SUMOskinny magazine is the ultimate guide to college life. Part local, part national, and all college.
Due to recent heated discussions over cultural differences (Ahem... Arizona. Ahem... stoning in Iran?!) I feel that it is my duty to impart to you all, the importance of identity whilst you travel abroad.
Rule #1: Do remember that almost always, as a tourist, YOU are the invader. That’s right; a guns blazing, flag wielding invader. This effect becomes heightened if you do not speak the native language which you are visiting.
Solution: If you have a serious aversion to being stared at, RESEARCH! It is not difficult to look up demographics of countries. Pick a place that has a high percentage of English speakers (or speakers of your native tongue, for all my foreign students out there). Do also use your better judgment! If you hate the stares and are a tall, white as the day is long, and blonde, then perhaps an Asian or African country is not for you. Likewise, if you are a strapping, black, hottie then remember that you WILL stand out in Scandinavia, and Asia.
Rule #2: Know your customs! In a place such as the US, despite some unresolved issues, tolerance has the last word. It is VERY easy to forget that every country views its values with varying degrees of strictness, and that open-mindedness is not generally a requirement. However, but you MUST refresh yourself before you travel; not just to be polite, but to keep yourself safe.
Solution: If you are a proud lover of the same gender for instance, perhaps a “machismo” culture would anger you more than thrill you, and if you are a wild feminist, then not just the obvious Middle East, but much of traditional Asia may set you off too. The country that you are visiting may have some wildly colorful laws. If you are afraid of making a faux-pas, then you may want to re-think your destination. Remember, you can enjoy yourself anywhere, but you may either have to tone yourself down or take others with a grain of salt. But if you find that this offends your sensibilities, then there are plenty of other places to offer you a wealth of adventure and fun!
-try not to look like this.
Rule #3: Read the News! It is true that, crime reports are not usually enough to make the college demographic run from an entire country or region however, they are not to be dismissed. Face it; there are some regions many times more dangerous than others and for the sake of yourself you must at least know what you’re getting into.
Solution: DO go to Mexico; DON NOT go to Ciudad Juarez. Countries are generally large enough that you can put distance between yourself and isolated crime zones (think Bronx at night vs. Times Sq.). DO visit UAE; DO NOT try not to skip across the Gulf of Persia to Iran. Know your regions. Have a lot of friends in UAE? Visit! You’ll have a blast. But while the high of fun has gotten to you, do not forget where you are. You are nestled snuggly in a region plagued by dispute.
Rule #4: Know your limits! Whether you are alone or with friends, your biggest limitation and liability is yourself. You have to know when it is time to call it quits, or when the situation is out of your hands.
Solution: Have safe points. Technology frequently fails in inopportune moments. Know where your embassies are; know in advance where you should meet people if you get separated. Recognize bad ideas. In an area that becomes shady at night? Perhaps you want to avoid it at night then, huh? Just met some strangers? Awesome as they may be, perhaps YOU should pick the transit arrangements. Know when to demand safety measures, if only for your peace of mind.
As always, have fun.
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