Throughout this site, you’ll notice that we keep referring to the country that you are studying abroad in as your “host” country. That makes you a “guest,” and with that comes certain responsibilities that go beyond following local laws and rules of the program.
It is your responsibility to do research about your host country – even for short one or two week programs. The best way that you can be a good guest is to give yourself the background knowledge that will help you make sense of the culture a little bit more quickly.
Read your Culture Smart book so that you are prepared for everyday situations and interactions with locals! A few examples follow: How do people greet one another in Japan? How should women dress in Morocco? What is weather like in the southern hemisphere when it is winter in Pittsburgh? What is the tipping culture in the host country?
Be aware of how comments you make could be interpreted by locals, i.e. do more listening and observing than speaking.
We all have reactions to situations overseas – a food that you don’t like, something you see on the street that you wouldn’t at home, or frustrations with issues like transportation. It can also be positive things – you find the people of your host country incredibly attractive, things are relatively cheap by American standards, and so much more. There’s a proper time and place to work through these, and it isn’t on the street or with locals that you don’t know.
In Cuba, for example, the average salary of a well-employed individual is about $35 USD per month. In Cuba, you can also get a lunch with a drink, appetizer, main dish, dessert, and coffee for about $8 USD. Sure, that seems like a great deal to you, but perhaps you should consider that, for the average Cuban, than is like spending ¼ of a month’s salary on a single meal. Keep this in mind when making comments about how cheap things are.
In all of these situations, look to your local faculty and staff for advice on how to be a good guest. The reality is that you likely won't ever blend is a local, so do your best to not stand out as a tourist.