World Unite! Volunteering, Internships, Cultural Travel

Volunteering, Internships and Intercultural Learning in Tanzania, Zanzibar, India, Morocco, Israel, Nicaragua, Bolivia, China, Japan, Ghana, Galapagos, Ecuador


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Let’s get cooking! – Our favourite recipes from around the world!

In our blog we share with you our favorite recipes from our host countries. Selected with love and cooked by our team members on-site! Bon appétit!

 

#1: „Pilipili ya Kukaanga“ – Home made Chilli from Tanzania

Today you we’re proudly presenting the recipe for Pilipili ya Kukaanga, freshly prepared for you by our coordinator Kareen in Arusha, Tanzania!

Ingredients:

  • 2 table spoons cooking oil
  • 1/2 medium sized onion: slice to small pieces
  • 1 raw fresh pepper (you can add more pepper depending on how spicy you want it to be): slice to as small pieces as possible, do not grind
  • 1/2 teaspoon of grind garlic
  • 3 average sized ripe tomatoes: grind the tomatoes to create sauce, countertop blender can be used
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 of medium sized fresh lemon (to squeeze lemon juice from)

Procedures (cooking flame should be moderate):

  1. Add 2 table spoons of cooking oil to a hot pan
  2. Add your sliced onions and fry until they are a faded tint of brown
  3. Add a teaspoon of garlic and stir until mixed properly with the onions
  4. Quickly add the pepper and stir; beware of inhaling the vapor from this, you can cough and sneeze from the spicy steam
  5. Immediately after step 4, add the tomato sauce and stir to have a uniform mixture
  6. Then add 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  7. If the consistency is too heavy, you can add water to a desired consistency
  8. Let the mixture boil for 5 minutes
  9. Add the lemon juice and stir
  10. Your pilipili is ready to be served with food!

Kareen, why do I like pilipili ya kukaanga?

I like the dish because I like spicy! Considering that Tanzanian food is normally not spicy, having home made chilli (pilipili ya kukaanga) gives that taste to you!

When and where is it usually eaten?

It is normally eaten with main dishes especially lunches and dinners. For instance you can mix pilipili with a beef stew that is to be eaten with Ugali (stiff porridge, a typical Tanzanian local food) during lunch. You can easily cook and have pilipili ya kukaanga at home; it is rare in restaurants since they mostly provide canned/industrial made chilli.

Which typical ingredients from Tanzania does it include?

All the Ingredients are typical local ones from Tanzania, and you can get them fresh from the local food markets!

Where do you usually enjoy this dish

Oh my my! I enjoy cooking it myself!

 

#2: Rosquillas: Tasty cookies from Nicaragua!

Today, Nicole from our international team will show you how to prepare „Rosquillas“, small biscuits from corn dough from Nicaragua!

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs Nicaraguan „Queso Seco“ (dry cheese, hard cheese)
  • 3 lbs of „Masa“ (cornmeal)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 6 tablespoons of lard (in Nicaragua, beef or pork lard is traditionally used – but you can also replace this with vegetable fats)

Procedures:

  • Turn on the oven and preheat to 350 ° C
  • Grate the cheese (the finer the better).
  • Mix the cheese and the „masa“ and then add the eggs.
  • Add butter and lard and blend all ingredients until you get a dough.
  • Roll out the dough and use a cookie cutter to cut out small circles or curls.
  • Place the biscuits on a sheet of baking paper and bake in the oven until they turn yellowish brown.
  • Now take the biscuits out of the oven and let them cool down to bake them again after cooling at 200 ° C until they are crispy.
  • Sprinkle with sugar and let taste!

Nicole, why do you like Rosquillas in particular?

Rosquillas are a typical Nicaraguan pastry that is still handmade in small shops in many places. Baking them is a pretty sweaty affair though!

When and where is the dish usually eaten?

Traditionally, one eats rosquillas for coffee. Many people in Nicaragua first dip their cookies in the coffee before eating them.

Which typical ingredients from Nicaragua are used?

Originally, the pastry comes from the small village of El Viejo in northern Nicaragua, where a lot of sugar cane is grown. Corn is also a popular ingredient in Nicaragua.

