Culture Shock

"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open" Jawaharlal Nehru

Traveling is an experience that allows us to experience different cultures and as the above quotes states, it's best to experience different cultures with open eyes. Having the opportunity to travel gives us the ability to see sights directly, touch different places, and experience different cultures directly. We have the ability to see pictures and videos of far away places but there is something special about being able to go see them for ourselves. If we just read about people eating chocolate and saw people eating chocolate it would be hard to grasp the true experience of eating chocolate.

Traveling to India and Nepal, I had a greater culture shock that I anticipated. I thought traveling to India would be a bigger version of our own ethnic communities like Chinatown and Little Italy. But it was much different. India's merchants use bartering and upon arriving it took me over an hour to find an ATM machine. The scarcity of ATM machines was a huge adjustment, and I had to learn to carry a large amount of money. Adding to the initial cultural shock, on the first day I traveled to a Sikh temple. Every Friday, at the temple the whole city is invited for supper to eat. In the temple, I saw a Sikh stir food in a huge pot with a giant stick. I was one of the few in the group who agreed to eat some of the food, the food was made from grain and was similar to eating porridge.

India is steeped in history; it is the world's largest democracy, the most eastern point Alexander the Great reached, and home to several major religions. It is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism; and Muslims and Christians also are present in India. Despite all of these religions, they coexist in peace, and often temples from different religions are across the street from each other. Varanasi is the holiest city of Hinduism. At Sunrise, I saw morning worship along the river where thousands gathered for hours to pray. All of us in our travel group were from the western world, and had nothing to compare it to. We've seen Christmas masses before but nothing can be compared to the devotion we saw along the river Ganges. For hours they prayed, chanted, and sung beside the river, and some were up to their waist in the river.

Also, there are cultural differences we disagree with. One of the main reasons I chose the trip was the prospect of seeing Chitwan National Park. I wanted to ride an Elephant in the Jungle Mist. But I was shocked, when I saw the Elephants were chained to a pole with barely 10 meters of walking space. We heard the clanging and the moaning of the elephants in a confined space. The justification isto keep them in close proximity to increase their numbers.

Another unique experience of this trip was the ability to see historical sites and touch history itself. In Amsterdam, my stop-off before India I visited the Anne Frank House and was able to see the bookshelf that hid the secret hiding place in the attic from the rest of the office was very moving to see a historical landmark for human rights directly. The effect of seeing the Taj Mahal was greater. It is arguably the most beautiful building in the world, and to see it with my own eyes was awe-striking. The last sight on the trip was an aerial flight to see Mount Everest. Everest may not be the world's most beautiful mountain but being able to see highest point on Earth is amazing. Mount is Everest is part of the Himalayan mountain chain, and amongst the world highest mountains. Everest was located near the end of the mountain range and is a pyramid shaped mountain, and seeing it was very memorable. The history behind the mountain is astonishing, of the difficulty to climb it, and today its climb is still regarded as the greatest physical challenge on the planet.

During my trip, I saw poverty at a higher rate than back home. It's disheartening to see the poverty but also I saw signs of progress. Delhi recently built an underground subway, cell phones are abundant, and many have access to the Internet. I traveled because I wanted to learn about them and they also wanted to learn about me. Before the trip I read up on the countries I was visiting, and they also have ability to find out about us. They were very pleased to find out I am Canadian. It's gratifying to travel and not having to apologize for who we are. It was gratifying to be from a nation that is regarded universally as friendly and as an open-society. No other trait is greater valued than traveling with open eyes and being welcomed internationally because you're country is seen as a nation that sees the world with open eyes.


Related Links:


Trek to the Himalayas



Himalayas 2010 Photo Gallery



Top 10 Natural Wonders in the World



Updated: February 7, 2011

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