A Traveler’s Guide to Culture
Join us on a trip around the world. The goal of this guide to culture is to explore what it exactly is and to give a few exciting examples. Unfortunately, we can’t discuss all the different types of culture here because there are so many. Nevertheless, we tried to provide diverse examples from across the globe. Come along as we explore traditions, religious practices, art, and other culturally thrilling topics.
What is Culture?
Before we begin, let’s define the term “culture”. Culture forms over a long time period. During that time, many traditions, languages, and artworks emerge within a population. Generally, anything created by humans can be part of a culture.
Traveling offers a unique opportunity to engage with foreign cultures. Sometimes, it can be difficult because they are unfamiliar. Some people may even experience a culture shock on their adventures. This is nothing to worry about; you just have to get used to new ideas and ways of living.
When traveling, it is vital to show respect for other cultures. That way, you show people that you are open-minded and accepting. Before your travel starts, we recommend informing yourself about your destination’s culture to avoid uncomfortable situations and to make your trip even more enjoyable.
An important part of a culture is the region’s indigenous peoples. We want to emphasize that they should be treated with respect. When indigenous people are respected, their customs and traditions can be preserved. A major problem is that many indigenous people have been suppressed and have consequently turned to tourism, which can have serious negative consequences.
Part of respecting indigenous people is being knowledgable about names. There are lots of well-known derogatory ways to call different groups of people that you may not even realize are derogatory. Indigenous people of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska who have inhabited the North Pole area for a long time should be referred to as Inuit unless you know the specific clan or tribe name. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may also be called Indigenous Australians, again, unless you know the specific clan name. Indigenous people of the Andaman Islands in India are called Jarawas. It is always better to be as specific as possible, and research it for yourself if you are unsure.
Did you know the oldest indigenous tribes have existed for over 50,000 years? The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a long and interesting history with hundreds of different tribes, customs, and languages.
A special place for Indigenous Australians is Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock). For many, this place is considered holy and is a popular hotspot for tourists today. It’s asked that visitors do not climb this spectacular hill because of its sacred meaning, so enjoy from below!
The world loves to celebrate. Each culture has a plethora of exciting celebrations. These celebrations are so much fun to take part in and beautiful to watch. You can partake in many of these festivals, which may in fact turn into the highlight of your trip. To further discuss celebrations around the world, we will describe three interesting festivals.
Chinese New Year
One exciting festival is the Lunar New Year in China. Unlike the Julian calendar, it is not celebrated on the first of January but the day of a new moon. The celebration takes place between January 21st and February 21st, which stems from the lunar calendar. It spans over 15 days and ends with a lantern festival.
During this celebration, all of the houses are decorated in red, which is supposed to protect the family. This tradition originates from the legend of Nian, a monster that would scare people. For this reason, they celebrate with loud music, strident bells, and elaborate fireworks to expel evil. We highly recommend watching the beautiful dragon dances. Read more about the Lunar New Year here.
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
People move their hips to the music at the carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Traditionally, it starts on the Friday before Ash Wednesday and ends five days later. During that time, the whole world is mesmerized by the dances of Rio’s samba schools. The dancers wear magnificent robes and move their bodies to the rhythm in the streets.
La Tomatina festival in Spain
The Spanish celebrate a very interesting festival: an annual tomato fight. This event takes place in Buñol and starts at 10 am when someone retrieves a ham from a tree. The actual fight starts around 11 am and takes one hour. Only ripe tomatoes are used, so no one gets hurt.
Apart from exciting festivals, the world has various customs. Often called traditions, these practices can signify a culture. To learn more about customs around the world, we will explore three fascinating rituals.
Wife-carrying in Finland
The Finnish have a truly entertaining tradition. At an annual event, men must carry their wife over various obstacles. This practice was created 20 years ago, and it has official rules and regulations. For example, the women have to be carried for more than 250 meters (820 feet). There are also guidelines for age and weight.
