Here are some tips for everyone on how to connect across cultures. (A lot of these ideas work at home too.) There is incredible joy in connecting–especially across cultures during travels.
11 Tips on Connecting Across Cultures
1. Smile a lot. Wherever you are, people smile back, and you will discover that you are living in a world of smiles. That goes for where you are now, too! Try walking down the street and smiling at everyone.
2. Be the first to say, “Hi.” Indigenous people in the developing world are often intimidated by a stranger from America, but not if you show that you’re interested in interacting.
3. Don’t worry about language. You have your smile, your eyes, your hands, and your body language…and be sure to always carry a pen and pad for numbers and pictures. Real bonding takes place when you ask people to teach you words in their language. And you dignify them by wanting to know their language.
4. Don’t worry about getting it wrong. Ask to learn their crafts, their cooking, their chores. You’re sure to mess it up. Laughter, at and with you, is a powerful bonding tool.
5. Accept all invitations. This one refers especially to people you meet in villages around the world. They may just want you to sit on their porch or drink a cup of tea in their house or go to a ceremony. Go ahead and do it. (If you are female and young and pretty, you will want to assess any male “inviters” before you go off with them!)
6. Eat everything you’re offered. An offer of food is a gift from the heart. Accept it warmly…and eat it! It probably will not kill you.
7. Don’t try to teach your ways…unless asked. Think of your visit as a learning experience.
8. Hug and hold the babies; play with the kids. In a lot of cultures the kids belong to the community; try to become a part of it. I carry bubbles and I make balloon animals.
9. Dress like the locals. If everyone is wearing a local style of dress, ask someone to help you buy an outfit, and wear it (eg: India, salwar kameez, it’s incredibly comfortable).
10. Sing and dance with the locals, if invited to join. Leave your self-consciousness at home. It’s OK to get it wrong and look awkward. Again, the laughter will be at and with you…and it will humanize you and enrich the bond.
11. Sharing your vulnerabilities will encourage others to share theirs. It’s all about connecting.
I’d be happy to hear from anyone who would like to share his/her thoughts. The joy of life is in the connecting. Email me! firstname.lastname@example.org