It’s interesting to see the clothing choices of politicians and royalty when visiting different countries and to see as well the reactions of people to those choices.

A few years ago Justin Trudeau visited India. His choice of “Indian” clothing received a lot of attention. He was criticized for being over the top and in many ways inappropriate. This article is one of many examples.

On the other hand, William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visited Pakistan recently. They also wore clothing from that culture but the reaction to their choices was drastically different. Pakistanis felt honored by what they wore and were impressed by the choices they made.

So, what’s the difference? William and Catherine (or their assistants) asked for advice on appropriate clothing. They asked people who knew the culture and knew the clothing and who could guide them into appropriate choices for the situations they would be in on their trip. It doesn’t appear that Justin Trudeau sought this kind of advice or if he did, he didn’t get advice from people within the culture who could give him good guidance. He ended up looking like a cartoon character instead of a respectable statesman.

While it’s not likely many of us will need to dress for the world stage as the Cambridges or the Trudeaus so often do, we may often be in situations where we need to ask for cultural advice. Part of developing intercultural competence is growing in the awareness of how much we need to learn when we are interacting with other cultures. Rather than assuming we know, we need to humbly recognize the need to ask.


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