by George Mickum

When traveling the world or simply hosting an international crowd – it is crucial to be respectful of the differing cultural habits and dress codes you will encounter. The ability to create a comfortable atmosphere no matter who you are interacting with is a highly valuable tool in both professional and private settings.

In Japan, for example, if guests are being entertained at a private home, it is expected that they will remove their shoes. Regardless of gender, you must be prepared to be either barefoot, in socks, or have thought ahead to bring your own slippers strictly for indoor use. Respecting such traditions is not a question of succumbing to a foreign culture, but rather of accepting and respecting your surroundings – in these cases, ostentatiously standing out will be offensive, not rewarding. Many regions of the world, in addition, are defined by religious cultures that require unique considerations based on gender, and men and women will face varying levels of restrictions when it comes to their clothing options. In strict Muslim and Sikh societies, women must often be fully covered – head to toe – including religious headwear of varying types. For all women, regardless of background, it is wise to be accommodating to these customs. In practice, this means women must wear long skirts and dresses, and make sure the décolletage is fully covered, as well as the arms. A scarf or head wrap is also important to cover the hair and the neck, though gloves are not necessary.

Men face restrictions as well, if not as pronounced, and when traveling in these countries should also remain covered as much as possible. A turban is not necessary, although a hat or other head cover of some type – such as a cap, or a fez – would be well-received. Western men should also be aware that shorts would never be appropriate, nor would sandals be acceptable for either gender. Highly fitted clothes, again for either gender, will likely be interpreted as disrespectful.

The extent of such cultural modesty varies from country to country, and in some societies fully covering one’s body is not necessary. Turkey is one such country – there, for instance, it is not necessary for a woman to cover her head. Yet across most Muslim majority countries, certain rules hold: for both men and women legs should always be covered, arms must be covered to at least the elbows, and closed toed shoes are highly preferable.
The need for such cultural awareness is not limited to the Middle East. Almost everywhere outside of America, dress codes – formal or informal – are much more prevalent. On the European continent, for example, one would never wear a hat indoors, especially at a restaurant or bar. Nor would shorts ever be acceptable at dinner. And unlike in many of the clubs of LA or Miami, it would be frowned upon to wear a tank top in any sort of social setting.

When traveling the globe, whether for work or leisure, it is a significant advantage to not only avoid offending your hosts, but to demonstrate that you have insight into and respect for their native culture. Tailoring your wardrobe to local norms shows your ability to adapt and be respectful of different cultures – and that demonstration of good faith can make all the difference in ensuring positive international interactions.

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When looking for scarves to pair with your attire while in a country where head coverings are strongly suggested you cannot go wrong with Hermes. While abroad, darker more tones are suggested. However, it’s important to keep your individual look present. I suggest something bright yet subdued. These Hermes scarfs like these are respectful, but can be in keeping with one’s personal look. They are bright, yet the pattern is subdued. hermes.com

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With strict business in mind, this darker Georgio Armani scarf can be used to cover your head and keep it serious. With this professional color, one can only give the impression of refined style and responsibility. armani.com

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This Carolina Herrera classic black is a great basic piece for the fully covered look. It is floor length, and full fitting. This skirt is easily paired with blazers and sweaters sets that make it very respectful ensemble for abroad