Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made some news recently when he and his family traveled to India and went a little overboard wearing traditional outfits that ranged in formality over the course of their trip. While it seems that they were merely enthusiastic (albeit a tad over the top!), their constant dress-up was misinterpreted and viewed by some as insulting.
If you’re traveling somewhere new and unsure of the local customs, do a little research. Ritu Birla is a history professor at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and she says that if you’re invited to an event, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask the host what’s expected of you. It’s much better to ask about a dress code in advance than to show up inappropriately or offensively attired. Colors mean different things in different cultures. In India, for instance, a Hindu bride wears red at her wedding, while white is worn at funerals.
So while it’s perfectly acceptable and encouraged to honor a culture and its customs, just remember to do some research first to determine what’s appropriate and what’s not. Google is infinitely helpful, but it’s even better to ask friends or locals who have first-hand knowledge about the culture.
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