A good tribal tour can be far more educational than a “Culture Studies” class back in school. It gives you a sneak peek into a life you can’t imagine yourself living and of people who are amazingly content with a lifestyle and culture that’s so perfectly in sync with nature.
However, we, the animals of the Urban Jungle and the victims of consumerism, can be absolute idiots exactly when it’s not needed. We’ll tell you how not to look like a jerk on a tribal tour. Watch out for these five stupid things to not be caught doing.
It’s a first world thing. And even though you’ve got the guns of self-righteousness and ‘holier than thou’ attitude up, you can’t deny this happens way too often. While some cultures are pretty okay with show of skin, when it comes to foreigners, things take a whole new perspective. It’s best to be modestly dressed, at the same time, don’t go overdressed, with flashy jewelry, watches, gadgets etc. Also, you might want to leave the stilettos and designer shoes back at home. Because, not only can it get uncomfortable but also, if anything happens to your shoes or feet, you won’t be able to bear it.
Refuse what is offered
Picture this in an ordinary setting- you’re someone’s guest and as gracious hosts they’re offering you a gift. As is natural, you politely decline. But they insist, and you still decline. This goes on for a while. Seriously! Take it already! What is it going to take you to accept! Do you seriously want your hosts to think you don’t find their gifts worthy of your ownership?! These things are taken seriously in most tribal cultures. Speaking of which, try to keep small mementos close at hand. Just in case you’re expected to gift something in return too.
This is the Titanic of all faux pas. Most tribal tours will have a performance put up for your entertainment, and in most cases, you’ll be expected to participate too. Do what you must, but under no circumstances should you be caught laughing. It might be your coping mechanism or maybe there’s an inside joke going on. The problem is your hosts are not going to find it funny. You’re just going to make it awkward for everyone involved.
Poke your head into tribal huts
How would you feel if a bunch of tourists poked their heads into your home and just started taking pictures of you? Creepy and rude are small words to describe the feeling. So yes, you too must resist from creeping other people out. No, we’re not saying you can’t explore (after all, that’s the whole point of the tour, isn’t it?). But, if and when you have to, check for your tour guide’s approval and help. Knock or at least let them know you want to enter their huts. A little politeness is not so difficult.
Freak the tribal people out with your camera
While we’re not implying that they’re completely cut off from the outside world, so much so that they won’t know what a camera is and what it does, you might want to be a little subtle. Don’t scare away the little kids by hitting the flash right in their eyes, and don’t make the women uncomfortable by pointing the cam at them like it’s a machine-gun. It’s always nice to let them know first, what you’re about to do. Nothing good ever came from clicking at people like they’re a science experiment gone horribly wrong.
Of course, etiquettes and body language may differ from culture to culture. But, some basic politeness, common sense and an open mind have always known to work miracles! Put them to good use and leave the tribe enlightened.
This post has been authored by John Davis who is a museum curator and a father of two. He writes for Tandanya, a gallery known for its Aboriginal Cultural Education. He enjoys travelling and exploring new places and cultures when he isn’t busy working.