Americans Need To Think About Culture Before Traveling

Flickr / Steve Jurvetson
Flickr / Steve Jurvetson

Just so some of you know, I’m using Egypt as the example because that’s where the woman who said this went.

So she took her little trip to Egypt and she was so excited. She wanted to appear cultured by saying she couldn’t wait to see not only the sights but the people as well. She would say, “I want to experience another culture,” or something like that because she wanted to sound so deep and smart somehow.

Now, after the trip, she’s back and she’s telling people about it. They ask her what she saw and how the food was. Then people ask about the people and the first thing she says is, “Well, the men were very rude. They groped and harassed me constantly while I was there.”

So now you, and all these other women she’s told that to have this negative impression about the culture of Egypt (or another culturally similar place). Not that a man groping and harassing a woman isn’t wrong, but someone like her plays the innocent victim and didn’t do her fucking research before she traveled.

I was with this particular woman when we went to Egypt and here is why I did not get groped and she did. I did not flaunt my sexuality like she did. She wore very skimpy shorts and a crop top when she went out. I wore a hijab. My hair and body was covered. It was not me bending to a man’s will or becoming a Muslim or whatever ignorant thing you can think of that you feel I did. It was me respecting their culture and understanding that someone’s culture matters.

A lot of Americans see a hijab along with the fact that the women are covered, and automatically think that a man is forcing her to wear it. It is not only part of their religion, it is PART OF THEIR CULTURE! Whether you understand it or not is not important AT ALL. The world does not live by the American culture so when you travel to another country and the culture offends you, you need to get the fuck over it because it’s their culture, not your culture.

Women do not need to flaunt their sexuality there. It is inappropriate to do such a thing but here in America, we flaunt that we are women and we have a strong urge to flaunt how much of a woman we are by wearing less or wearing anything to show a female form. That is acceptable in our culture, not theirs. In another culture, you go out half naked, you’ll be groped because you’re half naked.

I spoke directly to a woman in Egypt and she told me that she couldn’t understand why Americans are so hung up on what they wear. She said we worry so much about how much they have on that we don’t pay attention to how little we wear. “You have to show off your sexuality to attract a man and we feel that is sad.”

Imagine you’re a man in a culture where the women are dressed modestly and suddenly this woman comes out in barely there clothing. Do not tell me you would not at the very least stare. If you say you wouldn’t or start saying something about respect for women then you need to stop right there. You are not in an American culture anymore. So now that I’ve said that. Imagine it again and answer the question as if you’re not an American.

Culture is not just the customs of another country. It is a group of people’s shared view on what is important. It shapes their attitudes about what is appropriate and it shapes their behavior. It makes sense to them but not to outsiders. It is missing nothing and doesn’t need to change to them. They are not born with their culture in their DNA, they learn this the same way we learned our culture.

It is not exclusively an American thing to think that aspects of another culture is wrong or needs to change. It is different and no culture can truly be better than the other. These people are happy in their culture, who are we to say their culture should change because as outsiders, we see it as wrong? Doesn’t make sense does it? It angers you when you think of them coming to America and saying the women need to wear hijabs doesn’t it?

Now that I’ve said all that, think before you travel. You have to do research on another country before you run off and think you can live there. Small things that mean nothing here can mean everything in another country. Just having your foot facing someone is insulting in another culture because it’s dirty. You can offend someone by shaking their hand with your left hand because that’s the “wiping hand.” You have to research a culture before you travel. You will offend someone by thinking you can just be American and do what you normally do. You will be offended by someone if you don’t understand what something means to them. TC mark

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  • http://wandertrot.wordpress.com Lydia

    Your travel buddy- that’s a great example. Thoroughly enjoyed your post. I’m certainly not great at being appropriate always, but I do try and I hope I’m slightly less offensive than that when I’m traveling..

  • http://thebookboulevard.wordpress.com thebookboulevard

    This is a great little discussion of ethnocentrism. Thanks for sharing!

  • https://melgellanofoceania.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/tofa-loa-samoa/ Tofa loa, Samoa. | MELgellan of the great oceania
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