The Do’s and Don’ts of Experiencing New Cultures.
Travel etiquette is essential when visiting other cultures and countries. There are few experiences more thrilling than getting out of your local area, and
exploring the wide open world around you. This planet is filled with all kinds of exciting cultures, languages, cuisines, and experiences–some of them completely alien to us!
While getting out and exploring the world might be exceptionally rewarding, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t without its own basic challenges. The main obstacle for a new traveler is almost always going to be etiquette.
Each country, and even region or city is going to have their own local rules, customs and travel etiquette. While you may not be expected to know each and every local custom as a visitor, there are a few basic do’s and don’ts that you should adhere to. Let’s take a look at some of those.
It’s difficult to sum up everything that should be done when visiting a new country.
However, these basic reminders about travel etiquette will help you to better enjoy your time abroad, and get
the most from the local culture and people.
– Do Obey The Law.This might sound like a ‘no brainer’, but just know that it needs to be said. While major
laws are always easy to abide by, you should also try to adhere to smaller codes of conduct as
strictly as possible. Many cultures don’t take so kindly to small disturbances such as jay-walking
Always try to observe common courtesies, and always follow the rules of the signs
posted. Don’t walk in cycling lanes, don’t swim where swimming is prohibited, don’t act
belligerent and cause a scene in general. These small things might be a non-issue in some
western societies, but in many cultures they are a major disrespect. Always try to be on your
best behavior when visiting a new country!
– Do Take the Time To Learn.
It is never going to be a bad idea to do some homework on your destination prior to
going there. Many western cultures are completely different from eastern, or even southern cultures. This means that there is going to be a lot to learn in such a short time if you don’t do any preparation.
Always take the time to read up on the local cuisines, customs, and interesting history points of the place you are visiting. The locals will appreciate your general knowledge, and you will have a much easier time once you arrive. It’s hard to be surprised by the differences when you have read about them prior to arrival! This will help you understand your adjustments to their travel etiquette.
– Do Learn Some of the Language & Dialect.
No one expects visitors to be perfectly fluent in the local language upon arrival.
However, in the same way, you should never expect those in a foreign country to speak your language. Just because English is one of the most widely spoken languages, doesn’t mean that everyone is comfortable speaking it–or even speaks it at all. If you are visiting a location where the primary language differs from yours, take the time to learn some key phrases and local terms. This will not only help you get around easier, it will make the locals extremely grateful for your effort. Never assume that you will be able to get by with your native language, always be cautious and try to learn the important words beforehand such as: toilet, food, how much? Etc,. This will make travel etiquette easier for you to conduct.
– Do Dress Appropriately.
This one is particularly off-putting to many westerners. Afterall, who is anyone to tell you how to dress?! Well, that is true in most cases. In general, most tourist destinations–no matter where–understand that visitors will dress however they feel comfortable. Although, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be mindful.
Many cultures have very different views of what is and isn’t appropriate in certain places.
As a general rule, if you are visiting any ‘holy’ or ‘sacred’ place, try to ditch the flip-flops and spaghetti straps. Understand that you are in their home, and sometimes it’s best to dress more modestly in order to be more respectful of your surroundings.
In general, you will be able to fit in almost anywhere by following one simple rule; ‘don’t be a jerk’. However, that can be a bit difficult to navigate when dealing with different cultures, customs. Sometimes what may seem fine or appropriate to you might be a cardinal sin to others. So, to help you out here are a few simple guidelines to keep you in the clear.
– Don’t Forget That You Are a Guest.
The old saying goes, ‘my house, my rules’. With that in mind, you should always
remember that when you are visiting another country, you are a guest. This means that you should never expect the locals to bend and bow to your whims and expectations. For them, this is home. This is where they eat, sleep, work, and relax every day. You should always try to blend in as well as possible. Being a general nuisance or obstructive to local life around you is a one way ticket to ‘we despise this tourist-ville’. You are a guest here, so try to act accordingly.
– Don’t Be Rude.
While it’s hard to summarize what constitutes ‘rude’ across the board, the general rules are always there. You should try to be on your best behavior when out and about, especially when dining. Remember that local cuisine and lifestyle habits are always going to be different from yours. Some general ways to avoid being rude are to always remember these:
– Don’t insult the food, even if you don’t like it. Just because it’s different to
you doesn’t make it bad or disgusting.
– Don’t insult local customs, fashion, or religious beliefs. You wouldn’t want
someone coming to your city and acting superior to your way of life, so
don’t do it to someone else.
– Don’t complain about everything around you. If you wanted everything to
be exactly the way it is at your home, then you should have stayed home.
These are just a few ideas about how you can end up coming across as rude. Take this
to heart when interacting with the locals and the culture itself.
– Don’t Take Pictures Wherever You Please.
Of course pictures are a staple of travel. Afterall, you want to keep the memories and
share them with your friends! There is nothing wrong with picture taking as it is. However, that doesn’t mean that you can whip out your phone and snap a photo of whatever or whoever you want.
For example, taking pictures or selfies at Auschwitz Camp is universally regarded as bad taste, and frowned upon. Snapping photos inside sacred monuments is also generally considered uncouth. Keep this in mind when you are tempted to take a picture. Not every location needs to be photographed, and in some cases shouldn’t be at all.
– Don’t Assume Bartering is OK.
There are indeed many places in the world where bartering might be not only accepted,
but also expected. However, that is not always the case. In many places you could end up offending and angering the locals if you try to barter for every little thing.
For example, you wouldn’t walk into your local supermarket and demand a lower price on the apples, would you? So why would you do it at the market in Stockholm, or Athens?
Unless you can obviously determine that bartering is commonplace in the market you are at, then you should avoid even attempting it. You don’t want to run the risk of angering the shopkeepers and having yourself thrown out!
All of these examples are bad traits of travel etiquette. Please make sure you stay respectful and keep/make the world a happy place.
In general, the entire list of travel etiquette do’s and don’ts can be summed up in one
sentence: Be kind, and be a good person. That’s it. That’s all you have to do. If you get the
sense that doing something or acting a certain way might not be 100% OK in the moment, then
simply avoid it.
When traveling, it’s always best practice to try to blend in with the surroundings. Enjoy
what you see, experience, hear, and taste. Try to live like a local, and there will be very little
room for major errors. If locals can see visitors making an effort, they will be much more
forgiving. In turn, everyone will have a much better holiday abroad!