 

# 3: Traditional pastilla with almond chicken from Morocco!

 

Ingredients (for 8 people):

  • 1 chicken
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 large onions
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 1 bunch of coriander
  • 1 piece of fresh ginger
  • Some saffron
  • A pinch of turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • salt
  • 10 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of honey

Preparation of almonds:

  • 250 g blanched almonds fried in oil and roughly chopped
  • 50 g of powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon of orange blossom water
  • 7 filo pastry leaves
  • 150 g clarified butter for the filo pastry

Procedures:

  • Sauté butter, salt and pepper in a large saucepan and simmer with 1/2 l of water.
  • Rinse the chicken cold and add to the pot with ginger, spices and herbs. Cover and cook for about 45 minutes over very low heat. Take out meat.
  • Add 1/2 tablespoons of cinnamon to the stock and reduce to 1/4 liter. Reduce heat.
  • Whisk eggs with lemon juice, pour into broth, simmer creamy (do not boil).
  • Meanwhile, you can already remove the chicken from the bone, remove the skin and cut the meat. Remove broth from the heat, add meat and allow to cool.
  • Preheat oven to 200 °.
  • Chop the blanched almonds and lightly fry them until they turn golden brown. Then mix with the sugar and the orange blossom water.
  • Next, grease the baking dish and lay it out with the dough, put the meat mass on it, beat the leaves inwards over it. Place 2 pastry sheets over it, sprinkle with almond mixture and beat inwards. Lay the remaining leaves over it and fold under the pate.
  • Brush the pate with the remaining clarified butter and bake in the oven (center, circulating air 180 °) in 25-30 minutes until golden brown (possibly cover with baking paper). Allow to cool slightly and dust with remaining powdered sugar and cinnamon.

Et voila! – The Moroccan Pastilla is ready!

 

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Environmental Conservation, Recycling & Protecting Sea Turtles in Zanzibar!

Ann-Kristin from Germany spent one month Zanzibar in Tanzania in the summer of 2018. In her blog she talks about her experiences. What motivated Ann-Kristin to volunteer abroad? Here you can get an insight into her time on Zanzibar.

In the summer of 2018 I spent a total of one month in Tanzania, more precisely, on the island of Zanzibar. Although Tanzania and Zanzibar have developed strongly in recent years, many people continue to struggle to meet their basic needs on a daily basis. For that reason, I did not only want to visit this country for a holiday, but decided to volunteer with World Unite! instead.

During my time in Zanzibar, I participated in two amazing volunteer projects:

The Mother Nature Forest Camp in Jozani

The „Mother Nature Conservation Camp Zanzibar“ is a combination of 10 volunteering activities at the two locations Rain Forest and Beach under professional guidance. It is ideal for everyone of any age who loves animals and nature, and who wishes to become active in the conservation of the island’s unique fauna and flora.

One of my main responsibilities at the Forest Camp was to make the nearby Turtle and Tortoise Park look more attractive and improve some of its attractions for visitors. Here tourists and locals can learn more about the different species of turtles on Zanzibar. Thanks to the Park, the rural population is also given the opportunity to benefit from tourism in Zanzibar. There were no limits to our creativity: we painted the reception desk in attractive colors, painted the new logo of the park on specially designed stones and designed a tortoise shell skeleton including a label that was to serve as an illustration for visitors.

We learned a lot about the different turtle species in Zanzibar and were even allowed to feed them and to do own guided tours.

Another task was to teach the local staff in the camp German, English and Spanish. They were really all incredibly interested in improving their language skills!

It is important for me to emphasize that we were never alone in the camp. A watchman named Babu, was on site around the clock. In addition, our project manager Mohammed visited us at least once a day. In addition, Sadam and Minimo, two other staff members of World Unite!, were there for us every day.

In our last days in Jozani, we gained more insight into the local school system in Zanzibar. Many families can not afford the cost of teaching materials, school uniforms, and books, and the children often need to help out in the family to contribute to livelihood. Education is the only way for people to have a financially secure future.

It was a wonderful opportunity for me to get an insight into the school system. When I realized that World Unite! with the help of donations and volunteers was building a new primary school, I felt incredibly happy!

Marine Turtle Conservation in Nungwi

This project aims to rescue endangered sea turtles and is engaged in educational work for the sustainable conservation of the environment. Our duties included cleaning, feeding and caring for injured sea turtles. We got a precise introduction on how to treat the turtles when we arrived into the project.

Many of the turtles found and brought into the aquarium were injured or too weak to survive alone. An extra infirmary has been created for them to give them the attention and care they need. The turtles have to be fed twice a day, and we always collected fresh seagrass for them.

