I was on an Airbnb Experience and the person hosting me was telling me about how their local news programs would frequently show videos of tourists behaving badly to shame their actions. It was then that I decided that I never wanted to be featured on a news program for being a “bad tourist.” Here are my rules for how to avoid being a jerk while traveling:
I research local customs – From hand gestures to avoid to whether tipping is frowned upon to which side of the sidewalk to walk on. Even just doing a simple Google search for “What Not to Do in _____” goes a long way to learning about some social faux pas that you might not have been aware of to avoid.
I follow the rules – One of the things I always search for is how to dress when visiting a place. Take into consideration how you should be dressed not just in a public place but also at religious sites. Also, take into consideration how PDA is perceived where you are going, not all countries are open to displays of affection, in others you might be kissing some people when you meet them for the first time. Another example of following the rules is not trespassing for photos. Remember people live where you are visiting and be respectful of that.
I look up local laws – Especially when it comes to what I can bring into a country and take out of it. If you have been following me on IG you know that I have anti-anxiety medicine and it is not allowed in all countries. I make sure to look up the laws so that I’m not accidentally trafficking drugs because that would suck.
I learn some of the language – Key phrases and greetings go a long way to showing respect. There are many resources on how to learn a bit – check out my full blog post about it.
I learn from others – If someone corrects my behavior instead of getting mad or upset I appreciate that they took the time to educate me. It can be easy to get defensive when someone tells you that something you are doing is inappropriate (you should have seen me when I was first told that rubbing my chopsticks together was rude) but instead of feeling angry or letting your pride get the best of you, check that mindset at the door and take this opportunity to learn.
I eat the local cuisine – I don’t criticize food that is unfamiliar to me and if it’s not something I want to try I politely decline without a rude comment. There is an entire tv show about eating strange dishes around the world and the one thing I have always admired about Andrew Zimmerman, the host of the show, is that he is beyond polite. You would never want someone to insult your cooking so make sure you aren’t insulting theirs.
I hope these tips help you travel with a bit more grace and keep you from being featured on a local news program.
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