Traveling offers us the opportunity to become more open-minded individuals, accepting of other cultures, behaviors, and ways of life. It offers us the opportunity to make new friends and expand our cultural horizons. However, unless we take the opportunity to learn about the customs of the cultures we are visiting; mishaps and misunderstandings could ensue. In order to avoid offending individuals in other countries, consider these travel etiquette tips below.
Be mindful of your outfit and your behavior
At the end of the day, we want to show respect to others. In order to do so appropriately, we must read about the customs of the country we are traveling to before taking flight (or even before packing our suitcases). For example, it is required to cover your head, shoulders and knees when entering most religious buildings in many countries. In Georgia, women cannot enter religious buildings wearing pants. Pointing the bottom of your shoes or the soles of your feet towards someone in the Arab world is insulting. The 'thumbs up' sign will get you arrested in Iran. The bottom line is, read about the customs and culture of the places you are traveling to before booking your ticket.
Be mindful that after all, you are the guest
In China, it’s normal to burp after a meal, in Japan it is acceptable to slurp your noodles, in the Arab world, it’s only acceptable to eat with your right hand. Though these may not be customs you are used to (or maybe you were taught the exact opposite), you are in their country and you have no right to judge. It is up to YOU to fit in, not the other way around. It is disrespectful to travel to someone’s country and tell them how they should do things.
Be mindful of how hard you bargain
Although haggling is perfectly acceptable and even expected in some countries (you never want to be laughed at for paying full price in Marrakech), you must know when your enthusiasm has gone too far. If you bargain too hard, you may cause a vendor to miss out on vital income needed to feed her/his family. Negotiate a little for fun, but when it comes down to it, ask yourself if the few extra dollars (that may mean nothing to you) could mean a lot to the seller.
Be mindful of conversations about politics
Bottom line is, it’s never a good idea to express your opinion about politics outside of your home country and especially don't give your opinon about their politics. Play the role of an interested listener to avoid getting worked up and touching what may be sensitive spots for others. Of course, you should answer when asked your opinion, but always be cautious to be respectful of other’s perspectives when doing so.
Be mindful of what’s going on around you
Respecting people’s time and space while traveling is important. Move over on an escalator if you’re blocking someone’s way. Don’t hold up a crowd because you’re trying to take the perfect photo. You might be on vacation, but the locals still need to get their business done on time. Make sure you’re not going to knock over someone’s coffee before reclining your airplane seat and don’t leave your belongings in your neighbors’ (limited) airplane space.
While following these guidelines won't ensure a misunderstanding-free vacation, it can certainly add to the quality of the encounters that you have with the locals!
If you have other guidelines or suggestions for smoother traveling, please email us at email@example.com