The Importance of Cultural Sensitivity
When you travel to a foreign country there are certain unspoken rules that you need to respect in order to respect the traditions of the people who live there. On a cambio, you are staying in someone’s home, so it is even more important to display cultural sensitivity. If you’re thinking about going on a cambio, then you’re likely the sort of person who is willing to look at the world in new ways, so the idea of cultural sensitivity shouldn’t be new to you. But if going on a cambio is your first real travel experience, then here’s why being accepting of another’s values and beliefs is so important.
What is cultural sensitivity?
Put simply, cultural sensitivity is about being aware that another culture is different to your own, and respecting those differences. Showing cultural sensitivity could be as simple as taking off your shoes when you enter your host’s home. It could involve covering more of your body than you usually would like to in 30°C heat. It could also mean respecting your host’s wishes to not consume meat under their roof even though you love nothing more than the smell of bacon cooking in the morning, or remaining silent on public transport when all your sociable instincts tell you to strike up a conversation with the person next to you. The things that you will need to accept and understand will vary significantly, but displaying cultural sensitivity is about acceptance and tolerance of differences, no matter what they are.
Your host will be aware that you come from a different culture and that it will take time to adjust to theirs, so they will forgive you if you don’t show cultural sensitivity from the outset due to a simple lack of knowledge. However, we encourage you to ask your host about their culture, talk to people who have travelled to your host’s country, about their personal experiences of adjusting to a new culture, and read some travel blogs and guidebooks before you begin your cambio. Armed with some background knowledge, you will be more prepared to be as open and respectful as possible while you are staying with your host. And here’s why that’s so important:
It helps you connect with other people and learn about how they live.
The effort that you make while on your cambio to abide by the unspoken rules of your host’s culture will go a long way towards connecting with them, as they will appreciate that you value the way they have chosen to live their life. They will be more willing to open up and share more of their life with you if they see that you are curious and understanding.
The more effort you put in, the better you will connect with your host, and the more you will learn about their culture. You may find yourself invited to traditional celebrations, parties, and even weddings that you would never have had the opportunity to go to had you shown no interest or respect for your host’s way of life.
It enables you to see the world through another’s eyes.
Respecting another’s way of life does not necessarily mean changing the way you live yours. Cultural sensitivity is not about changing yourself, but about showing respect and tolerance. You are entitled to your own values, beliefs and ideas just as your Host is entitled to theirs. Being culturally sensitive is about not imposing your values onto another person; it is about respecting their right to uphold the beliefs that they value – just as you do in your own culture. Try to take a step back and put yourself in your host’s shoes, to see the world as they do, and to understand why they live the way they do. You don’t have to agree with their worldview, but try to accept that they have one that may be somewhat different to your own, and recognise that this is okay.
It changes your life.
Cultural sensitivity while on your cambio will lead to some truly memorable experiences that will last you a lifetime. There might be things that you found compelling about your host’s culture that change the way you see the world. Opening yourself up to another culture can sometimes result in wanting to be a part of it. You may return from a cambio in India with a love for practicing yoga, from Italy armed with traditional recipes to infuse into your weekly dinner menu, or from Spain with a newfound respect for enjoying life’s small pleasures. Whatever it is, being culturally sensitive will change your life for the better and enrich the relationship you have with people from other cultures.
Cultural sensitivity fosters a deep understanding of another person and their way of life and is something that will lead to experiences that you will treasure forever. If you are open and understanding, then a world of new experiences awaits. Start planning your next adventure with GoCambio!
About the Author: Clarissa Hirst is a Content Writer and Editor at GoCambio. A born-and-bred Australian, Clarissa currently calls Sweden home. She’s travelled to over 40 countries, loves learning foreign languages, and her passion is inspiring others to learn about and explore the world around them. She hopes to one day speak fluent Russian and ride the Trans-Siberian railway. You can learn more about Clarissa on her website!