By Chris Emmanuel
Looking out to sea, one sunny afternoon, I spied two boys fishing. One stood ready to cast the net, whilst the other pointed to where the fish swam. With effort, after a few tries, they caught a small fish and dumped it on the shore near the water’s edge as they continued on their quest.
Watching the fish flutter on the sand, the shadow of a frigate bird circling the sky above came into view. Eying the flickering silver, the bird started to descend for the prize. The boys, too preoccupied with the thought of the next cast, did not notice as the bird quickly swooped down, plucked the fish from the sand and in flight swallowed the meal whole.
A few moments later, one of the boys wandered back to look for the fish. Shrugging his shoulders and scratching his head in puzzlement he looked up to the sky to find not a bird in sight. The moral of the story? A fish out of water is fare game for anyone.
Whenever someone travels overseas they are like "a fish out of water." Like the fish, they have been swimming in their own culture all their lives. A fish doesn't think about what water it is in. Likewise, we often do not think too much about the culture we are raised in. Our culture helps to shape our identity. Many of the cues of interpersonal communication (body language, words, facial expressions, tone of voice, idioms, slang) are different in different cultures. One of the reasons that we feel like a fish out of water when we enter a new culture, is that we do not know all of the cues that are used in the new culture. Below are a few tips to merge into cultures when you travel:
Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
Be kind to everyone you meet, since you don’t know who’s who in the country zoo. When you find yourself in a cage you will be surprised who you will have to cozy up to, to get doors unlocked and be on your way.
Seek Out Wise Council
Rather than talk about yourself and what you want to do in your new place, ask questions and listen to what the locals’ say. Remember you are in a different part of the world.
Get Moving Rather Than Get Even
When you come against different customs that you find offensive think before you act. Rules of engagement in verbal wars have different repercussions in different cultures. Don’t assume fairness. Most often it’s better and cheaper to bite your tongue and get over it than satisfy your ego’s need for revenge.
Reassess your Reasons for Traveling
Remind yourself often of the great reasons you chose to be where you are. Don’t get stuck in comparing your past to the present. Remember everything is constantly changing all over and that means the place you left behind is not the same either.
Know Your Circle
When meeting new acquaintances listen for signs of trouble. Most often if you hang around people who get into difficulties with neighbors, eventually you will also find yourself in their shoes. You can’t pick your family, but you can choose your friends. Choose wisely.
Books by Christopher Emmanuel can be purchased at his Art Gallery in The Sunbreeze Hotel , Art of Touch, Pages Book Store, Black orchid Spa and Sol Spa.