In that job, my primary role was to keep students feeling safe enough that they could dare to “do it right,” that is, be adventurous and go exploring, try new foods and hobbies—and journal, talk through, and process the experience…so they could learn. (It was study abroad, after all.) As a general rule, I talked in terms of ‘cultural values,’ ‘practices,’ and history. I didn’t make lists of cultural dos/don’ts….However, there were a few dos/don’ts we taught students right away:
- If you’re handed a fork and knife with your croissant (or sandwich, or other item you’d put in the ‘finger-food’ category), use them to eat it.
- If someone approaches you for the two-cheek kiss, follow along. Yes, even if it’s at a job (in their case, internship) interview.
- Don’t clap along with the dancers in a flamenco show. Save your clapping for after the song is over.
In flamenco, the dancer is part of the band. With his/her stomping/clapping, he/she is the percussion. If eager tourists get carried away and clap along with the dancers, they can redirect the song. Tuning into this cultural norm about ‘when to clap’ is not so much a cultural do/don’t. It’s about knowing how to communicate. It’s about knowing when you’re part of the conversation vs. a ratified listener.
When you’re a child and speak out of turn, you might get shushed. In those instances, you’re a ratified listener, and you probably don’t know how to sense when it’s your turn to speak. After years of coaching on how to get a word in edgewise, children figure it out. We all do, eventually. As a tourist at your first flamenco show, you might not think to follow the locals’ lead. Or the house may be packed with tourists. If that’s the case, where do you get your cue?