This is the first written post on Vagabrothers. We hope to roll out Words & Fotos in addition to the Videos we produce. This week, we shed some light on the importance of learning about your host culture before you travel.
For the Vagabrothers, as much as travel is about having fun and enjoying a new country, it’s also about learning and discovery. Though travel almost always teaches you something, it’s always worthwhile to do your homework beforehand.
We recommend brushing up on the following subjects before you fly:
The Past. Our histories make us who we are. Travel deeper by learning what major events shaped a country’s national identity. History and cultural traditions combine to create the present.
Tip: Most nations have a “national myth”, or a story about how their country came into existence. Identifying this story will help to understand their values and beliefs.
The Present: No country is static. Cultures are constantly evolving. Figuring out what issues are shaping a nations’s future will make sense of what you see on the streets.
Tip: Read their news. Skim your target country’s headlines for a week or two before you leave. There are plenty of English-language papers/websites abroad.
The Language: Language is the best gateway into a culture. But you don’t have to be fluent – even learning a few phrases will help you connect with locals.
Tips: Smart phones make learning basic travel phrases easier than ever. Search directly from your phone, or download one of LonelyPlanet’s many audio phrasebooks.
The Culture: Assume most know about Lady Gaga and The Simpsons and get curious about what culture their country has created. This will give you a valuable perspective, new music, and some great conversation starters.
Tips: Seek out foreign music via Spotify. Then flip through a list of foreign films or Lonely Planet’s country-specific reading lists.
The Customs: Nobody wants to be the “ugly American” – often it is a result of misunderstanding. Learn what the Romans do. A bit of research will help you feel more respectful and confident as you leave your comfort zone behind.
Tips: Check out the slim and informative CultureSmart! books, a series of crash-courses in the customs of over a hundred countries.
The Key: Doing your homework helps, but travel can only teach if you are willing to be a student. The key is having genuine interest in where other people come from.
Curiosity has drawn the Vagabrothers to discover the world. We hope to inspire you to do the same.