When traveling or living abroad, you are going to deal with a wide array of experiences.
This includes ethnocentrism.
Being in a situation where you are seen as an “outsider” is a challenging one and it’s something you are going to experience at one point or another as a traveler. It can become increasingly apparent when you are living abroad.
We have also noticed similar experiences while studying abroad as students.
Ethnocentrism is something that is a part of life and it’s something you are going to want to understand in greater detail.
We have broken down various ethnocentrism examples to highlight what this aspect of society entails. We hope this sheds light on what ethnocentrism is all about, how to prepare for it, and why you should be aware as a modern-day traveler.
What Is Ethnocentrism?
Let’s begin by defining ethnocentrism.
Ethnocentrism refers to the belief of one’s cultural beliefs are the only right ones and refusing to accept anyone else’s beliefs.
This includes all aspects of their culture and labeling them as being undesirable or wrong.
This belief can then cause ethnocentric individuals to start displaying signs of racism and xenophobia. This is why traveling is important as it helps a person’s mind grow and understand how each culture is special in its way.
We are all biased towards the culture we’ve grown in and that’s normal. However, using this as a way to belittle others is unacceptable and something we should not tolerate whether it’s at home or elsewhere.
Some of these beliefs are not just for the locals but also travelers. We will shed light on this while looking at examples of ethnocentrism too.
Examples of Ethnocentrism During Our Travels
Cutlery or Way of Eating
This is a common culture shock for travelers.
We remember going to Beijing and having to deal with a constant stream of chopsticks wherever we went. It was assumed to be normal in Beijing and we were finding it hard to struggle.
This was a fascinating example of not wanting to adapt to the culture. We realize this and started to work on making use of our ability to learn how to eat with chopsticks.
Just because you are traveling to another country doesn’t mean they will cater to your style of eating. Some will adjust but when you go out into the interior city, you will begin to realize most are going to stick to their way of eating.
It’s all they are used to and it’s the norm.
Expecting Everyone To Know English
We have also noticed this in most travelers going to non-English speaking countries.
Imagine going to a country where they only speak Mandarin and/or other languages that are not English. You will be troubled by this and assume everyone should know a little bit of English wherever you go when that is not the case at all.
Instead, you will have to understand most people will not know English.
It is commonly assumed English is the number one language and indeed it is one of the most common business languages on the planet. However, when you go to another country, the average person will not know English and you have to be prepared for this.
We recommend showing patience in these situations and you will find it a lot easier to settle in.
Disgust At A Country’s Cuisine
Just because you eat specific meals in your home country does not mean this applies to other nations around the world.
They have their history and cuisine choices that are dear to them.
For example, certain animals are eaten in China that might not be consumed in the USA. This is normal and it is okay to be receptive to these ideas.
You don’t have to eat the food as there are so many options in all countries. However, showing disgust indicates superiority when that should not be the case.
Refusal To Learn About Other Cultures
Learning about other cultures is a must when you are traveling.
Ethnocentrism often causes people to assume their culture is the best. This includes wanting to only do things based on their culture’s requirements and not wanting it to be impeded by anyone else’s.
We have noticed this both by travelers and those in the host country.
We believe it’s great to learn about other cultures and be respectful. It is certainly important for a traveler to keep an open mind and be willing to learn more about the culture as you are in their home. If you are living abroad, this is also a great way to gel with the community around you and build a stronger network.
If you seclude yourself, you will find it a lot harder to adjust.
When we were in Iran, we realized people were wearing hijabs and niqabs.
It was a common dress for women there and it was something we got used to. Judging a person’s outfit or how people dress whether it’s due to legal or religious reasons should never be tolerated.
We don’t feel that is appropriate.
This is a clear example of ethnocentrism where one way of dressing is the only right way of dressing. This disregards the place’s beliefs, customs, and history.
Putting Down Another’s Religious Beliefs
Ethnocentrism can also be seen when looking at religious beliefs.
It is common for people to assume their religion is the best and the only right one. This leads to a situation where those opinions are then forced onto others or there is a desire to change people.
It is important not to do this as a traveler.
Putting down another person’s religious beliefs is not a good idea.
Making Fun Of Accents Or Way Of Speaking
This is often an interesting one.
A person will go to another nation and notice people speak a certain way. We have also seen this where the “American” accent is made fun of by the locals.
It is simply due to everyone being different and everyone having an accent.
Just like a traveler is going to have an accent, so will the locals. This happens anywhere in the world and ethnocentrism makes it feel like everyone else has an accent and you don’t.
These are the main examples of ethnocentrism we have dealt with during our time as travelers.
Ethnocentrism is something travelers deal with whether they are staying for a long time or not. We believe this goes both ways as travelers also display signs of ethnocentric behavior alongside the locals who meet them.
It’s important to be open-minded and appreciate the host nation’s rules or cultural customs.
Amanda Harper is a travel enthusiast with 10+ years of traveling experience across the planet. Her passion for writing and travel makes her a walking bibliography on modern-day tourism.