One week before I started volunteering in Nungwi, baby turtles had just hatched. We had the opportunity to take care of them. We weighed the turtles once a week, measured them and examined them for diseases. We always documented the information to observe the developmental process.

I have rarely met so many nice people as during my time on Zanzibar. From every corner you hear a friendly „Jambo“ and although many people there live with far less than I knew from home, they are often willing to share and help each other.

My volunteer assignment in Zanzibar has given me so much positivity and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I think it is very important to be open to other cultures and countries and appreciate the knowledge gained!

Thanks to World Unite! for the great experience – it will definitely not stay with this one volunteer assignment!

Would you like to read more about Ann-Kristin’s experiences? Here you can visit her travel blog.

Fancy a volunteer assignment in Zanzibar? Be inspired by our possibilities on http://www.world-unite.de/en!

 


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Ayurveda internship in Jaipur, India

Are you interested in naturopathy and altnernative treatments? Carina from Germany is currently doing an Ayurveda internship in Jaipur, India. This internship will allow you to learn more about the oldest medicine in the world!

Ayurveda translates as „the knowledge of life“. Only natural treatments and medicines are used, which are made from plants and herbs. The aim of the treatments is to maintain or restore the balance between body, mind and soul.

Our participant Carina has been in her training as an osteopath and wanted to gain a deeper insight into alternative healing and treatment methods.

At an Ayurvedic clinic in Jaipur, you can learn treatment methods that have been practiced for centuries by qualified ayurvedic doctors and therapists. These include special massage techniques, nutritional advice, the Panchakarma cleansing treatment and the production of ayurvedic medicines. The Ayurveda Clinic has its own herb garden, a kitchen and its own pharmacy. Cows are also kept here, whose milk is used for the production of medicines.

During her internship, Carina does not only get to know the healing properties of the plants, but also to determine them and use them appropriately.

Is this internship suitable for me?

Are you interested in alternative medicine and natural healing methods? This internship is the ideal way for you to get to know the basics of Ayurveda! You do not need any previous experience.

Contact us at info@world-unite.de for more information about this internship or visit us at http://www.world-unite.de.


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11 areas in Tokyo you MUST visit!

Are you planning to go to Japan for a holiday or would you like to work and live in Japan for one year on a Working Holiday Visa? No matter what reason you’re coming to Japan for – you cannot miss the vibrant metropolis of Tokyo! Thore from Denmark is currently doing a several-month internship in this fascinating city and has listed his personal 11 favorite places in town.

My name is Thore and I’m currently doing a media internship in Tokyo. Join me on my stroll through my favorite locations in this stunning city!

 

#1: Shibuya

Surely you’ve heard of Shibuya! Shibuya is the new center of the city and famous for the impressive Shibuya Crossing. Can you imagine that approximately 2,500 people are thought to cross it at a time? Shibuya is one of Tokyo’s main attraction for tourists, and there is a reason why: Not only that Shibuya is one of the busiest thoroughfares in the world; the whole area is filled with fancy stores, hip bars, amazing restaurants and exciting clubs. Trust me: You won’t be able to forget the amazing atmosphere here anytime soon!

Thore’s favorites in Shibuya: I love the shopping streets around Basketball Street. You’ll find everything you need here and I promise you that the cozy atmosphere will cause you to stay much longer than you initially wanted. Stroll through the narrow alleys and discover hidden events or concerts of local bands.

 #2: Asakusa

Asakusa is Tokyo‘s center of traditions. The temple Senso-ji is the main tourist attraction in this area, symbol of the country’s Buddhist traditions and history. However, just across Sumida river, you will be able to admire the majestic 634 meter high Skytree, embodying modernity, design and technique. I am always amazed at how close tradition and modernity are in this city!

Thore’s favorites in Asakusa: Take a walk in streets around Senso-ji temple and experience some authentic Japanese culture. You will be able to see people walking around in Kimonos, giving the area a very special vibe. If you need some pampering and a break from the city’s hustle and bustle, visit the Jakotsuyu Onsen, which is located in an alley right next to Senso-ji temple. It is simply relaxing. The fee is only 460 JPY (under 4 EUR). Asakusa doesn’t only unfold its special atmosphere during the day: Come back and night to see the evening light show at Skytree! Can you imagine the view from above? Yes, it is amazing.

#3: Shinjuku

Shinjuku means „new place to be“ and it definitely is! The area is Tokyo’s most famous entertainment and shopping district. The busy area is full of cult art, nice views, entertainment and great ramen. Many young people live here and you can definitely feel their vibe!

