As we approach festival season, it’s worth mentioning how great participating in cultural celebrations can be during your time abroad. It’s important to stay safe and have fun when attending festivals and celebrations, especially if it’s a larger event. With a little bit of observation and preparation, a huge cultural celebration can be one of the most exciting parts of your trip.
Make sure someone knows where you’re going
If you’re headed to a big event let someone know where you’re going, whether it’s your host-family or your program director. Having that extra bit of security will give you peace of mind should you get lost or if someone needs to locate you. If you can, attend the event with someone you trust. That way you can look out for each other as well as enjoy the festivities together!
Be aware of your surroundings
Large crowds are sometimes susceptible to sketchy behavior. Be aware of the people around you. If someone seems more interested in the crowd than the event, they could be scoping out someone to pickpocket. As someone who isn’t local, you’re more likely to be targeted by pickpockets as you may be more naïve and less suspecting of a possible threat. Be aware of excessive jostling, strangers trying to engage you, or attempting to touch your person. There’s no need to look over your shoulder every second or avoid meeting new people. Use good judgement and trust your instincts if something doesn’t quite feel right.
Only carry what you need. This will help thwart pickpockets, and you won’t be bogged down with things you don’t really need. That way you’ll be able to move or dance freely! Bringing little with you also gives you more room to bring home souvenirs from the event. When attending Mil Tambores -Festival of 1,000 Drums- in my host-city, I brought a small backpack with my camera, a little notebook, a water bottle, and a banana, which all proved to be essential.
Eat and stay hydrated
Don’t underestimate the power of a good breakfast! If you’re on the move all day, especially when under the sun, it’s imperative to keep yourself fueled and hydrated in order to be able to enjoy the day. Having snacks and extra water with you throughout the day will definitely come in handy. That water bottle and banana I mentioned earlier really saved me when I was on a hot beach surrounded by hundreds of people. Admittedly I skipped lunch that day, and it isn’t a mistake I’ll be making again.
Observe and have fun!
Finally, remember to have fun! You’re there to learn more about your host country and what its people value. Keep an open mind of what you’re experiencing, and ask questions whenever possible. As long as you’re respectful and genuine, people will be delighted to share fun and important aspects of their culture with you.