Travel Tip: Clothing for Culture and Comfort
We have come to an age of globalisation: people from different cultures coming into contact with others more frequently than ever, thanks to the increasing convenience and affordability of air travel. With so many cultures, there are so many different cultural norms—for example, it is considered rude to not slurp when eating ramen in Japan, as if you’re expressing displeasure with the food, and certain types of clothing could easily offend the locals.
Due to the existence of vastly different cultures, however, such a cultural exchange would also increase the likelihood of cultural faux pas: tourists behaving badly in other countries due to different cultural expectations, such as eating or smoking where you’re not supposed to, or wearing provocative clothing in a conservative society.
Imagine packing your clothes to go to another country, and then finding out that you’re either wearing too much or too little for the climate and/or culture of the country. That would be very embarrassing and humiliating indeed! Well, that’s why we’re here to help you avoid that blunder before you begin your travels.
Clothing for Culture
Starting off, we would like to introduce you to the first of three R’s: Research. With the internet, you could easily look up information about the country you’re planning to visit. Should you wear that navel-exposing tank top? While much of the world is quite accepting of navel exposure, it is a strict no in most predominantly Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia (Bali is an exception since it’s a tourist destination) because the navel is considered in Islam to be among the intimate parts that need to be covered. Meanwhile, Malaysia may be Muslim-majority, but the laws are relaxed for non-Muslims for the sake of harmony between the Muslims and the rest of the non-Muslim populace. At the same time, India is considered a conservative country, but their definition of conservative allows for the baring of the navel and open backs, and of course what you wear to nightclubs should never be worn when visiting the Taj Mahal, and vice versa. In more recent times, some countries like Austria, France and China have banned the wearing of burqas (but not the hijab), so be sure to check on the local laws.
Clothing for Comfort
That’s for culture, and then there’s comfort. It would be safest to dress very conservatively: ankle-length skirts and long sleeve blouse for women, trousers and shirts for men, but this is not always practical due to the climate, as some countries can get very hot and humid which warrants sleeveless tops and shorts for bearable wear. On the opposite extreme, there’s very cold weather that requires extra layers of clothing, including the use of long johns. Failure to pack ahead in preparation for the cold would result in being forced to buy cold weather clothing at the airport, which often has their prices marked up.
Now that you have done your research into the culture and climate of the country you’re planning to visit, we come to the second R: Respect. Being aware of the cultural differences is not sufficient, as you should also respect the culture rather than expect the people of that country to accommodate you. Indeed, you are the guest, and they are the host, so as a guest, you should respect the rules (laws) of the house (country) you would be visiting. If you find yourself being turned away from or reprimanded at a particular place because of your attire, respectfully accept the criticism and leave or return when dressed appropriately, rather than arguing to enter or to stay; it’s not worth the effort, and you will be shaming yourself in front of the locals for being an uncultured brute. Besides, when the locals observe tourists making an effort to work together with rather than against the local culture, they would appreciate the effort and honour the tourists who respect their culture.
Having done your research and being prepared to respect the destination of your travel, it is time for the last R: Retail. You must now purchase appropriate apparel for the excursion, including winter wear for cold climates even when it’s not actually winter since some places like St Petersburg in Russia would only reach as high as 22 degrees Celsius at the height of summer! And for warmer climates, less is more, but not to the point of baring too much skin depending on the country you’re visiting. Often, the materials used to make the clothes can make all the difference; see if you need cashmere for warm weather or wool for cold weather.
Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge to help you travel with less worries, where are you headed to next? What type of clothing are you packing to wear, and why? Leave your comments with your own clothing tips!
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