How Sensitive Do I Need to Be To Local Culture?

Traveling to a new destination can often be a rewarding, exciting and fulfilling adventure. Not only are you escaping from your daily routine, you are presented with new and different sights, sounds, and smells as well as opportunities to learn about the local culture.

Two important questions to ask when traveling to foreign destinations are:
  1. How does the local culture apply to me?
  2. How sensitive do I need to be to the beliefs and customs of those around me?

If possible, contact a native in your destination area and ask his/her advice on customs and etiquette. The most efficient method to locate locals is to speak directly with your destination hotel concierge. As a resident in your destination city, he/she will be able to accurately direct you to knowledgeable and trustworthy individuals who can assist you  with customs information.

Once you have located a guide, specifically inquire as to what you can expect and how to prepare for your stay.  Locals can guide you on things such as where to eat, what foods you might enjoy (based on your eating habits), how to dress to avoid offending the local population, personal hygiene, and how to avoid being arrested by the religious police (if you’re in Saudi Arabia, for example).

The insight a native can provide on the best way to enjoy yourself and experience the local culture, outside the luxury hotel experience, is invaluable.

Even with a guide, these factors can sometimes be overwhelming when you travel to foreign destinations. You’ve probably heard the term “culture shock” at some point during your travels. Culture shock is a phrase which describes the difficulty you can have when traveling to a destination that is markedly different from your own. It can occur immediately upon arrival, but may also take as long as three months to surface when on an extended stay.  Simply put, you may be overwhelmed by all the stimuli of your new environment. 

Working with someone local to the area can help make your trip more enjoyable and can minimize any shock you feel adjusting to your new surroundings.




US Travel Insurance Association (UStiA)
UStiA is a national association of insurance carriers, third-party administrators, insurance agencies and related businesses involved in the development, administration and marketing of travel insurance and travel assistance products.