Cheap massages in Bali, $2 cocktails in Thailand and beach parties like those only in the Philippines…
Are these the reasons why Aussies love travelling to South East Asia?
Going from what I’ve been told – YES!
But what about the local culture and the very people who live in these beautiful places?
If you’re wondering why I’m talking about tourism in South East Asia in particular, let me explain.
Just last week, a group of tourists from Europe and North America travelled to Malaysia to hike on Mount Kinabalu. They reached the top and celebrated.
A great thing to do unless your type of celebration involves stripping down naked and urinating on a mountain considered sacred by the local community!
And, yes, they posted their photos on social media too.
I don’t plan to harp on here about how bad Western tourists can be – trust me, you can find a whole lot of other tales about that elsewhere – but I would like to highlight the importance of having a sense of cultural sensitivity when visiting countries and coming across cultures different to your own.
SO… if you’re planning to jet-set and land in another part of the world for a holiday – I’ve got 5 challenges for you to try out:
- Try to learn the language (beyond asking for directions).
Why not try to strike up a conversation with someone who’s a local. Learn words and phrases that are conversation starters. We don’t need to confine our communications to only asking “I want…”, “how much?” or “how do I get to…?”
- Go to a place of cultural or historical significance
In addition to the party hotspots of a town/city, make an effort to go somewhere that actually means something to the people of that place. Find out why it’s important in the first place, listen, imagine and let it sink in.
- Temper the temptation to always hang out with other tourists
It’s easier to hang out with people who either speak the same language or are in the same “touristy” situation as us, and while it’s a heap of fun to strike new friendships with people we meet along the way on our travels, try not to only befriend other foreigners.
- Reduce the number of selfies
You don’t need to always photobomb every single one of your photos. And the selfie stick? Besides being just plain weird it is even banned in some places (for good reason too). Trust me, your friends will believe you went to these amazing places even if you aren’t in all of the photos.
- Do not desecrate or destroy anything that is significant in the country you are visiting
I know it seems like such an obvious point but, if there is anything we can learn from the Mt Kinabalu trekkers, it’s to not disrespect places or artefacts important to people. Besides lacking common sense and courtesy, you could even be copped with a $1,500 fine like they did!