8 Things Culturally Sophisticated People Don’t Do

It’s such a global word today. It’s quite convenient to travel and we’re constantly coming into contact with other cultures. But is it just the mere act of traveling that makes you sophisticated?

What exactly differentiates someone who possesses a certain cultural sophistication from someone who let’s just say, seems a little “wet behind the ears?”

Here are 8 things culturally sophisticated people DON’T DO.


  1. They don’t fear looking like a tourist.

Whether it’s whipping out a map or climbing the Eiffel Tower; cultured people become cultured by actually experiencing the culture. The majority of tourist attractions are filled with culture, that’s precisely the reason they’re so popular. Forget whether the locals are making fun of you or looking down their noses, you don’t know them anyways. Snap the fanny pack on (ok maybe not a fanny pack) and head out to the famous landmarks of the world. Kiss the Blarney Stone, ride the gondola, get pummeled by the crowds in Time Square. And remember take lots of pictures.


  1. They don’t always stay on the beaten path.

Just as they’re not afraid of looking like a tourist, on the other spectrum they’re not afraid of diverging from the guidebook. To truly experience a place it’s wise to seek out both the known and the unknown. Take a stroll without a map, dine at a non-Zagat rated restaurant. What’s the worst that could happen? You get completely lost or are poisoned by unsanitary food? If you don’t die, at least you’ll have story to tell. It will also make you look like a complete pro when you can recommend places that aren’t in the guidebooks.


  1. They don’t become frustrated when someone doesn’t speak English.

If you’re multilingual or have even attempted to become multilingual you’ll know it’s not all that easy. Trust me, I’ve failed numerous times. I’m still trying to learn Turkish 5 years on. If you’ve traveled extensively or have ever interacted with foreigners you’ll gain a respect for anyone who knows a second language or has difficulties learning a second language. If they struggle with English, appreciate what they have learned. It’s likely more than you will ever learn of their language. Being patient and kind with those who don’t speak your language demonstrates your knowledge and acceptance of other cultures.


  1. They don’t immediately judge someone.

This is something one should never do, but not judging is a particular tell tale sign of a cultured person. A cultured person knows that someone’s look or behavior can vary depending upon where they’re from or how they were raised. They accept that everyone adheres to different rules and ways of life. It doesn’t make them wrong or right, just different. By acknowledging this they are less likely to make quick assumptions that may lead to conflict or snobbery. They may still end up judging (hey, we all do), but at least they take a moment to consider the person’s background and why they may be the way they are.


  1. They don’t refrain from trying new foods.

You don’t have to like it, just try it. Remember when you were little and you hated everything except bologna and chocolate? (maybe that’s just me) You only started eating new things because you were either forced to or you eventually gave it a try. It’s the same as an adult. To cultivate your taste buds you must try new foods. Even if they seem inedible or completely vile it will be worth it when you discover your love of chicken feet or pickled herring. If you hate it at least you’ll have experienced the taste and be able warn others to stay away. Food is a huge part of culture and the more tastes you experience the more immersed in the culture you’ll become.


  1. They don’t ignore social cues around them.

A very wise etiquette instructor once told me it’s not about treating people how you want to be treated but treating people how they want to be treated. That being said it’s respectful to observe how the people around you are behaving. Are they using their hands or a fork and knife to eat a hamburger? Are they shaking hands when they greet one another or offering a Namaste? Being culturally sophisticated is about knowing how to adapt. You may consider one way of doing things correct or well mannered, but if everyone around you in doing otherwise it’s best to follow their lead. It’s about making others feel comfortable.


  1. They don’t fear looking like an idiot.

When you try anything new or leave your comfort zone there’s a huge chance you’ll end up looking like an idiot. But you know what, that’s ok. In fact it’s been proven that people who embarrass themselves have a higher likeability factor. So if you’re afraid to try tango dancing because you’ll look like a fool or you’re afraid to accept a dinner invitation because you may not be able to keep up with the topics of conversation, don’t let it stop you. Just give it a try. We all look like idiots at one time or another; you may as well make it count.


  1. They don’t pretend to know everything.

Yes know-it-alls, I’m talking to you. Nobody likes a know-it-all whether you actually know the information or not. The thing is, if you think or pretend to know everything, then you won’t be open to learning and therefore won’t gain anything. Part of being cultured is having a wide berth of knowledge. It’s about studying cultures different from your own and being able to share that knowledge with others. If you accept you don’t know everything then you’ll be happy to learn, and I guarantee you, people will be happy to teach you.


HOMEWORK: Do you have any other things you think a culturally sophisticated person should not do? Please share in the comments!

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