Let the culture shape your conduct: Cultural clashes and embarrassing mishaps abroad
CULTURAL sensitivities are something every traveler should at least try to be in tune with once you land in a new country. And yet repeatedly we see tourists see their dream holiday quickly turn into a nightmare after an ill-judged action or insensitive comment.
Wherever you are in the world, there will be local customs that, if flouted, can cause offense and in some cases even land you in jail. What may seem like an innocent joke to you and your mates can soon turn into a international incident, or at the very least make you highly unpopular with the locals.
It’s easy to get carried away when you’re on your holidays. The pressures of home are removed in places where no one knows us and studies have found this can affect our ethical judgments. So to avoid any uncomfortable moments, take note of these handy tips and learn from these geniuses who found out the hard way.
‘Pornographic dancing’ in Cambodia
Just this weekend, 10 western tourists were arrested in Siem Reap, home of the famed Angkor Wat temple, after photos emerged of them, fully clothed and laughing, imitating sexual positions on the dance floor.
The 10 now face criminal charges and a whole load of embarrassment to boot. At the time, a government official said: “We cracked down on them because they committed activities that are against our culture.”
It’s really common sense to say don’t do anything too overtly sexual, but you also need to be careful with what you’re posting online. Sexy photos and minimal clothing can land you in hot water, especially in the country’s most famous landmark.
In recent years, authorities in Cambodia have clamped down on visitors posting revealing images of themselves at temple sites. Tourists showing cleavage or wearing skimpy clothes have been banned from the Angkor temple complex since August 2016. As the spiritual centre of the Khmer empire and symbol of national pride, make sure you show the respect worthy of the site.
Cheeks out on the mountain top
When a group of hikers thought it would be a good idea the bare their butts on the top of Mount Kinabalu in East Malaysia, none of them foresaw the international incident this would spark.
Posting the photo of the 10 westerners on social media prompted an outcry from locals who consider the mountain a sacred site.
Officials in Sabah state, in the northern half of the island of Borneo, accused the tourists of showing “disrespect to the sacred mountain”.
Sabah’s indigenous Kadazan Dusun people believed the tourists’ behaviour angered the spirit of the mountain and was the reason for a magnitude 5.9 earthquake which six days later struck near the mountain, killing 18 climbers.
The ‘Budge Nine’ celebrate in style
A group of Aussie men, dubbed the ‘Budgie Nine’, won’t be making a return trip to Malaysia anytime soon. After Australian Daniel Ricciardo won the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2016, the men stripped down to Malaysian-flag-printed swimwear – or “budgie smugglers” – in celebration.
Seen as highly disrespectful to the Malaysian flag, and also offensive in a Muslim country in which you’re advised to dress modestly, the group were quickly arrested, only escaping jail after they publicly apologized for their behaviour.
In a letter read in court, the boys said: “We had no idea that our conduct would be deemed to be inappropriate, crass, or even downright offensive to the citizens of this country.” – Nothing a little homework beforehand couldn’t have solved.
Know your history – and respect it
There are certain sites or regions that, for the people living there, will always hold a significance due to their connection to a sometimes brutal history. Needless to say, knowing and respecting this history should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind when visiting.
But the influx of selfie-culture has led to a lack of sensitivity in some tourists as they make the rounds of monuments and places meant for reflection and respect. Dubbed the “Yolocaust” tourists, some visitors to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Berlin were shamed online for finding the sea of coffin-like stone the perfect backdrop for a selfie.
Some were caught posing sensually atop the slabs and one man had his picture taken between the stones while juggling.
In another clear disregard for historical sensitivity, two Chinese tourists were arrested in Berlin after making Hitler salutes outside the German parliament. The symbol is banned in the country and is understandably very offensive to the German people.
Keep your toes to yourself in Thailand
For the people of Thailand, the feet are considered the dirtiest part of the body and it is disrespectful to point the soles of your feet at anyone or even prop them up on a table or chair.
A group of tourists on Phi Phi Don Island when one level up and were slapped with a fine for washing their feet in the sinks of a public bathroom.
Tensions between tourists and residents on the island have become strained after repeated incidents, prompting the Thai tourist board to release an etiquette guide for visitors.
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Source: Travels travelwireasia.com