Thore’s favorites in Shinjuku: Don’t miss the world’s busiest train station: More than 3.5 million passengers pass through Shinjuku Station every day. Shinjuku Station is enormous! Take a break at Shinjuku Gyoen, a huge park with different gardens. It’s variety of plants is absolutely amazing. Golden Gai is THE place to have a drink or two. It is a small area with tiny bars, famous both as an area of architectural interest and for its nightlife. Enjoy the authentic atmosphere while having and after-work drink with your friends or colleagues!

#4: Ueno

Ueno hosts Ueno Park and Zoo, the National Museum and a wonderful market. This place is ideal if you are looking to escape from the high pace of the city: Ueno’s relaxing atmosphere is simply inviting and you will notice that the vibe is very different from places like Shibuya and Shinjuku, even though it‘s also filled with people. Ueno Park and Zoo are definitely worth a visit. The zoo fee is only 600 JPY (less than 5 EUR) and besides the animals, you can also enjoy the scenic beauty of the park. At the oposite end of the park you will find some quiet temples, located in this stunning natural surrounding.

Thore’s favorites in Ueno: Check out the market opposite Ueno Station. Here you will everything from the latest sneakers to cheesy Japanese souvenirs. The vendors stand by their stores and shout their offers. In the middle of it all, right next to Ueno-Hirokoji Station, there is the most amazing Sushi restaurant you will ever find: „Okatimachi Matsuzakaya“ serves the freshest and tastiest Sushi you’ll ever have. The prices are very reasonable, and it has great service.

#5: Harajuku

When you get off the train at Harajuku Station, you have two options: You can either go to the left and visit Yoyogi Park, famous for its numerous events and concerts; or you can go to the right and shop in one of the hippest areas in Tokyo. Another choice to make between traditions and modernity! I‘d recommend you not to miss out on either one and to check out both locations!

Thore’s favorites in Harajuku: Grab a blanket and some snacks and enjoy a relaxed afternoon at Yoyogi Park. If you’re up for some exercise you can also go for a walk or a run here. Take a stroll through the park and visit Mejri-Jingu temple. Don’t forget to wash your hands before entering to show your respect! Shopping in Harajuku is an absolute must while in Tokyo. You can find all of the big brands and names on the main shoppings streets in the area. If you’re looking for individualistic and edgy fashion, take your time to stroll through the narrow side-streets and alleys. Young fashionistas and hipsters will love it here.

#6: Tsukiji

In Tsukiji you can find the biggest fish market in the world, including the freshest Sushi and Sashimi. Only five minutes away from Tsukiji Market, you can find Hamarikyuteien Park. The Park is typically Japenese: With it’s big lake, lots of small bridges and tiny paths winding their way through the lush green grass, a lovely place to visit.

Thore’s favorites in Tsukiji: Explore the fish market and the surrounding area. Go early in the morning, when the famous fish auctions take place. I’ve never seen so much fish in my life anywhere else. Around the market, you can find lots of small shops selling fresh fish and seafood as well as delicious seafood restaurants. If you like fish, this is the place to go!

#7: Roppongi & Minato

Welcome to Tokyo‘s high-end areas: You know that you’re here when you walk on the streets and the number of expensive sports cars driving by suddenly increases. If you’re into cars, simply take a walk in the streets here. Many showrooms of luxury car brands are located in Roppongi and Minato, such as Lamborghini, Ferrari or Porsche. You will also find lots of nice cafés and tasty bakeries here.

Thore’s favorites in Roppongi & Minato: Visit Tokyo Tower, which resembles the Eiffel Tower, but is painted in red and white, the colors of Japan. The view from the top deck is simply breathtaking.

#8: Chiyoda

You might have heard of the Japanese Emperor, but what about visiting his palace? In the heart of Tokyo, you will find the famous palace and its gardens. Yasukuni-dori Avenue is filled with lots of charming bookstores, giving the place an authentic atmosphere. Here, you can find all sorts of books, from love stories to a good Japanese thriller. Interestingly, the street is also known for its ski and snowboarding shops. It is hard to say why these stores are here, but they are, and it’s an absolute must for everyone who’s into wintersports.

Thore’s favorites in Chiyoda: The Imperial Palace is a must see, when in Tokyo. I absolutely love the moat surrounding the palace. Inside the palace walls you will find well-maintained gardens. Feel like a Royal while taking a walk here!

