Culture Awareness

Adventure activities like Trekking by nature visit places that have cultures different from our own. In visiting these places, we will be exposed to different customs, values and ways of life which may be very different to the norms we are used to, and it can be very easy to upset the local people by infringing in some of their cultures which they hold dear.

Fitting in with the local cultures will not only avoid confrontation, but it will help ensure sustainability and future access to the area.

Some General Pointers

There are simply too many different cultures worldwide to try to be specific about the do’s and don’ts of every variable, but there are some common universal pointers which should at least keep you out of trouble.

  • Do not take photos of people unless having permission to do so. In most cases we are not talking about people in the far distance. We are referring to close ups or where the subject of the picture is a specific person or group of persons.
  • When visiting religious sites, preserve what you’ve come to see and never touch and remove religious objects. Respect the beliefs and traditions of others even if you do not agree with them.
  • Dress modestly – No flimsy clothes and sleeveless shirts, shorts should come down to your knees for men and women should have longs or a skirt on.
  • Always respect local people and their ways. Allow them to change you, but don’t try to change them!
  • Always ask before taking close-up photographs of religious places / shrines.
  • Don’t give money to children, beggars. There’re better ways to help them – make donations to local projects/organizations.
  • Particularly in rural areas, do not dish out sweets to children. They may not have access to dental care and you are simply ruining their health. Rather give fruit if you want to give something.
  • Abstain from showing affection out in the open. It may be okay in your culture, but it is not in many, and you could even end up in jail.

  • Not all cultures are happy with physical contact, even a handshake can be an insult, so be led by the people you are meeting. If they extend their hand to shake it, then fine, but rather wait for them to make the first move.
  • Watch carefully what is going on around you with others and follow their example.
  • Eye contact can be a good sign but also a sign of aggression. Looking away when talking to someone may be a sign of respect, so try to gauge what the locals are doing and follow suit.
  • In some cultures, men should not sit with women. Again, follow the lead of the locals and observe what they do.

Andrew Friedemann

Author: Andrew Friedemann

Andrew holds qualifications in South Africa, Australia and the UK as an Outdoor Recreation Instructor and qualified Mountain Guide and Instructor. Passionate about developing the Adventure Industry in South Africa to make it safer and provide opportunities to a younger generation of adventurers. Represented South Africa on the World Mountaineering Federations (UIAA) International Training Standards Commission for 10 years and has administered the South African Mountaineering Development & Training Trust. A qualified Wilderness EMT and Emergency Care Practitioner. Qualified as an Skills Development Practitioner, he has been intimately involved in the development of Adventure based qualifications particularly with regard the quality management of adventure qualifications. Founder of Adventure Qualifications Network, he was instrumental in the development of National Vocational qualifications for the adventure industry in South Africa, but also worked closely with Australia where he attained the Cert IV in Outdoor Recreation Instruction. Currently resident in the Scottish Highlands - UK, with his wife, Michelle, they travel to many areas of the world gaining information and skills. A keen adventurer, Andrew has participated in mountaineering, skydiving and scuba diving among other activities.

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