A Fine Line Between Respect and Insult

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Many people agree that when visiting another country you are a guest and should try to respect the rules of your host country.  This means observing the customs there, trying to speak the language, and trying to understand the people.  But is it possible to go too far when trying to show respect?  When can attempts at respect cross the line into insulting?

The premise for this post came from something I read that said it is insulting to members of the Arab culture for foreigners to wear traditional clothes.  At first this may seem contradictory because a foreign visitor may think that wearing traditional clothes is a way to show respect for the culture and be modest.  After all, tourists are known to get in trouble when visiting Arab countries by dressing immodestly.

But where do you draw the line between showing respect and covering up by wearing modest clothes and wearing traditional garments that belong to a culture of which you are not a part?

Now I can’t recall where I read this and I haven’t been able to find any sources to include in this article.  If anyone can confirm or deny this, I’d be happy to learn more about the topic.

But most importantly I thought it raised a very important point.  While it is very important to learn about a culture and respect its ways, you should also be informed enough not to insult that culture by going too far.

Have you had an experience like this?  What other examples of taking cultural respect too far can you think of?  Is the example of Arab clothing really true?