#9: Ginza

Ginza is Tokyo’s high-end business area. You’ll see business men in suits and a lot of high-rises. In the past, Ginza used to be the city’s marketplace and fishermen from Tsukiji would come here to sell their fish, farmers sold their tea and so on. Even from a historical perspective, the whole area exudes a business vibe.

Tokyo Station is not only the grand station of Tokyo. The building is more than 100 years olf and of great architectural interest, fitting perfectly into the high-rise scenery of Ginza. Where do you want to go next? You can literally reach every corner of Tokyo from Tokyo Station!

Thore’s favourites in Ginza: Walk down Chuo-dori Avenue from Nihombashi to Shimbashi Station and you’ll get a feeling of walking on 5th Avenue in New York! A mecca for those who love designer brands.

#10: Odaiba

Odaiba is an artificial island in Tokyo Bay. You can find lots of visitors and tourist attractions here, giving the place its own very unique atmosphere.

Thore’s favorites in Odaiba: Teamlab Boarderless is a digital art museum located in Odaiba. The entrance fee is quite pricey, but it‘s worth every Yen. Artworks move out of rooms, communicate with each other and sometimes intermingle. The museum is so stunning, that it‘s hard to explain. Simply go, you won’t regret it. After having enjoyed the latest achievements in digital art, visit the waterfront. There’s a walkway heading towards the city center and the scenery is lovely. You might pass the Statue of Liberty. Not the one from New York though, but a smaller duplicate. A sunset the view from here is amazing!

#11: Akihabara

The ultimate place for gamers, comic book readers or fans of anime and manga. It is the „electronic center“ of Tokyo and in a way different from the rest of the city because it’s so narrowed down what the entire area is about.

Thore’s favorites in Akihabara: Explore the area around Akihabara station. You’ll find a lot of unique places and stores selling literally every. Many of the big stores have several floors. Typically, each floor has its own theme, which is really exciting. Try out a maid café or pet café. These cafés are very unique for Japan and you can hardly find them anywhere else in the world.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my tour! Visit www.world-unite.de/en if you would like to plan your own internship or Working Holiday in Japan!

Best from Japan!

Thore

Thore


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Wildlife Conservation Volunteering in Kenya

Have you ever thought of volunteering in a wildlife conservation program? Annette from Germany tells you about her time as a wildlife conservation volunteer in a National Park in Kenya!

My time at the Lumo Sanctuary was great! I really like the work itself and was amazed by the nature and the animals around me. Whenever I had any questions, the rangers would answer them. They really know what they’re doing and they have a very good knowledge of the wildlife and the nature in the park.

Everyone is very nice here and asks you if you want to make a trip – a change from work, which is great!

I would recommend this placement to anyone who really wants to experience the nature of Africa and at the same time likes to do something social. On top of my work in the National Park I also volunteered in a local school from time to time, this was a nice experience.

It is also a good opportunity to learn that the living standards in Kenya are different to the ones I know from Germany. What I really like is that there is a a cook for participants at the sanctuary. I already miss his delicious meals!

Best regards,

Annette

Click here to read more about Annette’s volunteering project!


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How to Donate to Your Volunteer Project

Do you want to support people in your host country beyond your actual volunteer work? Would you like to donate to a charitable project, but don‘t know exactly how? We provide information on how to do this! 

As a volunteer in a developing country you will often meet people in your project or in everyday life who live a much more modest life than you’re probably used to from your home country. Many of these people live at or below the poverty line and lack the basic financial means to make ends meet, e.g. to buy clothing, food or to cover health care expenses.

For this reason, some volunteers decide to support their project beyond their actual volunteer work. We’ll answer some frequently asked questions about donating to a charitable project:

I have children’s clothes / toys / books at home. Can I bring these and donate them to someone in my host country?

Of course! Even if you are involved in a project that is not in need of these items, our coordinators can tell you who could benefit from your donation and you can together deliver it to where it is most needed.

Please make sure that the items are clean and in good condition. Please do not donate holey or dirty clothes or broken children’s toys. For books, make sure that they are also written in the local language or at least in English. A German-language children’s book makes little sense in Tanzania or Bolivia.

Our advice: Bringing donations like clothes, books, toys, etc. from home to your host country only makes sense if you have plenty of space in your suitcase or additional baggage allowance. It is usually not advisable to ship or donate such items, as the costs often far exceed the value of the items. In addition, parcel delivery abroad is not always reliable and it’s not guaranteed that your donations will arrive in the country at the same time with you, so you can distribute them during your mission.

