Being Respectful of Different Cultures

Being Respectful of Different Cultures

One thing that we have learned in our travels is to respect the country and its culture when you are there. It is important to review what is culturally appropriate and what they expect of travellers coming to their country. 

Recently, we had the opportunity to travel from Canada to Saudi Arabia where we would be boarding a cruise.

Prior to leaving, we looked into what was expected of us upon our arrival there. We wanted to ensure that we would be appropriately dressed so that we would not be disrespectful. Check out their government websites for more information.

This would require conservative loose clothing that covered at least the knees and shoulders and appropriate head covering for women. No hardship really but makes the journey into a conservative country a lot easier especially if you do not like to be stared at if you are not adopting this dress code.

We had packed our backpacks with the necessary head covering and other clothes. This ensured that when we were nearing our arrival at Saudi that we were prepared. 

After leaving Canada, we transited through Frankfurt on our way to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

We did not leave the airport but decided to eat local fare in the airport. Franks and local beer.

Just a heads up, franks are basically boiled weiners and there were other options that are probably better.  Local beer was great though. 

Frankfurt was not our only stop and we went through Instanbul, Turkey where we took a taxi to a hotel as we intentionally went with the long layover to recover from the time zone difference. 

Just double check that when booking your hotel that the distance is from the airport when trying to stay in budget. Even though we had chosen closest to the airport it provided incorrect information and we ended up at a nice hotel but a 30 min taxi ride. It would have been worth the extra money to stay closer with a shorter transit back to the airport. Try to stay at airport when possible for easiest transition. We were surprised at how many modern huge shopping malls there were along the way. Looks liked a shopper's dream come true!

We had arrived at night so we were able to have at least 6 hours sleep and this made it so much easier to get used to the time zone. It had also said in the hotel information there was an airport shuttle but they no longer had one. Again, confirm with any hotel or look at the reviews closer to ensure you are not mislead. 

The Instanbul Airport is fantastic and places to shop and eat. Very surprised but it is a very large international airport afterall.



First cultural shock was arriving at the Instanbul Airport that next morning. We were fully prepared to be dressed for Jeddah but noticed that the airport had a wide array of women in cultural dress or in a simple white dress. The most surprising thing was the men in simple white togas (this is what we thought they were). We quickly learned that they were all going to Makkah during Ramadan. 

We politely asked one gentleman who was wearing this outfit what the significance was. He was very informative and had no problem sharing with us. The white clothing consists of two simple unhemmed robes that are draped in a specific way. It is part of their journey to Makkah, a religious journey they must make at least once in their lives as Muslims as part of their faith. Many Muslims make this journey to Makkah during Ramadan to perform Umrah. Umrah is the pilgrimage to Makkah. Their belief is that they experience special blessings during this time.

There was a sea of white at the airport while we waited to board at our gate. We were only four people out of a total of about 8 that were not going to Makkah.

Once we were boarded, we were greeted with a little foldable backpack that included an appropriate snack during Ramadan, a prayer mat, slippers, and more. Made sense then as we were flying Turkish Airlines. It became very apparent that many of these individuals had never been on a plane before. It was difficult for the flight attendants to get everyone settled and in their seats prior to take off. 

Once we were airborne and enroute, the captain announced that we had entered Saudi Arabia airspace. That is when everything changed. Everyone scrambled and started praying and walking all over the plane and washing the bathrooms. Over the in-seat entertainment area, our displays had a prayer in English for us, as well.

The entire aura of the plane changed. It was a cultural experience that we were not expecting but it was quite unique and interesting to watch and be a part of. It was mystical and awed us a travellers. Glad to have been a part of the experience.

We knew that it would be important to adopt the required head covering for the women at this time too. It was appreciated as the women who did not were not looked upon favorably. When in Rome do as the Romans as the saying goes.

If you are not willing to adapt to the enviroment you choose to travel in, you may not enjoy your travels as much. When you can not beat them join them and enjoy the opportunity to try something out of your comfort zone. 

Upon arrival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, we were more prepared for what we would experience. From the female custom agents in full burkahs and some in full camo material to the airport full of people on the Umrah, it was an interesting start to the journey into this area. We were efficiently and politely transited into their country. 

I do not reccommend trying to take pictures of this as it may offend and being an airport there may be rules against it. 

Don't sweat the small stuff and embrace the culture of the area you are in. From food to history, you never know what you will experience. Most people are excited to share their country with you as a traveller. 

Be the nomad and illuminate yourself as a traveller. 

The Nomads

Darin and Suzanne Rieger




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