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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Cultural awareness

Understanding a country's laws and customs can help you adjust to a new home abroad. Daily life may be unsettling at first, so any preparation you do could help you adjust more quickly. Appreciating cultural and legal differences could also help you avoid potentially embarrassing or difficult situations.

Learn about a country's people and culture before visiting

Before visiting a country, you can learn about its people and be aware of things like its customs, religion and language.

A few tips on how to get you started:

  • get a good guidebook and find out about local laws, customs and culture
  • ideally learn the local language and at least take a phrase book
  • respect local customs and dress codes, think about what you wear and how you fit in
  • be discreet about your views on cultural differences and behave and dress appropriately, particularly when visiting religious sites, markets and rural communities
  • you should take particular care not to offend local codes of dress and behaviour with regards to sexual relations, alcohol and drugs - in some countries, for example, it is illegal to drink, and importing alcohol into the country can lead to severe penalties
  • always ask an individual's permission before you take a photograph and respect their wishes - in some cultures, taking a woman's photograph can cause great offence
  • don't haggle too aggressively, in most countries where haggling is the norm, it is done with humour and not for too long - it is important to remember that the discount you are haggling over could be a few pence for you, but a significant means of income for a seller
  • it is best to err on the side of caution - behaviour that would be regarded as innocuous elsewhere can lead to serious trouble

Find out some facts and stats about a country

You can perhaps research the country’s location in relation to the UK. What the capital, population or ethnic make-up is. You can find out what the currency is and exchange rates.

Try and find out what the weather is like. What the latest news is or a sense of the country's history. What the international dialling code is or time difference to the UK.

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