It's the 3rd of April. In 22 days, I will be stepping on board a plane and leaving for a mission trip to Hong Kong. While I'm pretty excited, there's also this sense of caution that I have when going to new places. It's not because I'm reluctant. I love to travel and visit different countries, actually. I love going to different places and learning new things. I'm cautious because each place (each city, even), has its own culture, that could be the same as the culture we are accustomed to, or something totally different.
Before my first trip abroad to Cambodia and Vietnam, our professor (as it was a school trip) had us familiarize the basic etiquette of each country. How to greet people. Where to put our hands. What gestures were considered obscene. How to eat. How to speak. While they might seem so basic, they matter a great deal when you are in that foreign country. You might think it tedious and tiresome to do all the research now, but you'll be glad that you did it later.
Some of the most common differences in cultures have to do with the gestures—hand signals, body language, etc.; the norms, or what is valued in a certain culture; the way people think, act, and feel, and communicate to bring those out. These are but a few. There are many more, but these are the basics to consider when you are going to another place.
Travelers, going from one place to another, from a culture they have known all their lives to another so foreign, must remember to be careful in what they are doing, what they are saying, and how they are saying it. While it might be all right to do the thumbs-up sign in your country, another country might find it particularly offensive. I've learned the importance of doing a "background check" on the customs and etiquette of a country before actually going to that country.
By having a foreign country's set of standard etiquette embedded consciously in your mind as you take that trip, you will avoid offending citizens of that country or embarrassing yourself in sticky situations. People are generally understanding towards visitors, but because we are indeed the visitors gives every reason why we should all the more watch how we behave. Following a country's customs, etiquette, and cultural values will paint you in a positive light towards the citizens of that country. It will help you gain people's trust and paint a positive picture of your own country.
In the next few days, I plan to post the norms, customs, and standard etiquette of Hong Kong as I research them. So stay tuned!
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