Crossing Cultures

The Caucasus are a culturally rich and diverse region. You will have the chance to closely observe and interact with local people and their daily life. We here at EE want to ensure that you have the best experience possible, so we have provided some tips about crossing cultures. If you are an experienced traveler, enjoy this as a reminder of all you have learned. If you are just beginning the journey of becoming a world traveler, we hope this advice helps you have an amazing first trip.

On your journey and on your tour you will be encountering many different kinds of people. You will have local guides and be staying in locals’ homes. In order for you to maximally enjoy your experience, it is important to plan ahead for how you will respond to cultural differences.

General Advice

  • Many things may happen that you don’t understand or did not anticipate. You will be even more aware than usual of these things because you are outside your comfort zone. It is very important to be patient and flexible in these instances.
  • Be prepared for many aspects of day-to-day life that you take for granted to be different. Different is ok.
  • Try to view the small things that are different and challenging as an adventure rather than an obstacle.
  • Place yourself in the position of learner as often as you can. People are often very happy to help, and you can learn a lot.

Be observant and respectful

  • Take an extra minute to observe before commenting or jumping in.
  • Westerners are often perceived as brash and impulsive because we have a tendency to say what we mean with little prelude and to speak more loudly than other people, especially in public. Taking a few more seconds to observe the patterns of behavior in those around you can be very helpful. Frequently the best course is to smile and keep still and quiet.
  • Often the things you observe about a culture are deeply rooted in worldviews and beliefs that you do not yet understand.
    • Ask respectful questions.
    • Do not make fun of things no matter how strange they seem to you.

Communication

  • Recognize that sometimes communication will break down. Be patient and learn from your mistakes when this happens. Don’t be afraid to keep trying.
  • Think about the way your background, experiences, and worldview have shaped you.
    • What assumptions and aspects of your culture are you bringing to the interaction?
    • How can you use and work around them to communicate respectfully?
  • Often, making an attempt at the language, even if you’re not confident, shows that you are trying to engage.
    • Some recommended language apps: Speakeasy Russian, Russian alphabet, DuoLingo

Cultural Awareness

Many cultures have different ideas about time and the importance of punctuality NC people tend to be more relaxed about punctuality than most westerners, do not be offended if things do not happen on an expected schedule
Many cultures have different ideas about conflict resolution and dealing with uncertainty NC people will probably not want to address conflict as directly as most westerners want to. They may also be more comfortable with uncertain plans.
Many cultures have different ideas about the importance of individuals versus the group. NC people tend to be far more focused on the needs and agenda of the group than most westerners.
Many cultures have different ideas about the importance of respect.

In the NC, hospitality is very important. It is not disrespectful to choose not to try something you are served, especially if you have dietary needs, but you should express gratitude and try as much as you can. Do not make faces, complaints, or comments, even to other group members. It is just fine for you to ask what is in a dish.
Some other ways to show respect in the NC:

  • Shake hands only with right hand
  • Take off gloves before shaking hands
  • Don’t put your feet up in public places (shoe bottom facing a person is disrespectful).
  • Don’t stare. It is considered very offensive.
  • Remove your shoes when entering someone’s home.
The adventures you are on may require mid-course adjustment Trust your guides to know best.

 

Final Advice

  • Don’t allow cultural tidbits to define your experience. Be observant and flexible. Recognize that the people you encounter are individuals that may or may not fit the descriptions and patterns we have described.
  • Avoid making value judgments about things you don’t completely understand. Remember the way you’re living for a short while is the way the people you are around live all of the time.