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University of Haifa International School Student Blog

Traveling Ignorantly


In past years, I can say I have traveled ignorantly. You may ask what does she mean by ignorantly? I traveled ignorantly when I went to different countries not understanding the culture, current events, or history of such country. For example, when I was eighteen, I was lucky enough to go from Munich, Germany into Salzburg, Austria. If you asked me what I knew about Austrian culture, I would tell you that the Sound of Music was set there. That is about it. Obviously, I knew basic ideas about Austria, like Austria-Hungary’s involvement in World War I, but I lacked knowledge of the Austrian culture. Honestly (because we are all about candidness on this blog), I did not know that much about German culture. As I said, I knew the obvious historical references – Prussia, Otto Van Bismarck, WWI, Hitler, WWII, Holocaust (aka that stuff), but I lacked information on German culture.

Why Am I Taking the Time Out to Write a Blog about “Traveling Ignorantly…?”

            When you study abroad, you are inclined to travel more than you normally would. Some people want to travel to as many countries as possible, and some people, like myself, rather travel to countries, which they have some cultural knowledge of. It is important to know where you are traveling to, what customs society partakes in, and how you should handle yourself in front of local people.

I find this knowledge to be vital to traveling.

With that said, here are several reasons why I find this knowledge to be important while traveling –

  • You do not want to look like that tourist. If you have little knowledge of a country’s societal practices/norms, and you make it completely obvious, you will look like that tourist. You should try and learn a greeting or two greetings; so local people see that you are trying to engage in their culture.
  • It is not advised or wise…why would you travel abroad without understanding the country’s culture? If you were home, would you travel to an unfamiliar city without knowing where you are going?
  • If you study a country’s culture, I ensure you that the people of that country will appreciate it – especially if you make it known. The people will be happy that you made the effort to learn about where you are traveling.
  • If you travel ignorantly, [I believe] you are inclined to be much more obnoxious to local people (especially if they act differently than you normally do). If you make it obvious that you are a tourist, local people are more inclined to act a certain way to you, and that certain way might not be nice. Personally, I would not like to be judged by local people because of an ill-mannered or boorish act/comment. Locals will perceive you differently. Thus, if you acquire some previous knowledge about local culture, you will enable yourself to act in accordance with the local people.
  • If you traveling shrewdly, you know the safe places to go/ the places to stay away from, and local people are less inclined to take advantage of you (When I say advantage, I mean persuasion of prices, charges, etc.)

If you did not know, my studies are concentrated on the Middle East. Therefore, I have studied Middle Eastern culture in various ways – Arabic culture, Israeli culture, Islamic culture, etc., (Frankly, I wish I knew a bit more about Jewish culture before coming to Israel). As a result, I did not travel ignorantly, and I am quite happy that I had some understanding of Middle Eastern culture before coming to Israel. I know of certain societal norms, social practices, government, politics, and issues regarding religion. I have learned of the various perspectives in the Middle East and follow the current events occurring throughout the area. Ultimately, my studies have allowed me to travel in an intelligent manner.


About haifainternationalschool

Marketing Director for the University of Haifa International School. Offering students from over 40 countries around the world an academic summer,semester or yearlong opportunity in Haifa!

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