Getting out of your element and experiencing a new culture is a precious experience. Once you get to a new place, you may find that you stick out like a sore thumb. That’s okay! That’s part of travel. What’s not okay is being the obnoxious tourist Americans are unfortunately known for. There are ways to tamper the cliché and be respectful overseas. Here are some taboos to avoid for a smooth, fun trip abroad.
English is the Language of the World
It’s true English is the most widely spoken language in the world. It’s the international tongue, but that doesn’t mean everyone speaks it, or frankly wants to. When you travel, don’t expect everyone to know what you’re saying. They may or they may not, but you’re their visitor, so you should know a few key words to get by. Download the Duolingo app to get a workable base. It’s kind of fun to learn this way, too.
Can you Hear me?
We Americans are full of enthusiasm! We love to have a good time, and we’re very free with our thoughts and emotions. This sometimes comes at a loud decibel. Other cultures are much more discreet and they regard loud talking as rude and obnoxious. We don’t always know when we’re violating the rule, of course, so take a look around. Are people giving you the stink eye? Are you the only ones having a passionate conversation in the entire café? Be aware, and then keep it down.
It’s really fun to go out in a foreign country. Bars are good venues for meeting locals, and it provides a somewhat friendly environment since inhibitions are lowered. That said, do not get sloppy. Not only do you become loud (see above), but you become, well, rather annoying. Getting so drunk you can’t stand up isn’t a good look on anyone anywhere, but overseas, you’re really just becoming a bad cliché. Keep it classy!
Don’t Learn Customs
Wherever you go, culture is going to be a little or a lot different from your own. Pick up a guide book or get online before you travel to learn what those customs are. Also, when you arrive, observe. Think about it, if you extend your arm for a handshake and someone denies it, that’s seen as rude. You don’t want to do the same.
This goes for clothing in conservative countries, especially Muslim nations. In your mind, it may not be fair that women have to cover up, but when you’re a visitor, you need to do it, too. Your vacation isn’t a plight of activism, it’s an experience. This is part of it, like it or not.
Everyone Revolves Around you
First time travelers often assume things are exactly the same overseas as at home. Or they don’t anticipate the differences. When you arrive, and you see that things are different, you need to do as the locals. That means you have to do things that are a little strange, like maybe you must bow in Japan as respect. Do it! An entire country isn’t going to change all their customs just because you’ve arrived. That’s ridiculous, and so you must be the one to adjust.
What are the biggest travel taboos you’ve experienced overseas?