Cross-Cultural Disaster: Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau in India
Business Insider reports this week on the trip that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to India. The entire trip represents a classic example of what NOT to do when traveling to a different country. Trudeau appeared unprepared to deal with some very sensitive issues and committed some political blunders. Even more astonishingly, he seemed to try far too hard to embrace the local culture, and in so doing, he looked very, very foolish. Business Insider writes:
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, normally a darling of Western media, has been roundly, and sometimes savagely, mocked for a trip to India that included cultural, fashion, and political blunders at every turn…On several occasions Trudeau and his family appeared dressed in traditional Indian clothing, something other Western politicians don’t usually attempt with such vigor. Prominent Indian personalities expressed their distaste for Trudeau’s dress, with India Today calling it “tacky.” Trudeau showed up at an event full of Bollywood stars in full traditional dress, while the movie stars themselves simply wore black suits. On social media, popular Indian personalities put it more bluntly, calling for Trudeau to “have some chill” and calling his outfit choices “fake and annoying.”
There’s a very important lesson here. Do your homework before you visit another country. Learn about important customs, rituals, and traditions. Respect key religious and cultural differences. Take the time to learn at least a few words of the local language. However, don’t try to pretend that you are a native citizen. Be who you are. Be a respectful and authentic visitor who wants to learn, not somebody looking to rack up “brownie points” with the local people.