Getting to Know the Culture

Responsible travel involves more than just being a passive observer. Try to get to know the culture you are visiting, both for your own personal enrichment and also to avoid accidentally offending those around you with different beliefs and views.

A good way to get to know a culture better is to try and lean some of its language. A simple ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ can go a long way to breaking down barriers.

Also take note of local dress. In many cultures women are required to cover up substantially.

As a general rule, dressing smartly, will garner more respect. A rich westerner who dresses sloppily in dirty clothes can be considered as insulting in the face of a poorer tribe, which despite their poverty make an effort to appear smart.

Use local residents as guides to gain a more grounded perspective of an area, and teach you local etiquette.

There are many cases of small tribes becoming entirely dependent upon cultural tours. Question what good a tribe or village gains from your visit.

Do they receive a portion of the proceeds to improve their infrastructure? Is their traditional livelihood being maintained? Or do they solely exist now to amuse a bus of gaping gap year students with a trigger happy penchant for clicking on their digital camera.

In short, ask first, and do not treat people as objects, a township in Soweto may be a million miles from your home, but poverty is poverty and snapping those ‘gritty and real’ pictures of people begging on the street for your own end does few moral favors.