Before travelling to anywhere in the world for the first time, you might search for and ask friends for some information on your destination. You will want to understand the place more so that you will be prepared when you arrive. While discovering the legitimacy of stereotypes about your place of travel, you will also learn that what you think of your culture and what others think of your culture can be vastly different. Be prepared to answer strange and sometimes even unintentionally offensive questions.
While on an AIESEC internship to Taiwan for eight weeks, I felt scepticism from the other party whenever I was asked where I am from. A typical conversation could go like this:
“Where are you from?”
“You don’t look Canadian.”
Being a Chinese-Canadian and living in Canada all my life, those living around me in the country have never questioned whether I looked the part. It is even hard to define what mainstream society should look like in major Canadian cities because of the high integration of different cultures and races.
The first time I encountered the mismatch between my own and others’ stereotype of Canada, I was shocked and even a little offended. Yet as the time passed by and I had similar conversations repeatedly, I understood that they were just curious and asked based off what they thought they knew about Canada. So go to new places with an open mind and do not assume because while you are using stereotypes to categorize others, they are doing the same to you.