Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Make yourself a welcome visitor in other countries

Travel is enriching, exciting, and expands your viewpoint of the world. But when traveling abroad, many things are different from life in the U.S. American tourists have gotten a bad name in the past, not undeservedly, because some people expect foreign countries to conform to American standards rather than respecting the hosting culture.
Here are some things to remember when traveling abroad:

Not everyone speaks English.  Sure, it’s the global language, and you can usually find someone with at least a modicum of English ability (It’s taught in school in many other countries, after all). But if you travel even slightly off the beaten path, finding someone fluent in English may not happen. Make an effort to learn a few common phrases (there are apps for your smartphone that help with this), and don’t get flustered if you have to resort to pointing and gesturing. That works, too.
Shopping for pearl jewelry at Fakkarava
in the South Pacific
You may have to buy with cash instead of credit.  Don’t be surprised if local vendors won’t take your credit card, so be sure to have cash in the currency of the country you’re visiting. Cash also gives you bargaining power when you want to purchase something or negotiate a taxi fare. Just keep it in a safe place and don’t flash it around.

High prices often come with the territory. Know before you go. And if you choose to visit a city where everything is expensive, just suck it up. That’s the price of traveling to your preferred destination, so plan for it.
McDonald's on Tahiti
Skip chain restaurants; it may not be the same as home anyway. So you’re collecting Hard Rock t-shirts from every city you visit? For a better dining experience, skip McDonald’s, KFC, and other places you can dine at when home (their recipes may not be what you expect!). Seek out local restaurants where you’ll experience more authentic cuisine and a more representative ambience of the country you’re visiting.

Snapping pictures continuously can be annoying. Put your camera away for awhile and actually enjoy the scenery. Mental images are often the best when viewing outstanding landscapes because sometimes capturing the scene via camera is just impossible. Also, people-watching from street cafes can fill an interesting hour or two—no need to click the camera.
Stay out of trouble. Research quirky customs and proper etiquette before your trip. If you’re driving, be sure to observe road rules. Dispose of trash properly. Be polite and respectful of the people and their culture. You’ll be rewarded with new friends eager to share the wonders of their country with you.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier and free images



Cindy Ladage said...

I find your tips to be so true. Learning a bit of French before heading out to Paris was a good move. Even though I am sure I horrified the locals, they appreciated my effort. Why travel abroad if you want an American experience?

Lesley Peterson said...

All so true, Beverly, especially the part about putting the camera down once in a while. It can act as a barrier if you only see the destination through the lens.