Traveling anywhere is awesome, but there is something special about going to a third world country. When the conveniences of first world living get turned down, the volume of everything else gets turned up–sometimes literally, in large cities!
By preparing ahead of time, you can help mellow culture shock and gain insight that will be invaluable to your visit. Plus you’ll also avoid some physical inconveniences.
So read on for tips on preparing for your journey!
1. Study the Culture
A professor of mine used to say that we don’t truly see a thing until we’ve studied it. I’ve found this especially accurate in my travels to the third world.
By learning about the place I will visit and the people in it, I see (and understand) more vividly while I am there. I notice behaviors, signals, and details I might otherwise have missed. This makes a smoother transition into the culture and a more interesting experience overall.
Studying the culture will prepare you in a number of ways. If you are expecting the differences, you will be less likely to experience severe culture shock. You’ll also be more likely to understand what’s happening around you, and to make sure your actions are being understood.
An extreme example: A few years ago, a Navy SEAL survived an attack in Afghanistan. A local village took him in, tended his wounds, and looked after him. But since he did not understand the culture, he continued to fear for his life. If he had studied Afghan culture–or, more precisely, Pashtun culture–he would have realized that the moment he was accepted as a guest in the village, the people would literally die before they allowed harm to come to him. (Which is, actually, what ended up happening when the Taliban attempted to take the soldier.)
Knowing the culture might not be a life-or-death situation for your travels, but it can save you some confusion, keep you from causing offense, and help you build stronger relationships with locals.
I also find that when I study, I enter the country with a humble attitude, which is perfect for being a learner instead of a tourist.