expectations soothed my hurt feelings. I felt more comfortable as I savored my remaining days in Prague.
Don’t Make Assumptions
As mentioned, I was affected by my misperception of the attitudes in Prague. I committed a travel sin: making assumptions. I assumed that in Prague, locals were being standoffish and cold, when in reality, brevity and brusqueness is part of their culture! When visiting a new place, it is best never to assume anything; as someone with limited understanding of a culture and/or country, assumptions can lead to hurt feelings, such as I experienced, or even worse, danger.
Go into your experiences in Asia with an open heart and an open mind. Asian culture is multifaceted; with so many countries, places, cities, people, and influences, there are elements of Asian culture that will be surprising and unexpected. Take in each moment without judgement, and do your best to take each moment as it comes. Walking into your Asian vacation with assumptions of a location’s culture or expectations can lead to embarrassment, disappointment, or trouble, and it is best to form your conclusions after your visit.
When visiting an Asian country, it is also important to watch others. How are they holding their eating utensils? Are they using a certain hand to handle food? Do they remove their shoes when they enter a home? Are they silent or chatty as they use public transportation services? While these details may seem trivial, in a new environment, being aware of minute facets of cultural expectations can be critical! Take time to observe locals as you explore. Take note of the little things they do and if you are comfortable, emulate those behaviors!
For example, when travelling in southeast Asia several years ago, I noticed that when I spoke with locals, no one made eye contact with me! I quickly took this into consideration and began following the lead of the locals as I spoke with them. Later, I learned that making intense, direct eye contact can be offensive in the culture of the country. By watching the behaviors of the locals and then shifting my behaviors to match theirs, I was being a more conscious, respectful visitor!
Self-awareness is also essential when travelling in Asia! While it is important to monitor the behavior of others in hopes of adhering to locals’ expectations, it is also important to monitor yourself! Check the volume of your voice; are you speaking louder in public than others? Look at your clothing. Is it appropriate for the activity or venue you are visiting? Does it look too expensive, or perhaps immodest? To best blend into your surroundings and avoid negative attention from locals, it is important to employ a strong sense of self-awareness when travelling through Asia!
While Asian culture is multifaceted, by being self-aware, conducting research prior to your trip, taking cues from locals, and not making assumptions, you will find it much easier to navigate the nuances and intricacies of your vacation destinations! This will allow for a more relaxing trip. Also, you will more than likely learn a thing or two along the way as you navigate the nuances.
Incase you missed it make sure your read part one in our series: How to Plan an Asian Vacation
Then stop back next week for part Three
Or just subscribe to my newsletter to get new inspiring travel content deliver right to your inbox.