Many countries realize the impact that culture plays in tourism. For this reason, tourist destinations are full of the cultural dimension of the people in that destination. In fact, a tourism tour is incomplete without aspects of culture. This often gives tourists a chance to stand at the front in learning the culture of other people. The best way to learn the cultures of other people is usually getting interactive with many of them and with their different aspects of culture.
The constructivist dimension of culture approaches culture from an identity perspective. It argues that the best way to understand culture would be to let give his identity. Some people will identify with their race, others with their religion, while others still will identify themselves by their names, social class, occupation or gender. It however argues that in this respect, culture is best defined in terms of perceptions and ideas rather than appearance and location. For this reason, the constructivist view prompts the individuals answer to a more social form of the same question, “Who are we?”
Three major aspects of culture according to this dimension of culture include stories of origin, norms and the use of symbols. Symbols are often used by social groups to give them a sense of belonging. One form of symbols is the use of flags which are used many types of social groups from religious organizations to nations. Tourism is the best way to learn these forms of culture. Above just identifying these symbols, tourism also gives the individual a chance to understand how closely a group guards their culture. There are so many things that cannot be learnt about the use of symbols fro identification without direct interaction with the people whose culture you are studying. The symbols are often used for other uses other than just display. For this reason, it is often necessary for one to take the role of a tourist and interact with these individuals for further comprehension.
Another aspect of culture in the constructionist view is the stories of origin. These stories are often passed from one generation top another. As culture changes, these stories also change. As time moves, substance is added to the stories to make them make more sense to the community. Often, the person who chooses to learn culture from the book point of view often misses the changes. He may only get the chance to learn the culture of a people as it is or he may be learning about a culture than no longer exists. This way, the student misses the main purpose fro studying culture, which is to understand the whole difference between people, the reasons why they change and how they change.
When a tourist visits a foreign land, he gets a chance to learn the history of a culture so well he is able to tell where a group is headed in the next few years. This is because he gets the chance to use their forms of literature and art and see how they have evolved with time. A tourist does not only learn about others, he meets people who want to share their own story once again and these are usually a happy and hospitable lot. Tourists also get to hear the story fast hand and benefit from those aspects of a story that cannot be put to book like sign language, gestures and body language.
Another aspect of culture in the constructivist dimension is the social norms. These are unwritten rules of conduct that are used in a community. Being unwritten implies that these rules do not go beyond that community. A tourist who visits the community however gets to learn about norms first hand. He learns them through association and finding situations in which the rules apply. This way, he gets to understand a people’s culture better.
Another reason why culture is best learnt in the role of a tourist is that a tourist meets with multiple forms of culture. A tourist engages himself in different levels of culture including political culture, social culture, heritage and ethnic culture. He however does not try hard to get exposed to these aspects of culture; instead, it happens while he is in his tour.
When a tourist arrives to a tourist destination, he gets to measure the level of hospitality in this are. He compares himself to the people and understands them better. Acts of hospitality may not seem welcoming in some communities but with understanding, one gets to learn them. The exposure also helps to melt the differences between the tourist and the hosting community and makes them better able to share different aspects of their cultures.
The tourist also weighs the atmosphere of the political culture in a country. While student only learn what certain people want taught, a tourist gets full exposure to this aspect of culture. A tourist often gets the news from the people involved so that he understands, when situations are bad, how bad it can get. A tourist who visits a country immediately after conflict finds the tension still high. If he is seen as a negative party, he is at a good enough position to tell the causes of the conflict and probable ways to resolve them.
A tourist who, on the other hand, visits a country that has an undemocratic culture learns more about it and feels the effect of this form of culture. This way, he is better able to understand why certain people in a community are the way they are. He gets to understands why people are in conflict and, where possible, tries to assist with a clear mind.
Tourists often contribute to cultural change. This comes in the form visiting a region and trying to contribute towards its development. Contribution can be slight like the case of just visiting and buying from within the country. This often presents opportunities for local communities and prompts them to let go of cultures that do not support growth and development.
However, it is not always that tourism results in positive change. Sometimes, communities may see a tourist as an enemy and hence approach him with caution. This way, locals only offer information they deem inconsequential, or shun giving information altogether. When information is offered, it is offered as a way to tap the resources that the tourist brings in the community. A tourist of this form not only fails to learn but also risks meeting conflict from communities that view him as unfriendly.
Also communities may opt to the sharing for monetary gains alone. When this happens, communities adopt sub-cultures that are abandoned as soon as the tourists leave. This becomes a form of business in which people lack information to offer but instead offer baseless information about situations that either occurred in the past but no longer exist or about information that is simply untrue.
However, regardless of the challenges that may be met by a tourist who wishes to learn about other cultures, I feel that these challenges can be resolved. First, tourism companies should be asked to take the tourists only to communities that are going to be welcoming. This way, conflict will be avoided and communities are will only offer truthful information. Second, the pretense attire is only worn for a limited amount of time. A tourist who wishes to learn about the cultures in a certain community should be willing to spend time with them long enough for them to resume their real cultural behavior.
In conclusion, many aspects of a culture are often best learnt through association and interaction. A person who, therefore, wishes to learn these aspects should be willing to go an extra mile and visit the suspect communities. By visiting, both the community and the tourists stand to benefit. The tourists get a chance to learn, while the community learns and earns in dues paid. Tourists also get involved in cultural activities and therefore make it harder to forget. Finally, all the different aspects of culture affect the tourists and they in turn identify ways they could assist where applicable. In conclusion, culture is best learned through interaction. It is easiest to interact with a community as a tourist.
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