averting culture shock

Posted by susan on May 20th, 2010. Filed under: getaways, travel tips.

While walking the crowded streets of Cork’s city center one day, a long time ago, I remember hearing someone yell “sorry” behind me over and over again. Assuming that person wasn’t speaking to me I simply kept walking. Why would he be? He hadn’t done anything to warrant an apology. After a few more steps this person’s voice became louder and louder until I turned around to receive a rather curt, “Sorry!” And then he stormed right by me. It finally hit me that he wasn’t apologizing at all, he just wanted me to move. To me, he meant, “excuse me.”

While traveling you experience tremendous differences in culture, but you also come across the smaller ones. The ones you’d never even guess would happen and almost seem insignificant, but in reality, can make a big impact on the way you communicate and interact with locals.

To prepare for our honeymoon, Mike and I hit up Barnes & Noble for good guidebooks. For Tunisia, I grabbed one of the Culture Smart! guidebooks – not because I thought it would supply me with “things to do” per se (we’ll be relying on Mike’s homemade Google Map for that), but because it looked like it would give me the kind of background I normally lack when going to a country I don’t know a whole lot about.

travel guide

So far, it has. The book provides history, like the founding of Carthage, and it also gives you an overview of politics, religion and social norms.

While you can’t escape those little learning experiences like my incident in Cork, and to be honest I think those experiences are what help you grow to become a good traveler, it will be nice to feel somewhat, culturally equipped.

What’s the strangest cultural mishap you’ve experienced?

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