I would like to collect funds for my volunteer project before my arrival. What happens with the money locally?

A sustainable way to do something for your volunteer project is to raise money from your friends or family. On the ground, you and your project can decide for themselves how to use the funds and buy the things which are needed locally. Nonprofit organizations often have very different needs, which change over the time: Facilties for children sometimes need school supplies; sometimes new tables and benches, or sometimes just money to finance lunch. Animal welfare projects sometimes have a need for material for the maintenance of the enclosures; but sometimes they need money for food or medicines for the animals.

Our advice: By choosing how to use the funds together with your project, you can ensure that you have made a meaningful and sustainable contribution to your project and that the donations will be used for things that the project really needs! By investing your donations directly on-site in the host country, you also support local shops and economy.

My trip abroad itself is quite expensive and I do not have the financial means to donate more money. What can I do?

By volunteering you’re already dedicating your time and skills to a good cause. By supporting a charitable project with your workforce (which usually can not employ enough people due to lack of financial resources) you are making an important contribution to keep the project running permanently.

Our advice: Did you know that your World Unite! service package already includes a donation to your project? By participating, you’ve already made a financial contribution for your project as well.

I do not have much space in my luggage and still want to donate. What can I do?

Donate a Labdoo laptop! Labdoo is a nonprofit charity project that makes old laptops work again. If you are traveling abroad, you can have a Labdoo laptop sent to you for free and donate it to a charitable project in your host country. There are no costs for you and you do not need much space in your luggage.

I have collected a larger sum of money and would like to distribute the money meaningfully to different projects. How do I do that?

Our local coordinators are in daily touch with many projects, families and social institutions in our host countries. They can give you tips and advice on where your donations are most needed! You can be sure that your donations will be meaningfully distributed and that they will benefit many people.

Former participants of our programs have already supported numerous individuals and institutions in this way, e.g. by …

• … supporting families in financial need with food packages.
• … providing treatment, surgery, or medication costs for sick children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.
• … funding children’s shoes, school uniforms and clothing donations for socially disadvantaged families.
• … financing water tanks and pumps to provide schools / kindergartens with running water.
• … purchasing equipment for childcare facilities, e.g. beds, refrigerators, tables, chairs, school benches, washing machines, tiles for sanitary facilities such as toilet or bathroom.
• and much more.

You would like to collect donations for your volunteer project abroad? Our team will be happy to advise you! Contact us at info@world-unite.de or visit us on our website.

 


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Intercultural Competence – Why is it important?

Cultural differences more and more make their way into the everyday life of many people. Globalization and the increased mobility of people around the world make encounters between people from different cultures more common. However, many of us don’t feel prepared for dealing with cultural differences and facing culturally different perspectives, for instance when we travel abroad to volunteer or for an internship. This blog post will give you adivce on intercultural learning and how to tackle cultural differences.

 

 

 

 „Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong; they are conflicts between two rights.“ – Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel

What does „Culture“ actually mean?

The way we think, feel and (en-)act is essentially shaped by the culture we belong to. However, culture is not ristricted to visible cultural expressions such as greetings, eating etiquettes, clothing, festivals, music, language, arts, literature and so on.

Beyond these aspects, culture can rather be seen as an orientation system including a set of values, ideas, ways of life and meanings which influence a society as well as the people living within it.

These cultural „core values“ include:

  • Communication styles and rules, e.g. conversational patterns in different social situations, handling and displaying of emotions, personal space and so on,
  • Notions of courtesy and manners, leadership, friendship, modesty, beauty etc.,
  • Concepts of time (past and future), fairness and justice, or roles related to age, class, family etc.;
  • Attitudes, e.g. towards elders, adolescents, dependents, work, authority, animals, etc.
  • Approaches to religion, marriage, raising children, problem solving, decision making and so on.

All these concepts, values, attitudes and notions are strongly influenced by the culture we grew up in, the values our parents conveyed to us, the social circles whe’re affiliated with, what we’ve learned in school, or by the media we consume.

Why is cultural understanding important?

 

 

Thus, these concepts differ from culture to culture and (unconsciously) influence us when we interact with people from other cultural backgrounds. Note, that culture should not be equated with a certain country or nationality. There may also be cultural differences within a country or nation.

As a volunteer or intern abroad you will dive deeply into the local culture of your host country: You will be surrounded by a language that’s most likely not your own, you will experience different work and communication styles, resources and work methods.

