Chapter 1

Are you ready to listen?

Although many world citizens are keenly interested in who we are and how we live, there are just as many who don’t quite get us. Some nations and their people frown on our culture and politics. There’s a lot of history and politics underneath the unwelcome mat, but in the least, know there are problems. The United States is an economic and political powerhouse, but this doesn’t mean we are the end-all be-all of human existence. In fact, we make up only a sliver of the planet’s peoples. David Smith, author of If the World Were a Village, shrunk the earth’s population to a “global village” of100 people and kept all the existing ratios. In this “global village,” there’d only be 5 U.S. citizens.

We hope to inspire you to hit the road with your bags packed and your brain open. Loosen up your mind and take note of the culture swirling around you. Give your jaw a rest and learn by sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. You’ve got five senses –– use them all. You have the potential to change the way people view U.S. citizens. Learn how to be a great world traveler –– with knowledge, resourcefulness and sensitivity.

show a little respect

When the conversations get past small talk, remember one thing: respect. Besides showing individuals respect, it is essential that you show their culture respect. You wouldn’t like it if people made fun of your culture; no one would. Your lives are obviously going to be different. The great thing about being abroad is that every culture has something different to offer. The country you are in has tons to offer the world from philosophy to music to sports. So embrace the culture you are in, respect it and you will learn something from it. People will appreciate the fact that you accept who they are and you’re more likely to become true friends instead of acquaintances.

not everyone loves us

You’re not going to forget your own culture, you shouldn’t try to. Don’t give up who you are; be proud of where you come from. Just try to be a little humble. When you watch the news in foreign countries you will quickly find out that not everyone thinks highly of the U.S.

This may offend you and you don’t have to agree. However, arguing with people about how the U.S. is the best country and how we do everything better will not end up endearing ourselves to foreign cultures. More than likely it will prove their point further. So just remember: think before you speak.


Culture questions


What is taboo here?


What do women usually wear? Men? Students?


Are there special privileges of age and/or sex?


How may people can you name who are prominent in politics, athletics, religion, the arts, etc.?


Who are the national heroes and heroines?


Can you recognize the national anthem?


How do people organize their daily activities? Is there a daytime rest period? When do people visit friends?


What foods are most popular and how are they prepared? What’s the normal meal schedule? What about dining out?