When we travel, we do so to immerse ourselves in different cultures and enjoy amazing scenery. We need to remember that things will not be as they are at home. Afterall, that’s the whole idea isn’t it – to experience something new and different, whether it’s the food, the culture or the scenery?
Before you start your trip, do some research and learn about a country’s customs and what is and isn’t acceptable. This is also essential for business travellers.
We have our way of doing things and some things are acceptable, whilst others aren’t. We need to be mindful of other countries’ customs and traditions. It’s all about being respectful, just as we would like people to be respectful of ours.
Just because we can afford to travel, doesn’t mean that we’re superior to the locals. Be courteous to people in your interactions with them. You may find it frustrating at times if you’re confronted with something that isn’t normal to you but that doesn’t mean that they need to change their ways to suit you. You need to remember that you’re the visitor.
It’s best to keep any political opinions or sensitive topics to yourself. Obey local laws even if something is acceptable in your country. You don’t want to find yourself in trouble with the law. Being a foreigner won’t exempt you and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for example, can assist you to obtain solutions for any problems you may experience overseas but they can’t override local laws, give legal advice, intervene in court proceedings or provide funds to pay your legal costs or fines.
Learn a few words of the local language such as their greetings and so on. People love it when you make the effort.
Nodding your head, pointing your finger, or giving someone the thumbs up is considered impolite in some cultures. Eating with your left hand in India is considered unclean. Kissing in public and showing affection is also taboo in some countries, even if you’re married.
If you’ve ordered a particular dish in a restaurant and you find that it wasn’t to your liking, it’s better not to criticise it and rather say nothing at all (especially if you’re a guest in someone’s house). You’ll know not to order it next time.
Ensure you don’t throw your litter about, even if you see rubbish lying about. No point adding to it. If you can’t find a bin, keep it with you until you find one.
Women should dress modestly in Islamic and African countries in particular. When visiting religious sites, shrines or mosques for example, shoes often have to be removed and women can be required to cover their heads and shoulders. Men should wear trousers and shirts.
In certain countries during Ramadan (fasting month), tourists should be careful not to eat, drink alcohol or smoke in public. Drinking alcohol in some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, is forbidden altogether.
Many third world countries welcome bargaining at local markets, however you shouldn’t insult people by trying to drive the price down to the point where they’re not going to make any profit. These people are trying to make a living and you need to be fair about it. If you’re not sure about what’s fair, then it’s better to pay the full price.
Tipping is expected in some countries (due to low wages), but is considered offensive in others. Find out whether it’s recommended before you go as you’ll need to factor this in when budgeting.
Being courteous also extends to plane, train and bus travel. You’re travelling in a confined space and need to consider the people around you. Take care not to over-indulge when it comes to drinking alcohol. We’ve all heard the stories about drunken passengers who have disrupted flights.
Another thing to consider is your hygiene and it’s probably a good idea to watch the garlic before a flight. I had a client once who was forced to sit next to someone who’s odour was extremely offensive. She asked to be moved however as there were no spare seats on the flight, she had to stay put and spent the flight covering her nose.
Be mindful when reclining your seat, be clear with children that kicking the seat in front isn’t acceptable and so on. It’s not acceptable to tune out while children are behaving outrageously and expecting others to look after them or to put up with it, no matter where you are.
Above all, if you’ve offended someone without realising it, the best thing to do would be to profusely and sincerely apologise as this may help.
IMAGES – on Unsplash
- Image 3 – Natashia Shukla
- Image 4 – Sarthak Kwatra
- Image 5 – 85Fifteen
- Image 6 – Boim
- Image 7 – Jimmy Chang
- Image 8 – Rawkkim
- Image 9 – Rai Uriarte
- Image 10 – Rohiim Ariful
- Image 11 – Kevin Langlais
- Image 12 – Peter Livesey
- Image 13 – Chris Brignola
- Image 14 – Braden Barwich
Rest of images – author’s own