Tips on Fitting In Abroad
Whether you are staying in a hotel or with a local host, it is always important to be a respectable guest abroad. When you are in a different country, the customs may be very different from those you are used to at home. If you wish to have an enjoyable and meaningful trip, remember these tips for how to be a respectable guest in another country.
1. Do Your Research Ahead of Time
No matter where you travel in the world, be it Thailand or Israel, you are bound to encounter cultural differences that are completely foreign to you. While it is impossible to be completely prepared before any trip, referring to sites like Lonely Planet before your trip can help you stay informed of major cultural faux pas abroad.
2. Follow the Dress Code
Many other countries dress much more modestly than you may be used to. Although you may be comfortable showing more skin at home, be sure to respect the culture abroad and dress accordingly. This may mean wearing a skirt or covering your head in holy places or taking your shoes off indoors.
3. Learn the Language
Picking up a new language on the fly can be difficult for many people. However, a few key words can go a long way. Simply knowing how to say “hello”, “yes”, and “no” can get you further than you would expect. You may also notice that you receive better treatment when others see that you are at least making an effort to use their language.
4. Be Careful With Photos
There are many incredible holy sites to visit all over the world. However, if you wish to take pictures in front of these sites, take care. Making wild or offensive hand gestures in front of holy sites could not only offend the locals, but even get you into legal trouble. Make sure that when you take any photos, you do so in a respectful manner.
5. Represent Your Home Well
Wherever you wander, you always want to make sure that others get a good impression of your home. No one wants their country to be known for their own offensive behavior. Try to remember that whatever impression you leave behind when you travel will also reflect on your home country.
6. Be Patient
While some cultures are known for their punctuality, others are typically much more laid back. When you travel in certain European countries for example, life occurs at a more leisurely pace than it does at home. However, the experience is often worth the wait. Just take a deep breath and enjoy living at a more leisurely pace.
7. Be Open to New Foods
You may or may not be a picky eater at home. However, when you travel abroad, it is imperative to be open to new foods. You may inadvertently offend someone by refusing to even try the typical dishes in a foreign country. If you stay open to trying everything, you may even discover your new favorite dish.
8. Know the Law
Understanding the cultural practices in another country is extremely important. However, it as just as important to understand the legal framework of a foreign country. The last thing you want to do on vacation is end up in jail for a seemingly harmless action.
9. Embrace Other Beliefs
Other cultural traditions are often based on religious practices that may be very different from the common Judeo-Christian practices. Even if you do not believe in the doctrine of other religions abroad, it is still important to embrace other religions and beliefs. Simply being respectful and not joking about another religion that others take seriously is a huge step towards being a respectable guest.
10. Read About Current Events
Before traveling to any country, be aware of some of the major current events. If a country has just had an election or if new legislation has just been enacted, it is best to be aware of this before you land on foreign soil.
11. Be Careful Who You Insult
In some countries, insulting heads of state can have serious consequences. While at home you may be comfortable complaining about any number of political figures, abroad you should stay neutral. Keeping mum on the subject of politics altogether is usually a good idea if you are unfamiliar with the potential consequences.
12. Meet the Locals
While it can be tempting to only talk to your travel companions or other travelers, meeting the locals is an important part of being respectable in another country. Taking the time to actually interact with the baker down the road or even the barrista at a cafe speaks volumes when you are trying to demonstrate your interest in the local culture. It is also a great way to learn which tourist traps to avoid and find some hidden treasures.
13. Swallow Your Pride
When in doubt, it never hurts to apologize if you have accidentally disrespected someone abroad. No one can be perfect when it comes to learning a new language and culture. Simply taking the time to give a heartfelt apology if you have spoken or acted poorly can serve as important damage control and show that you have good intentions.