Codes of conduct or acceptable behavior are rules and regulations outlining the responsibilities of or proper practices for an individual or organization.
Everywhere we go we are imposed on a certain code of conduct, it could be in school where we are told no running in the corridors, at work where we are told to be punctual.
Codes of conduct not only represent the individual but the organization in which he or she is working for. At times it could represent a country whereby a foreigner goes to live in another country and their behavior is used to judge the country. When volunteering abroad, the code of conduct becomes stricter in that you represent your country. If you are volunteering abroad through an organization, then you will be representing your country and your organizations.
There are many rules that govern behaviors of international volunteers in host countries; here are a few of them:
Clothing varies from place to place, in liberal countries girls are allowed to wear short and tight clothes, but in some the rules are stricter. In that the girls should cover all their body parts like in Muslim nations. For men, in some countries they are allowed to walk bare-chested and shave their beards, although in other countries they find these habits to be rude and inconsiderate. Before you leave for your volunteer abroad program it is best to find out how the culture views clothing. As a volunteer, you could be working with kids in an orphanage, or as a teacher. Many of these programs require you to dress officially or smart casual. In order not to influence the kids in a negative way.
Unlike clothing, the way we talk is less obvious. We could think we are being appropriate by the way we talk to other people but we might be seen as offensive. Some cultures are not comfortable if you talk to them using obscene words. In other case we could be misunderstood by using the wrong idiom for example if you say “holy cow” in India they find this to being insulting because some cultures worship cows. Unfortunately it is not easy to know how to speak properly, so as not to offend anyone. The thing to do is try to watch your language as much as you can, and apologize if you think you have offended anyone.
Drugs and alcohol
There are very strict rules regarding the use of drugs and alcohol. Some drugs are illegal when you are caught in possession of these you will be arrested and if you are lucky you will be deported. Drugs like cocaine and heroine are regarded as class A drugs and are illegal. There are some drugs that are could be viewed as illegal in some countries but in others they are legal as long as they are in the right amount. Drugs like Khat, marijuana and tobacco could be legal in one place but illegal in others. Before indulging with such drugs, check whether they are legal to use in the country. There are countries which have strict smoking policies. If you smoke, try and smoke in designated areas so as to avoid any problems. Regarding drinking alcohol, this depends on the person you are staying with. Some people are tolerant to excessive alcohol usage while others aren’t.
This refers to whether you are staying in a hostel or in a home stay. Most of these have strict rules about overnight visitors. They prefer visitors to leave before 10:00 pm and arrive after 9:00 am. They don’t allow your visitors to sleep with you in their accommodation. This is mainly due to them trying to maintain a certain reputation for their business. This also applies to coming back late in the night, you could go to a night club and party late in to the night. Most of the hostels and home stays don’t allow you to come back at 3:00 or 4:00 am in the morning. To avoid problems ask the person in charge with what they are comfortable with.
Before you engage you volunteer abroad program rules and regulations are normally issued. When you have these rules try and follow all of them to avoid any problem and a peaceful stay. The rules are there to protect you. They are made by experts and are not there to prevent you from having fun.
Written and contributed by Zablon Mukuba