In today’s interconnected world, cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding go a long way in ensuring we pave the way for a more harmonious existence. As we navigate a global landscape shaped by diverse perspectives and traditions, it’s important to foster mutual respect and appreciation for different cultures. One of the ways we can do this is through sustainable and community-based tourism. In this blog post, I share insights from my discussion with Anniina Sandberg (@thealthropoligisttraveler), the founder of Visit Natives, as we explore the transformative power of cultural relativism and cross-cultural tourism.
Anniina studied anthropology at the University of Helsinki and holds an MA in African studies. After spending one year living amongst the Maasai peoples she moved permanently from Helsinki into a rural village in Tanzania to live with and learn from natives. With a deep interest in indigenous peoples and world cultures, Anniina now guides people across borders to enhance the way they see the world.
Cultural Relativism: Seeing Beyond Differences
Anniina Sandberg‘s journey from Finland to Tanzania was one of developing a sense of cultural relativism – the notion that no culture is inherently superior to another, and that understanding the context and meaning behind cultural practices is essential for fostering mutual respect and tolerance. Anniina eloquently articulates this philosophy, stating, “Nothing is black or white…Instead of criticising and calling other cultural habits brutal or wrong, we should dive deeper and see the meaning of those habits in a particular culture.” This approach challenges us to move beyond our preconceived notions and embrace the richness of cultural diversity.
Cross-Cultural Tourism: Bridging Divides
Through Visit Natives, Anniina Sandberg has dedicated herself to promoting cross-cultural tourism in Tanzania, Norway, and Papua New Guinea. Her sustainable travel company offers immersive experiences that allow travellers to live among indigenous communities and gain insights into their way of life. These experiences go beyond traditional tourism, fostering meaningful connections between travellers and indigenous hosts. By creating opportunities for genuine cultural exchange, Visit Natives not only enriches the travel experience but also empowers local communities economically and culturally.
The Benefits of Cultural Exchange
Anniina’s work underscores the transformative potential of cultural exchange in bridging divides and fostering understanding. By immersing ourselves in unfamiliar cultures and engaging with people from different backgrounds, we expand our worldview and cultivate empathy and compassion. As Anniina reflects on her experiences living among the Maasai people in Tanzania, she emphasises the importance of collective living and communal values, contrasting with the individualistic ethos prevalent in Western societies. Through cross-cultural encounters, we gain a deeper appreciation for the diverse ways of being and living in the world.
Supporting Sustainable Tourism Initiatives
As conscientious travellers, we have the power to support sustainable tourism initiatives like Visit Natives and contribute to positive social and environmental outcomes. By choosing to travel responsibly and respectfully engage with host communities, we can minimise our impact on fragile ecosystems and cultures while maximising the benefits for local residents. Whether it’s staying in locally-owned accommodations, supporting artisanal crafts, or participating in community-led initiatives, every choice we make as travellers has the potential to make a difference.