Guest Author - Lea Ann Fessenden-Joseph
Being aware of another country’s cultures and traditions can make or break your visit. I recently ran across an interesting website: www.culturecrossing.net which is a wonderful site to check before you travel to a foreign country. The site provides you with valuable information to keep you from making any major social faux pas while you are journeying.
The site’s introductory page states: “The Culture Crossing mission is to foster cross-cultural understanding and awareness by inviting the global community to share their knowledge and experiences with others. “
I liked the opportunity to click on a country and then be able to read about: Taboos, Gestures, Law and Order, Communications Style, Personal Space, Eye Contact as well as information about conducting business and being a student in that country.
A seemingly friendly gesture in one country could be the worst insult in another. And the interesting thing is this site is not only free but it is updated by its members who are either from the country or have lived there. Some countries such as Brazil do not adhere to strict meeting times where as in Aruba it is customary to show up for a meeting on time or early. If you were visiting Taiwan and someone extends their arm and makes a scratching motion with their fingers, how would you react? This is merely their way of beckoning one another.
Living in St Lucia, I have become accustomed to many cultural traditions that I did not practice in the United States. For instance, a St Lucian would never enter your home without first removing their shoes; it is just common courtesy here but has taken some getting used to for me! I have also learned that when returning home from a funeral it is customary to walk backwards into your home to keep any evil spirits from entering with you. And women who are menstruating should never touch plants in a garden or they will wither and die. The plant, that is.
In Haiti the legal drinking age is 16 years, and whistling at someone is considered rude as is pointing. In Cuba there is no legal drinking or smoking age and it is quite common to show up late to a party or function.
In addition to great tips and facts, the site also provides a forum to ask questions as well as community pages listing businesses in each country.
I found this site to be very informative although it is still a work in progress. This type of information is critical to ensuring positive global relationships. So often we journey into the world with our own traditions and perceptions only to find that “our way” is not always the acceptable way in other regions.