Whenever a person leaves their home country, it’s likely that they will come across some differences in attitude, theology, living-style – everything. When someone leaves their home country with the purpose of doing some kind of work– especially the volunteer kind of work- there’s even more, sometimes frustrating, sometimes maddening, sometimes just down-right confusing differences that will probably show their faces. Better safe than sorry! Verse yourself with all of the possibilities of cultural inconsistencies in order to not be hit unaware with possible difficulties!
The first, extremely common difference, is that of punctuality. Its customary that 9AM means 9AM in many places, but its also customary one can be expected to arrive thirty or forty minutes later, no harm no foul. Understanding what the cultural attitude about timing is can save lots of frustration if handled correctly. Usually, its better to simply assimilate.
Next, somewhat related to punctuality, is the attitude about attendance and participation. Especially when being involved with some sort of ongoing training, understand that maybe attendance won’t be as consistent as desired. Many cultures may have very strict preexisting orders of priorities and familial obligations that come before anything else. Learn to take this in stride, and avoid forming any personal feelings towards lack of participation.
The attitudes of different regions need to always be taken into account. Attitude in this means total character of the population, be it loud or quiet, open or closed. When arriving to a modest introverted community, its best to understand maybe they won’t be interested in your racy jokes or drunken stories. When surrounded by highly social peoples, maybe they would find it strange to spend lots of time alone or separated from the group. To keep the feelings as comfortable as possible, mutual understanding and a little bit of censorship may serve as useful.
Additionally, although this may come as a given, some cultures are more progressive, and some more traditional. Especially gender roles, and in turn household duties and expectations are highly effected by a group’s value system. Consider how many developing countries hold religion at a high level of importance, and consider how the tone may effect you, especial when dedicating a large amount of time.
Related: formality versus informality. Look around, take the hints.
To land the plane: knowing what you’re getting into by comparing whatever national values are present in your host country to your personal values is essential in making an international project comfortable. Know where you can give and where you can take.