As a Canadian I come from the expectation of politeness and ethical tolerance.  I walk down the street and find myself seeing people from all across the world coexisting without racial differences becoming a subject in conversation.  I believe tolerance is about sacrificing on both sides, one person may give up their expectations for table etiquette and the other may accept the cultural difference of another and adapt their ways to coincide without argument. 

Of course, not everyone feels that way and in another country, that may never occur to the average person.  It all depends on our perspective in the world.  What is normal or abnormal? Right or wrong?

When you go to a different country, either for work or play, tolerance is a much needed attribute.  When I left on my exchange to Japan a few years back, I honestly thought it would be easy and in retrospect I feel foolish to have been so ignorant.  It is only until you actually leave your own culture and home that you get a taste for this global society, and realize how hard it is to step back and take a breath.

Now, some people might find this easy, and others quite difficult.  It is like culture shock due to its personal effect on each individual.  I had to form different expectations about how my interactions with others might go. 

If you are going to travel abroad in any country, and really this can apply to your own culture too, my advice:

Rationalize your problems!

Take a step back from the situation, try and understand it, and move on.  Get into their shoes in their society and try and figure out how it makes sense- don’t take it too personally!

While I was enrolled in my Japanese high school every one of my classmates would refer to me as “Gaijin” which means foreigner, or even “Ryuugakusei” which means exchange student.  I became quite furious with this because I find it completely rude to call me by my position in school and deprive me of my identity.  When you are not surrounded by things that make you who you are, even a name becomes serious.  Maybe if I had stopped being angry about this issue that seems petty when looked back on, I may not have missed out on some things.  Maybe my relationship could have been better by accepting this? Would it have affected my views of the culture?

Now I look back and ask myself how those people saw me.  How did I behave and could I have tried more? Did I try my hardest to accept and tolerate? If you do not tolerate these small nuances, why should others?

For the experience, even letting go a little bit of the smaller things will help to make your time a whole lot better- don’t get hung up on the little things and try and tolerate those little difference!