One of the great things about traveling is the ability to lose yourself in another country and culture. It’s our duty to immerse ourselves in another culture, to lose that part of who we are back on home soil.
But immersing yourself in another culture when traveling is easier said than done. Naturally, you can stick out like a sore thumb for many different reasons. So, with this in mind, are there any ways for you to get under the skin of another country and immerse yourself so you can emerge from your travels as a new person?
Getting Rid Of Your Expectations
We’ve decided to go somewhere because we have the predetermined idea but it will be for us, because we like the idea of the place, or it’s just something to take off our bucket list. And wherever you want to go, there are a lot of preconceived notions in your mind.
When you look at a place like France, you can automatically go to snails, brie, bicycles, and existentialism. But instead, if you start to look at what else is beneath the surface, especially before you go, and look at these more stereotypical representations of France as the icing on the cake, something that you can come back to the very end of your travels, it means you’ll have a well-informed opinion of what the place is really like.
As we go in with certain expectations, if we can get rid of these, and realize that there’s a completely different way to traveling around France as a tourist in comparison to being a native, this will make the experience more of the blank canvas. What’s so easy for us to do is to compare French culture to ours. This means that we start to judge the culture in comparison to our own litmus tests. It’s a very overused sentiment, but, when in Rome…
Preparing The Cultural Traditions Before You Go
When it comes to somewhere like France, you may think that you already have a decent idea of how you can immerse yourself in the culture. Naturally, learning the lingo is one of the best places to begin. There are so many resources related to French learning online, but it’s quite an ambitious attempt to completely become fluent before you go somewhere.
Learning the essential phrases and pleasantries is a good place to begin, but if you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb, it’s worth appropriating some of the cultural approaches. Dialects, for example, could very well be a good place to begin. If you’re going to a specific area of France, being able to say “hello” and “please” won’t cut it. But by getting a bit more involved in the culture of the country as a whole, not just in terms of the lingo, but in terms of the attitudes, physical appearance, and way of thinking will make you far more open-minded to changes.
The great thing about this is that you can start way before you leave your home.
Know How To Explore
Variety is the spice of life. Think about exploring the place with a more questioning sensibility. It’s so easy to be pointed towards the tourist traps, but instead, think about what the clichéd agenda would be, and go against that. No doubt you have your own thoughts about what you want to do and where you want to go, but if you find the vast majority of your travels results in taking taxis or boarding public transport, are you really going to see what the place has to offer?
Think about setting your own agenda. Perhaps you want to try different sorts of food. So you can set yourself a challenge throughout the course of a day or two to explore France through its eateries.
The next day, think about exploring the place through its cultural heritage. Doing it this way gives you the opportunity to experience different viewpoints of the same place. We can’t just look at France from the perspective of someone who hasn’t been there. It’s about changing your way of thinking so you can get a comprehensive experience of the place.
No doubt, there will be moments of cultural shock, but it can’t be a perfect experience. You’ve got to take the good moments with the bad. If you wanted to be a completely pleasurable experience, go on vacation. But if you really want to delve into the underbelly of a different country, you will likely experience moments of culture shock and feel homesick. Don’t rally against it. It will pass.
Avoid Anything Meant For Tourists (If You Want)
You can decide to avoid all the clichéd tourist spots, but this may very well have been part of why you want to go to a specific country in the first place. You can decide to visit the Eiffel tower, but you know, deep down, it will be swarming with tourists.
To find the right balance, you could find the time of day where it’s not so busy. This may very well be at 10pm after everyone has gone! Because if it’s something you want to take off your bucket list, make sure that it’s an experience that’s worth taking home. So many people talk about visiting the Eiffel tower and saying that it was too crowded for them to truly enjoy it, but they are happy they’ve been there. You could be happy that you’ve been there, but you may as well make it a real, tangible experience.
Immersing yourself in another culture is about getting an experience that’s different from your own. It’s all about preparing yourself for a different culture before you leave, but when you get there, ensuring that you don’t stay on the beaten track.
People will want to treat you like tourists, and if you don’t want to go down this route, you’ve got to take appropriate steps to immerse yourself in the culture, and distance yourself from their stereotypical tourist image.