Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cultural Behavior When Abroad

I just finished watching a documentary about how year after year girls from different countries in Europe and North America go to a beach in Mexico during their winter to have fun and end up having romantic relationships with the locals.

It is funny how these girls feel totally liberated in a place where no one knows them. They seem to forget their customs, religion and education because whatever they do in paradise, will stay there (or so they think). These romantic relationships are "sucessful" first, because they are short term, but also because they happen in a neutral place, so the clash of the different cultures is not so evident.

I used to have a friend who was originally British and she was married to a Mexican guy. They had already lived in England for a while and they had moved to Mexico a few months ago. She would tell me how much her husband had changed ever since they had got to Mexico. It was as if coming back to his own country had reminded him of customs he didn't feel as "forced" to follow when abroad. Or maybe he was just so culturally conscious that he felt he had to show her how she was expected to behave.

Do we behave differently in regards to our culture when we are outside our country? In Mexico we have a saying that goes something like "wherever you go, do what you see", meaning that you have to adapt and adopt the customs of the place you are in. I know what some people will say, " I will not do something that in my culture is considered wrong"... and that is not what I mean, there are definitely customs that we wouldn't change no matter where we go, but I do think that just as we do when packing a suitcase, when we go to a different country we choose the behaviors we want to take with us and leave other ones at home. I am not sure whether or not this happens in every single culture, probably it is what makes some people more open to learn about other people and what makes them more adaptable.