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30 Easy Ways to Be Respectful While Traveling Abroad

Research Mannerisms

Research Mannerisms

Mannerisms is a big one. From physical proximities to eating, figure out how to be respectful. For example, in Japan, you should take off your shoes when entering a home. Not doing so is seen as extremely disrespectful.

Learn a Few Words

Learn a Few Words

Learning a few words in the local language can go a long way. Not only does it show that you care about the culture, but it also can help you get to where you need to go. You don’t want to hit a language barrier when you really have to go to the restroom. 

Be Patient

Be Patient

Language barriers exist on both sides. It’s alright to be a little frustrated, but don’t start yelling at someone because they don’t understand what you want. While many people in other countries know English, don’t assume every local understands you. 

Mind Your Surroundings

Mind Your Surroundings

Don’t stand in the middle of the road while trying to figure out where to go. This is especially important if you’re driving in another country. If you’re lost, move to the side and let others pass unobstructed. 

Never Litter

Never Litter

Littering is a big one. When you’re abroad, hold onto your garbage until you find the proper receptacle. Sometimes, that can take a while, but respecting locals includes respecting where they live. If you were at home, you wouldn’t want someone throwing trash in your yard.

Respect Their Religion

Respect Their Religion

Religions are different all over the globe, and sometimes, they conflict with one another. Don’t try to participate in religious activities unless invited. If you are invited, be really careful about what you do. When in doubt, ask a local what would be alright. Usually, they’re more than happy to help you. 

Leave Stereotypes at Home

Leave Stereotypes at Home

A lot of the stuff we hear about other countries is extremely biased for a number of reasons. When going somewhere new, keep an open mind about the people. Places may not be as dangerous as depicted on the news. Be safe, but don’t assume everyone is looking to pickpocket you. 

Let a Local Teach You

Let a Local Teach You

If a local takes the time to teach you about something, take some time to learn. Learning about someone’s culture can be extremely fun, and it’s one of the most rewarding things about traveling. 

Respect “No”

Respect “No”

If someone says “no,” then respect it. This goes for everywhere, but especially abroad. Don’t be a rude tourist that continues to push a local into doing something they don’t want to do. Plus, you don’t want to end up in jail overseas!

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Slow Down

Slow Down

Slow down, take a breath, and chill out. Other countries don’t move as fast as America. Some places even take naps in the middle of the day! Chances are, everyone around you won’t be in as much of a rush.

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Be Flexible

Be Flexible

Plans change. Sometimes places are closed for the day, and that isn’t anyone’s fault. Instead of getting upset and stressed out, it’s better to learn to go with the flow. Your vacation will go a lot better.

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Quiet Down

Quiet Down

Americans have a tendency to be very loud. It’s a stereotype that’s plagued us for ages, but it’s often very true. When abroad, lower your voice. If the person can’t hear you, then you can speak up. Also, never shout at someone across a room just to avoid walking a few steps.

Stay at Locally-Owned Inns

Stay at Locally-Owned Inns

If you want to be really respectful, stay at locally-owned inns. Tourism dollars can mean a lot for some places. Around 20% of Greece’s economy comes from tourism. Instead of staying at commercial resorts, stay locally. A Grecian deserves your money, not Sandals Resorts.

Leave Your Germs at Home

Leave Your Germs at Home

Vaccinate yourself and your children. Also, check on any vaccinations you should get before going to another country. It’s better to be safe than sorry. No one should spend their vacation in a hospital!

Ask Before Taking Pictures of Places

Ask Before Taking Pictures of Places

Some places are sacred, and photographs aren’t allowed. Even if there isn’t a sign explicitly posted, ask before taking a photo of an area. If there is a sign posted, do not under any circumstances take a photo. Respect the sign.

Ask Before Taking Pictures of People, Too

Ask Before Taking Pictures of People, Too

Asking before taking pictures goes double for people. It’s understandable that some people just don’t like photos. Whether you’re at home or abroad, ask before lifting your camera and snapping a quick pic.

Decline, but Do So Politely

Decline, but Do So Politely

It’s perfectly alright to say no! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. While you should try to embrace a culture, don’t do something that goes against your morals. Politely tell the other person you’d rather not do what they’re asking.

Do Not Lecture

Do Not Lecture

Everywhere is different, and opinions will clash. Avoid talking about hot topics, and never lecture someone that has a view you consider morally wrong. If you disagree, then simply walk away from the situation.

Buy Locally

Buy Locally

Again, you want your tourist dollars to reach those that deserve the money most. Don’t buy manufactured touristy trinkets. Instead, spend money in locally-owned shops, whether it’s souvenirs, food, or art.

Learn About Tipping

Learn About Tipping

In America, we tip almost everywhere. Overseas, not so much. Tipping could be the difference between insulting your server or having a great meal. A quick Google search should shed some light on the situation. If you can’t Google, just ask your server!

Don’t Ride Elephants

Don’t Ride Elephants

Many popular tourist destinations offer elephant rides. What they don’t tell you is that the elephants are often abused. By skipping the elephant ride, you’re respecting the country and the animal.

Take a Deep Breath

Take a Deep Breath

Culture shock is real, and it can be difficult to deal with. The best way to get through it is to take a deep breath and explore with a positive attitude. If that means you have to stop by McDonalds or Starbucks in another country, then do it without shame.

Be Aware of Gestures

Be Aware of Gestures

It’s easy to make a rude gesture accidentally. For example, devil horns are acceptable in America, but not in Brazil. You’re signaling that someone’s wife is unfaithful. In England, the peace sign (palm facing backward) is equal to saying, “up yours.”

Know Basic Geography

Know Basic Geography

Africa isn’t a country, it’s a continent. Same goes for South America. Knowing basic geography is pretty easy and a great way to be respectful. Also, while visiting a country in South America, don’t say you’re from “America.” Instead, say you’re from “North America” or “The United States.”

Avoid PDA

Avoid PDA

PDA is a pretty touchy subject in some countries. So much as holding hands can be seen as extremely disrespectful. When in doubt, avoid public displays of affection until you’re in private.

Watch What You Say

Watch What You Say

Words aren’t always universal. “Fannie pack” means something completely different here than it does in England. While we’re at it, don’t get offended at something someone says overseas. Cigs are called something a lot different in England than they are here. 

Don’t Always Haggle

Don’t Always Haggle

We have a habit of haggling while overseas, and that’s acceptable in some places. That being said, it isn’t cool everywhere. While you can search cultural norms, you can also look around you to see if haggling is acceptable or not.

Be Careful About Cultural Appropriation

Be Careful About Cultural Appropriation

Whether you disagree or agree about cultural appropriation, it’s something to keep in mind when you’re visiting another country. Wearing a sari may be alright at an Indian friend’s wedding but wearing one while visiting India could garner some angry looks. 

Respect Law Enforcement

Respect Law Enforcement

When in another country, respect their laws and their law enforcement. They aren’t any less official than the ones at home. They can still put you in jail, and you may spend a long time there if you don’t act correctly.

Try New Things

Try New Things

It’s hard to try new things, and that’s understandable. That being said, trying new things can be a good thing. Locals may see trying new things as a way of you embracing their culture.