Prepare for cultural challenges in Asia
I came across an interesting article on making the right first impression in Asia. The author goes through a number of countries, from Japan to South Korea, Thailand and India, giving a few suggestions on giving that important, successful first impression, party starter, or whatever you want to call it.
Because indeed, traveling in countries with particular and exclusive cultures as you may find in Asia, you need to do a bit of background work to get started right and enjoy your traveling to the max.
A couple weeks ago I published a similar post on Vagabonding, receiving a number of different angry comments as I colorfully criticized foreign backpackers for their disrespectful behavior upon entering Malaysia, a multicultural, albeit predominantly Muslim nation. I am far from taking up the matter again, but I would like to stress it once more: as a long term resident in several Asian countries, I have to agree with the article’s author. Making a first impression in Asia requires “some grueling firsthand experience”. For example, when I was a language teacher in China, it took me quite a while to understand how to fulfill the stereotypical requirements my employer had about white foreigners… including being tacitly accused of an “insatiable sexual appetite towards anything that moves”!!! Thus, in order to come home with a better travel experience and an increased knowledge of the country, try to make an effort and make some research before you embark on an Asian adventure; for example, once in Thailand, do not mistake their smile for a complacent show of appreciation for your “farangness”. Know your people, and you will have extremely better experiences in their exotic Asian territories. And as biased as it may sound, make true lasting friendships.
If you have traveled or lived in Asia before, what do you think?