“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others” – Anthony Robbins
How does our communication skills affect our travel experiences? Miscommunication can arise between people of the same culture let alone between those with different heritage background. The words we use, the way we express ourselves and how we gesticulate can widely impact our staying in the foreign country. Being an expat for the last five years I met people of the most diverse cultures, and I learned that we communicate and see the world through our own cultural prism. Often times we are the offenders and many times we are the ones to be offended, even though in both cases rather unaware than deliberately. Of course, everything comes with the experience, but today I am sharing few tips how to avoid some potential miscommunication when you decide to go abroad:
Learn beforehand about their customs
Customs and traditions varies around the world; therefore, this makes each culture unique. While abroad, it’s not always easy to understand the lifestyle you see, but showing locals that you are acquainted with their customs will denote respect and they will be ready to introduce you to the new culture. A quick search on Google should help you form a general idea on language, religion, acceptable ways of greeting, and other social etiquette that you might want to be aware of before entering the country.
Learn about their nonverbal communication practices
When traveling or moving to another country keep in mind that the same gestures can have different meaning in different cultures. While in some countries a direct eye contact is welcomed and is interpreted as a sign of trustworthiness, other cultures consider it as a disrespectful act. Gestures are something else we should pay attention to, as the same signs don’t always mean the same across the glob. For example, the “thumbs up” gesture means good job in North America, in Japan means five, and in Germany means one. In order to avoid gesture miscommunication do a quick research about the place and its gestures, and don’t be shy to ask locals to help you interpret things that you are not sure about. Most of them will only be happy to guide you.
Avoid prejudice and sarcastic jokes
Who doesn’t know the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” Being prejudice influences not only your interactions with people, but also the way you receive information. By overcoming preconceived ideas you are giving yourself the chance to explore the culture and actually enjoy the differences you might find. Teach yourself to embrace the cultural variations and try not to be judgmental. Also, you might want to consider refraining from making sarcastic jokes or comments because the humor can be misinterpreted by the locals, especially if the jokes are related to their culture.
Don’t generalize or make assumptions
Each country and culture has its own good and not so good elements. Everywhere you go you will meet great people as well as folks who were there to teach you a lesson, but don’t cloud your brain with the idea that everyone is the same because you had an unsatisfactory occurrence. One man’s actions (or even a group of individuals) don’t reflect the culture or mentality of an entire country. Avoiding to make assumptions based on what you have heard is the fastest way to actually experience the culture for yourself, thus you can draw your own conclusions based on your own experiences.
Be sensitive and remain observant
Even though if you didn’t have the chance to familiarize yourself with the culture of your next destination try to be sensitive and remain observant. Keep in mind that people have different life experiences and cultural background; therefore, lifestyle is different across the globe, not worse or better…just different than yours and mine. By observing the locals you are able to get a general idea about their way of life, and being sensitive allows you to learn more about their culture when interacting with them.
I hope you enjoyed the read, and you’ll find these few tips helpful next time you go abroad.