Participating in Cultural Practices
(Note: This transcript has been edited for readability.)
One thing you need to think about as you’re going to different countries, part of the culture is your actual personal space. As an example, in Iraq or Afghanistan, the hug and the kiss, and if you’re not comfortable with that, you’ve got to start being comfortable with it, because it is their culture. It is their life. And you are in their country. They are the hosts. So be prepared for feeling uncomfortable at first, but understand that the more you project yourself and the more that you, not really become part of that country, but at least acknowledge and respect their cultures, whether it’s the man-kiss or the hug, whether it’s holding hands walking down the street. And I can tell you that when you’re building a relationship with, for example the Afghans, and they begin to trust you and they begin to consult with you, and really talk really personal issues, you know that you’ve now broken that wall. You’ve opened the door. But it really comes to light when, whether he’s in the Afghan army, or the police, grabs your hand and you’re walking hand-in-hand down the street. I mean, it’s the way that they operate. If you can make it to that level, don’t feel embarrassed, feel accomplished. Feel like you’ve actually accomplished something. While it may be very small in your eyes, it’s huge in terms of their eyes. They now trust you with their life and the fact that they are actually holding your hand as a true friend should mean a lot to you.
A culture expert discusses the importance of taking part in practices that may be unusual to newcomers.