Cooper’s Hill cheese-rolling and wake
A fascinating custom in England features a four-kilogram (9-pound) block of Gloucester cheese. This cheese wheel is rolled down a hill four times and can even reach speeds of up to 100 km/h (60 mph). The goal of this tradition is to catch the cheese, which is easier said than done! Because of the cheese’s high speed and a delayed start, the chase is difficult. The woman and man who are closest to the cheese wheel at the end of the chase can keep it as a prize.
Trick or Treat! The American Halloween traditions have arrived back in Europe as well and take place on October 31st every year. Kids dress up in costumes and walk through their neighborhood. They knock on doors to receive candy and maybe even play pranks. People carve pumpkins which are then used as scary lanterns at house entrances.
This tradition originally comes from Ireland. On this day, locals thought the deceased would be up to mischief on earth. For this reason, they dressed up so the dead wouldn’t recognize them.
Music varies from country to country and is shaped by cultural influences. We will discuss a few examples and how different they can be.
Drums in Africa
Music across the African continent often uses a lot of drums. Each country has its own style of drums that produces a unique sound. For example, central Africa is home to the Ngoma. People often dance along to the rhythmic sounds of the instruments. Different dances have different meanings such as dances for love, or war.
K-Pop in Korea
K-Pop, short for Korea popular music, is a trendy music genre, that is popular in today’s world from South Korea. The K-pop scene includes several girl and boy bands, which sing and do elaborate dances.
Mariachi in Mexico
Have you ever wondered what a staple of Mexican music is? Think mariachi! However, it’s not just music; it also offers an insight into culture overall and is part of the intangible UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The unique part of mariachi is the musicians. Often small groups – seven to twelve people – play together in dark suits, decorated sombreros, and pointed boots. The aesthetic is worth seeing but listening is also a treat. Besides the wonderful sounds of guitars, violins, and trumpets, they often sing love songs. The performance will certainly give you with goosebumps!
When you think of art, you may think of statues and paintings. But this category offers so much more. Art is not just partings, but it includes literature, movies, monuments, traditional music, and theatre plays. In fact, the list goes on, but we don’t want to be here all day.
One of the most famous paintings in history is the Mona Lisa. Leonardo da Vinci painted her in 1506. There are plenty of crazy theories about her appearance, for example, because of her mysterious smile and eyes.
You may have heard of the popular, Russian composition “Swan Lake” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. This ballet revolves around a princess who turned into a swan. The love from a prince is the only thing that can transform her back. Impressive ballet dancers tell this story accompanied by wonderful music which will leave you in awe.
The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is over 21,000 kilometers (13,000 miles) long and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This important, ancient monument is over 2,000 years old and was used to stop enemies from invading the Chinese empire. For these reasons, it is a very popular attraction for tourists from all over the world.
A country’s cuisine is also part of its culture. This does not only include delicious dishes and drinks but also table etiquette.
Italy is an excellent example of unique dining culture. Anyone who has ever been to Italy knows Mediterranean food is a treat for your taste buds. Here, you can try the delicious pizza, delightful pasta, and tasty ice cream. Another treat is the risotto as well as the heavenly coffee. In this dining culture, Italians eat relatively late. It is fairly common to have dinner around 10 pm.
Chinese cuisine has many customs. The preferred utensils to consume food in China are chopsticks. Using chopsticks may require some skill but with a little practice, it can be a piece of cake. China also has a unique dining culture. For example, drinking or eating noisily is frowned upon. Don’t put the chopsticks into your rice, as this is generally associated with a funeral.
The Swedish have a special favorite dish called “Surströmming”. This dish is characterised by its unique smell and consists of fermented fish. If you would like, you can eat it with flatbread. One practice to avoid at the table is blowing your nose because it is considered very impolite.
No matter if it’s paintings, dance, food, traditions, or music – everything belongs to a country’s culture. The beautiful thing is that there are many cultural landmarks around the world. You will never get bored on your journey when you are open to exploring everything.
Pay close attention to your actions! When traveling, always value and accept other cultures. It is polite and shows dignity. To learn more about proper conduct at certain cultural events, do your research before your trip so that you will be prepared for an enjoyable experience.