Customs and Traditions

Friday Sound-Off: Is There Such Thing as Going Too Far to Embrace a Culture?

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Can you go too far when trying to embrace another culture when you travel?

I am sure everyone has heard the story by now.  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family created quite a stir when they visited India this month.  In case you haven’t heard about their recent visit, it made the news headlines for all of the wrong reasons.  Below are just some of the stories that we read online in case you aren’t familiar with what happened.

Now, I want to make it clear that I am not bringing this up to trash Canada’s Prime Minister, and I don’t want this article to be mistaken as a political piece.  I would rather we leave politics out of this discussion.  What I would like to focus on is the bigger picture.  I want to focus on what is the right, and the wrong, way to show your respect for other cultures and traditions when you travel.

I am sure Justin Trudeau and his family had the absolute best intentions when they decided on which clothes they were going to wear on their trip.  I think they wanted to be respectful of the culture and traditions of their host nation, and this was a way that they felt they could show respect.  I don’t think their intentions were anything but genuine.

On the other hand, I do think they tried a little too hard to show respect and it came off to some as being a little too staged.  And that is at the heart of what I would like to discuss with you today.  Is there such thing as going too far to embrace a culture or show your respect when traveling?

By the reactions that Trudeau got in the media and on social media, I think many would say that, yes, there is such a thing as going to far.  Do you agree?  If so, what do you think would have been a proper way to show respect in his situation?  How do you show your respect when you visit another nation?

For me personally, unless the culture and traditions in the nation I am visiting request that I wear a certain outfit or do a certain thing, I just try and be myself.  I want to learn about other cultures and other traditions, but I don’t want to portray those cultures and traditions as my own, because they are not.   I hope that makes sense.

If it is tradition to take your shoes off before entering a house, then I will take my shoes off before entering the house.  However, unless tradition requires me to wear traditional local clothing, I don’t think it is proper to wear that clothing as if you are a local.  For instance, if I decided to go to Oktoberfest in Germany, I don’t think I would invest in lederhosen to wear when I am there.  Some people may, but I don’t think I would.

I think it is important for me to say that just because I wouldn’t do it, that doesn’t mean I am right.  That is why I am writing this article.  I would genuinely like to know what you think.  So please, leave a comment if you have an opinion on this subject.  We are all here to learn from each other!

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