Experiencing these differences can sometimes be overwhelming: You might have diffculties to understand the behaviour of your local colleagues, the way family members in your host family life together, or struggle to adapt to the different work styles in your Placement.

Being aware of these culture-specific differences is the first step towards intercultural understanding and makes it much easier to overcome them!

However, we must be aware that volunteering or interning abroad volunteer does not automatically lead to intercultural learning or mutual understanding. Often, right the opposite is these case: Being in another culture often enforces prejudices or stereotypes rather than promoting understanding. Surely you have heard friends or familiy members talk about their travels to other countries and have heard them say things like: „All Japanese are so polite“, „Germans are always punctual“, „Mexicans are passionate“, „Tanzanians always take it slow“.

We don’t want to say that your friends or family haven’t met polite Japanese, slow Tanzanians, punctual Germans and passionate Mexicans during their trip. However, this does not mean that all members of a country or culture match this image and we must be careful with generalisations when it comes to cultural differences or specifications.

If staying abroad is not enough to promote cultural understanding, what can we do instead?

 

#1: Be prepared to learn from your host country!

 

Whether you’re volunteering, interning or just traveling in your host country: Remember that you’re a guest and will only spend a relatively short period of time here. Use the opportunity to learn as much as you can from the people around you and their culture. Instead of comparing the local culture with your own and trying to differenciate between „better“ and „worse“,  try do understand where these different notions, values and ideas may come from and why. One integral part of cultural learning is accepting the fact that there are many different perspectives  and various ways doing things the right way and that our own cultural perspective might be adequate for our own culture, but not necessarily for another (e.g. when it comes to work and communication styles in your placement).

Click here if you would like to read an example about how different perspectives about „Right“ and „Wrong“ can clash during a volunteer placement or internship abroad and why. 

#2: Be flexible!

 

If you travel to another country to do an internship or volunteer work, then you have decided to do something different from your usual life at home. So you should expect things to go differently than you’re used to. This means „different“ ways of working, „different“ working hours, „other“ ways of communicating, scheduling, organizing and living together. Try to adjust your expectations to this circumstance. The main goal here should be to reach something for your volunteer or internship project together with your local colleagues, rather than conveying your own values, ideas and solutions to the people in your host country. A flexible and open attitude will help you deal with these differences and prevent disappointment when things in your host country sometimes do not work out the way you imagined.

#3: Show a professional working attitude!

 

To be a real support to your volunteer or internship placement, be on time for your work and do not stay away for no obvious reason. Show that you are ready to actively participate and learn from your local colleagues. If you feel you are not getting enough tasks, don’t be discouraged immediately: Show your interest and offer your help repeatedly.

Your supervisors and colleagues in the host country appreciate that you have come all the way to work on a project. However, as is probably the case in your own country as well, it might take some time to gain the trust of your new colleagues and get assignments that involve more responsibility. Do not forget that it will also take some time to get to know the local ways of working. Expect also that the workload in some countries is slightly lower than you may know from home. This often conflicts with „Western“ cultural perspectives to do things efficiently and quickly. Try to adapt to the local pace and ways of working. Rather than being frustrated About different work styles, try to understand what the background of these different ways of working is.

Our advice: It’s perfectly okay if you want to travel the country during your placement. We recommend you to do excursions and trips on your days off. If you are planning a longer trip, it is best to have it at the end of your stay when you have completed your internship / volunteer assignment. If you don’t attend your placement for doing trips or leisure time activities, it might give others in your project the impression that you are not taking your placement seriously enough.

#4: Face up to cultural differences!

 

Staying abroad doesn’t mean that Intercultural Learning will happen automatically. On the contrary: Being in a different culture often confirms prejudices instead of promoting mutual understanding! An actual Intercultural Learning experience can only take place if you constantly and consciously open yourself up to the unknown, the different and the incomprehensible in your host country. This also includes actively perceiving and enduring differences and sometimes seemingly incompatible aspects in another culture, e.g. different hierarchical structures in your workplace, different gender roles, differences in the way of communicating, etc. Showing tolerance and empathy for these differences gives you the opportunity to gain real knowledge about the culture of interest, but also about your own and will allow you to find ways to peacefully solve conflicts or misunderstandings that result from cultural differences.

Our advice: Intercultural encounters never take place exclusively on a factual level, they influence us emotionally and can trigger in us joy and euphoria, but also anger and fear. It can be very helpful to discuss and to reflect your feelings with people outside of your volunteer/internship placement, e.g. with other volunteers / interns in your accommodation or your contact person at World Unite!.

