Dealing with border closures and COVID lockdowns for the past two years has given many Americans a brand new appreciation for the opportunity to travel internationally. The tourism industry saw a substantial bounce back as people were “revenge traveling” to new places.
Sadly, Americans don’t have the best reputation when it comes to tourism abroad. Still, that doesn’t mean you must add to the “typical American” stereotype as you start traveling internationally again or for the first time. Avoiding a self-centered view of the world as you travel is necessary. It would be best if you minded your manners while traveling abroad because etiquette can change from country to country.
The nuances and intricacies of every culture may feel overwhelming, but some fundamental etiquette principles can guide you through each trip. A simple way to look at decorum abroad is to consider what not to do. Specific etiquette rules may change worldwide, but good manners are universal. Treating people with respect and kindness translates into any language. Here are some of the rudest things you can do while visiting a new country and how to avoid them.
Assuming everyone speaks English.
Don’t assume that everyone you meet will speak English. You should know some key phrases in the local language and avoid talking louder, hoping the other person will miraculously understand you. Before you go on your trip, try to learn some of the customs and the local language of the place you’re visiting. Doing some research will ensure that you have a more pleasant experience.
In a shop or restaurant, saying please and thank you in the local language can go a long way. You could also use tools like Google Translate to communicate as you travel. It’s a tool meant to bridge communication in an unfamiliar country.
Not doing research.
You’ll have more fun on your trip if you know what to expect, so try your best to research the local etiquette rules before you leave. The etiquette rules aren’t a secret, and no corner of the globe hasn’t been covered online. You can avoid frustrating and awkward situations by researching before your trip. Learning about a culture’s etiquette is one fun part of traveling; you’ll have a more fulfilling experience if you fully participate. For example, be sure to say ‘bonjour’ when entering a shop in France, don’t cheer with a beer in Hungary, and hand out your business card with two hands in Japan.
Being loud and raucous.
One of the things Americans are known for is talking loudly on the phone, and everyone can hear the conversation. Try your best not to add to negative American stereotypes by being mindful of your volume or taking phone calls outside, especially while speaking English. It will also help if you avoid making other noises, like stomping around or slamming car doors. Before you leave, practice your vocal level control. It doesn’t matter how old you are; whether young or well-seasoned, don’t yell or be obnoxious. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve had to drink, how tired you are, or what everybody else is doing.
It would also be best to avoid drinking too much alcohol in a foreign country. This is more about the increased risk of becoming another visiting foreign victim versus being the proverbial “ugly American.” Often, drunk tourists are the targets of petty crimes. You would do well in correct etiquette and keeping yourself out of harmful situations to cut back on alcohol.
Ignoring tipping culture.
While traveling internationally, you should know that tipping varies around the world. Some countries find tips insulting, while others thrive on tips. If you’re unaware of the tipping culture in another country, research them or ask someone you trust to find out the cultural norms before placing your order. Tipping may be standard in the United States, but that’s not the case everywhere. In typical circumstances, it’s considered impolite to pay for a meal without tipping in the U.S. However, in some countries, a tip is only for outstanding service. In other places, leaving a tip could be considered offensive.
Forgetting you’re a tourist.
The best way to ensure you’re a polite and respectful traveler is by imagining yourself as a visitor in a foreign country. You’re not there to do things like you do at home or change things. You’re there to experience new things and experience the local culture and customs. Instead of complaining about unfamiliar experiences or demanding that something be done your way, be humble and polite. Envision yourself as a guest in a stranger’s house, and remember that your behavior doesn’t only represent you but the U.S. as a whole. The start and end of appropriate behavior are to be gracious and respectful. Also, keep in mind that you’re ambassadors of the United States.
Travelers should ensure that they wear something appropriate for religious sites. You want to look your best on vacation, but something revealing may not be welcomed in a place of worship or a sacred site. While preparing for differing temperatures, you should also respect local culture when packing for your trip. Your favorite sleeveless shirt, fanny pack, or sneakers might be the proper attire for the entire trip. Even if your destination is hot, try your best to pack one outfit that gives more coverage in a breathable, lightweight fabric.
There are some places, from entire countries to religious sites, where modesty is a requirement. Some areas also get dressed up for dinner, which may require semi-formal or formal attire and appropriate footwear. It would help if you also familiarize yourself with the rules regarding shoes when you enter certain establishments or someone’s home. In some cultures, hosts expect guests to take off their shoes at the door.
Traveling to an international location can be exciting, especially if it’s your first time. However, before you head to the airport, you should familiarize yourself with the countries’ rules and customs so you won’t be the typical rude American while traveling.