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Body Art Considerations For Travelers
Experiencing and exploring other cultures can be one of the most enjoyable parts of traveling, but unintentional culture clashes can put a damper on the fun. And one area where these unintended bumps can occur is in the area of body art.
Tattooing and piercings are viewed different in different countries and cultures. Western culture (mostly America) came pretty late to the body art game, only really getting into it in the later half of the 20th century, but in that short amount of time, we've sort of run wild with it. While there are parts of the USA that are more conservative, coastal cultures have pretty much accepted body art as part of the mainstream, and it's something you now see everyday, starting with that barista who makes your coffee in the morning.
For traveling, it's important it maintain a certain amount of cultural sensitivity and make a few adjustments to your usual presentation. Americans bare their bodies much more than other cultures when the weather gets hot, so that can be problematic even if you aren't very inked. Rather than planning to strip down to a tank top and shorts, it's often a good idea to pack along lightweight clothing that will still help you beat the heat but which keeps the arms and legs covered. Besides, that protects your tattoos better anyway! For touring historic sites (like prestigious European cathedrals) decorum dictates more modest dress anyway. For women, a longer skirt will be more acceptable anywhere versus a shorter one, and bare shoulders (tattooed or not) do better covered with a light wrap or shawl.
Minimizing body jewelry can make traveling and care easier. Swapping out large spirals for short plugs downplays gauged ear piercings without having to take out the jewelry altogether. Changing large metal pieces for things made of acrylic or wood makes for a better experience if you have to fly too. Non-metals are going to mean less of a hassle with airport security and scanners which is always a nice thing. Taking along a hat or headscarf can be nice for keeping off the sun, or downplaying some crazy color hair if you should find yourself in a situation where it's drawing a bit more attention than is appropriate.
Overall, the more alien a situation you are going into, it's better to downplay or change things to be more subtle until you can learn what's comfortable for the situation you are in. It's much better to find out that people are interested and would like to learn more than find you've just accidentally offended someone and now they'd like you to leave.
Content copyright © 2013 by Rae Schwarz. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Rae Schwarz. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Rae Schwarz for details.
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