On the Road: Navigating Different Cultures

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Dear Lynda,

As a female rider, how do you navigate the cultural differences when abroad?

– Anke

Hi Anke,

Understanding each culture you will be visiting is an important first step, no matter your gender or mode of transportation. Doing some research ahead of time as to the nuances of different customs, expectations, norms of public behavior, etc. will give you a leg up on what you might encounter in general. Learning the local foods so you know what to order or eat, simple words for finding toilets, and other basics can help you navigate some of the daily tasks that will reduce the stress of being in an unknown place.

As to the unique experience of being female rider, digging further into your research can give you more background, particularly if you can find resources from others who have gone before. Read blogs and ask questions in groups that cater to women adventure riders to figure out what they came across that was particularly unsettling, uncomfortable, or even dangerous that you can learn from.

Recognizing you are in foreign territory, not just in geography but also in the ways women, motorcyclists, and women motorcyclists are perceived, and accepting the reality that some other cultures do not expect women to be independent or alone can also guide some of your actions and decisions. Will you be comfortable, for example, opting to cover your hair to minimize distractions and attention when in countries where the predominant cultural norm is to do so?

Creating plans for different situations ahead of time can mitigate some potential tough spots. If it’s common in a country for men to publically remark on women, how do you want to deal with that? Are you the type to laugh and banter, or simply ignore and walk on? From your research can you discover if one method works more successfully than another, and which keeps you the safest?

Setting aside judgments of the more disagreeable parts of any culture may be necessary if you are to take in the positive parts of your experience. Personally, I would not want to be expected to cover my head at any time, but I realize that in some countries it’s more respectful to adapt and not impose my beliefs on them. I am a visitor in their home and ‘when in Rome’ as the saying goes. We’re there to experience the world, not demand it conforms to our version of it.

– Lynda

PHOTO: RTW PAUL

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