The Fine Line between Cultural Appropriation and Cultural Appreciation

Norway-flag-mountain-sunset

One of the best parts about traveling to new countries is being able to experience new cultures, traditions, and cuisines. However, as socially conscious travelers today, we need to think more critically about how we behave in countries and cultures that aren’t ours.

Although in recent years, cultural appropriation has become a bit of a controversial topic as celebrities are called out on it for their behavior. But, for the average traveler, all it takes is a little bit of introspection and effort to ensure we stick to appreciation instead of appropriation.

Understanding Cultural Appropriation

It’s easy to be on the defensive when something like cultural appropriation comes up. However, the key to understanding why cultural appropriation is a problem is knowing why it really means. Appropriation means to misuse an aspect of a different culture inappropriately, improperly, and without acknowledging its roots.

However, sometimes it can be hard to draw the line on what it looks like. For example, In Norwegian rural culture, the earth is an essential part of their lives. From Norse legends to the care with which local populations farm the land, it’s clear that the landscape is almost sacred.

However, when travelers come to Voss for hiking and MTB trail tours or Norway ski adventure and disrespect the natural environment—that can feel like appropriation too. Even though it doesn’t look like what we see in the media, being reckless about the environment of a place you’re visiting is also highly inappropriate.

When Appropriation Becomes A Problem

When should we draw the line between what counts as appropriation?

For example, if you start wearing an Indian sari improperly, in a way that’s disrespectful to South Asians as per their customs without crediting South Asian communities for the history behind it—you’re appropriating. This also begs the question: what are the economics of your actions? In the example above, are you buying the sari from a white-owned business or a South Asian one?

This is important because the choices we make for cultural appreciation should give back monetarily to the community rather than to the same privileged groups that benefit from marginalizing these ethnic minorities for the same practices that are lauded as bold when other people do it.

Signs showing the direction of places in a snow-laden area near Voss, Norway.

 

Cultural Appropriation During Travel

When you travel, you should always put a little thought into how you interact with the people, the landscape, cultural traditions, and even the food of the places you visit. For example, before you don the local traditional outfits, make an effort to learn about the significance.

In some cases. there may even be certain things you just shouldn’t do. If you’re not black, you shouldn’t be wearing your hair in cornrows or similar hairstyles for natural hair that black people have been using for centuries while being discriminated against for.

On another note, you should also be careful not to cause a negative impact on an area by your very presence. Perpetuating problematic behavior in other countries is definitely one aspect of cultural and resource appropriation.

That’s why at Outdoor Norway, we encourage our clients to experience local culture and learn to form a deeper appreciation of it while respecting the environment by minimizing waste and shopping locally. When we provide our Voss outdoor activities, we try to emulate green practices too, which is why we’re a well-liked adventure tour operators in Voss.

We provide ski touring Norway in the winter as well as a range of terrain, water, and air activities during the summer.