Travel gives you the opportunity to understand a different way of life, and it’s not just through where you end up hanging your hat for the night, but who you go there with. There are some amazing life lessons other cultures can impart upon you, and while of course there is no ‘best way’ to live, spending time with people from other countries and backgrounds can teach you a lot about human nature and how your own culture can shape behaviour.
Be proud of where you come from
Other people are often taken aback when Americans know every word to their national anthem or unabashedly sing their country’s praises – something the rest of us are not so used to doing. However if there’s one thing that travelling with Americans can teach you, it’s that you shouldn’t be ashamed to love your nation or be proud of where you come from. Hell, as long as you’re not saying you’re better than anyone else, you can sing it’s praises all day long.
Saying sorry is really easy
Travelling with British people will teach you the value of the word ‘sorry’. A lot of us feel the need to assert ourselves and sometimes get angry if someone is in our personal space and we’ll glare or say “excuse you” without thinking. But in the UK when someone bumps into you, no matter who is at fault, both parties just say sorry and move on. Rather than getting annoyed and dwelling on the injustice of being jostled, a quick apology lets everyone leave on a polite note with no ill feelings.
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You don’t need to be the most educated person in the room to have value
Many cultures put a HUGE emphasis on university degrees, excessive studying and high grades. But in the Netherlands, the education system is structured so everyone plays to his or her strengths, and no one is considered better than anyone else because they’re learning about plumbing and someone else is learning about teaching. From a young age kids are monitored and nurtured based on their inherent skills and travellers from the Netherlands will happily explain all this to you without a hint of contempt for those who went on to become scientists, or hairdressers.
‘Soon’ and ‘now’ aren’t the same for everyone
Did you know that in Belize ‘soon’ means ‘in a minute’? And in South Africa ‘now’ means ‘later’, while ‘now now’ means ‘this very minute’? These are the types of little cultural differences that you learn while travelling with people from other countries and they really make you reconsider communication around time. Not everyone sees time the same as you, and rushing is a concept that’s foreign (pun intended) to many cultures. So, next time you meet someone from outside your country, ask them what ‘soon’ or ‘now’ means to them and get ready to learn something.
Don’t be selfish
Your mum has probably already told you this, but you probably don’t even realise how much you put your own needs first until you spend time with people from other cultures. East Asian cultures focus on the ‘we’ and are collectivist, while westerners tend to be more individualistic and all about ‘me, me, me’. We’ve got a lot to learn from Asian cultures in terms of acknowledging everyone’s contributions to a task, how one person’s actions affect the whole and focusing on the community rather than yourself. Looking at the benefit for the ‘many’ increases empathy and compassion, in turn making you better at relationships with others. Who wouldn’t want that?
British people tend to sit back and wait for a gap in conversation or politely say ‘excuse me’ but anyone who has travelled with people from European countries like France, Germany, Italy or Spain will tell you they are people who grab what they want! You should never be rude, but if you have an idea that has merit, you can tell people right now if you want. Always choose your audience of course (i.e. not a workplace), but you might be surprised what claiming your voice does for your confidence…
You are not alone
No matter where you go or who you go with, you will find someone you have never met who feels the EXACT same way as you. Whether you have a different religion, race, upbringing, gender, sexual orientation or they don’t watch Game of Thrones, you will have a “Me too!” moment and realise you are not alone in this world. Everyone has struggles and happiness, and travelling connects you to a community bigger than yourself.
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