Alex Stubbings recently held an internship in Dhaka, Bangladesh, for three months, in the field of climate change adaptation and sustainable development. Here are some of life’s lessons he’ll never forget:
1) When in Rome do as the Romans – This one I always practice! When you’re in a culture that is diametrically the opposite to yours I find it worthwhile behaving exactly like the locals: Even if you stand out because of skin pixilation! Of course, remember to be yourself which is really important.
2) Don’t change your pounds in the UK; do it when you’re there (if outside the EU) –When I left Manchester I changed all my Sterling into Dollars, this was a big mistake. I ended up losing out on two exchange rates, as Sterling in Bangladesh gets you a lot more bang for your buck than Dollars: So always change your currency when in country. [Editors Note: It's worth checking with the specific country that your going to that they will exchange Sterling, as some of the more remote towns in Tanzania that I've traveled to would only exchange US dollars].
3) Always count your money – This ties into the last comment. Always count the money that you're handing over and that you’re given. In some countries, like Bangladesh, this is normal behaviour and well worth getting into the habit of doing.
4) Do you have an umbrella? – When I went into the deep south of Bangladesh I was asked if I had an umbrella, I replied no: I’ve got waterproofs! Actually the umbrella was to block out the sun, which was the only day of my life which I actually craved to be inside!
5) Always carry more water than what you think you need – I did my BSc mapping project in the Spanish Pyrenees, in an area called Lumbier. Contrary to popular belief, this part of Spain gets up to 40 degrees Celsius relatively frequently. Obviously coming from a cold country like the UK, to one bathing in glorious sun, we don’t think too much about water consumption. Take as much as you can carry, and prioritise over food if on a budget as that’s what I did. Also, don’t be fooled by the widely perpetuated myth that water quality outside of the UK in Europe is bad: It isn’t. It is in Bangladesh. Here boil your tap water if in Dhaka and remember, if you buy bottled water from a street vender make sure the seal isn’t broken and that it’s reputable!
6) Always carry a photocopy of your passport/ID – this is very true in Spain and Bangladesh. In both countries you’ll need to be able to prove who you are, and believe me when I got stopped for photographing the US Embassy in Dhaka, and couldn’t prove who I was: I starting panicking big time!