#5: Be conscious of misconceptions!

 

When visiting other countries, it is important to be conscious of misconceptions that you may have to avoid negative impressions. We are all influenced by media reports and news about other countries. Often, however, these convey very stereotypical and one-sided images that hardly portray the real life of the country.

Kareen, our coordinator in Tanzania reports about a misconception that she’s experienced:

„Many people are surprised when they arrive here and see young people who dress quite nice, wearing designer shoes and bags. Of course some people here are not aware of these popular brands. But truth be told, due to the internet and social media, most young people in Tanzania are much aware of the fashion and trends going on around the world!“

Kareen’s experience shows very well that in many countries around the world there is a widespread belief that all people in African countries are poor and have no relation to the „modern“, „Western“ world, which of course does not correspond to reality.

This is just one example of many one-sided imagery and misconceptions about other countries, be it security, gender roles, time management, ways of communicating, etc.

Our advice: Take time to interact with the locals; eventually, a lot of those misconceptions may be cleared out by just watching and interacting with the people. If not, gather some confidence and diplomacy to ask! You never know how much more you will learn from the one/two questions you had.

#6: Learn the local language!

 

Ever thought that immersing yourself into learning a foreign language will help you understand the specific culture in your host country? Yes! this helps a great deal! Even though it might only be “hello”, “please” and “thank you”, what you show most of all is interest in the culture! In many countries, there are many variations of greetings that involves exchange of polite words and „how are yous, how is your family“-type of dialogues before actually getting into the point. This comes from politeness, hospitality and respect which are some of the pillars that are highly valued in these societies. Learning the local language will definitely guide you to understanding these cultural variations as to why things are addressed in a certain manner.

#7: Think positively!

 

Spending time in another country and culture can sometimes be overwhelming and going through a so called „culture shock“ during your stay in a foreign country is nothing weird or uncommon.

Our advice: Think positively! Try to realize continually that the process of adaptation to the new culture is a common phenomenon everyone has to go through. Consciously appreciate the chances of your stay abroad: clearly point out the advantages for your career, your personal development, and how much it broadens your horizon.

#8: Boost your creativity!

 

Intercultural learning can help you to boost your creativity! By integrating your own cultural values with those of the new culture, you can gain new ideas without devaluating either the new or your own culture. Intercultural learning will allow you to get to know several perspectives on one subject and teach you multiple approaches to solve a problem. You will not only expand your own point of view, but also gain important information and insights for your educational or professional development!

#9: Create a sense of belonging!

 

Being culturally aware gives you a sense of belonging: Being able to function properly, act, think and speak in accordance to the foreign culture surrounding you will make you feel more welcome and prevent you from feeling out of place.

This does not at all mean that you have to change the entire way you (en-)act, but when it comes to cultural sensitivy small things can often have a big impact: Learning a few words in the local language, dressing culturally appropriate or familiarizing yourself with the local etiquette in your host country will not only help you to understand the people more but also to feel more at home. Behaving culturally sensitive is a sign to the people around you that you’re ready to integrate and make it easier for them to integrate you in their social circles. Can there be something more rewarding than this in a completely foreign place away from home?

#10: Contribute to more intercultural understanding!

During a stay abroad, you are in the privileged position of being able to learn something first-hand about your host country. We would like to encourage you to communicate your experiences in your home country after your return and to provide information about your host country there, and thereby become an ambassador of international understanding. Often we only realize cultural differences but also similarities when we return home, when a „reverse culture shock“ occurs. Use this time to reflect your experiences abroad again: Did you become more conscious of misconceptions or your own expectations during your stay abroad? If yes, which? What surprised you about your host country? How do you talk about your experiences back home (neutral reporting at eye level vs. generalizing „better / worse“ comparisons between host country and home country)?

We are happy to help you reflect on and analyze open questions or experiences during and after your stay abroad!

Did you know that World Unite! provides participants with extensive intercultural preparation materials? Our preparation materials are compiled specifically for the host Country you’re traveling to so you can prepare in the best possible way.

  • Use our online reading material on cultural peculiarities in your host country!
  • Check out our intercultural preparatory videos on how to tackle cultural differences!
  • Our international communication team with training in the areas of intercultural training, cultural studies / anthropology and international relations is always available for questions and answers on intercultural competence!

Visit us on http://www.world-unite.de/en or send an email to info@world-unite.de for further information!