Which One Are You?
Dreaming of where you’ll go for your next vacation? There are some distinct differences between the distinguished traveler versus those deemed as a ‘tacky tourist.’
With the increase in accessibility to more affordable around the world airfares, the world has become more of an aggregation of multiculturally diverse neighborhoods, rather than far-away places. With this in mind, the need to be a culturally respectful traveler is of paramount importance. The hope of many globetrotters is to ‘blend-in’ with the locals. So how do you avoid sticking out like a sore thumb when you’re not in your own backyard? Here is some ‘food for thought’ for you to consider before planning your next adventure.
A Rude Awakening for the ‘Uncivilized Pilgrim’
Distinguishing yourself as a ‘traveler’ rather than a ‘tourist’ means that you’ll need to learn to immerse yourself in the landscape of wherever you are. Developing cultural respect involves preparation, and is a necessary part of your planning that should not be ignored.
If you’ve traveled to Europe and had a negative experience due to the locals appearing to be either rude or impolite, did you ever stop to think about your part in the exchange? Many tourists put curating their ideal itinerary at the top of their planning ‘To Do’ list. However, doing some pertinent research into local life and etiquette will prove to edify your experience as a distinguished traveler and minimize the plight that would befall a ‘tacky tourist.’
It’s All A Matter Of Respect
1. Remember – “Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot” – ~Clarence Thomas~
Each country and region of the world has a specific idea about what is considered polite. Nowadays, it is considered poor travel etiquette not to have learned the basics of getting around, including the way in which you meet and greet a local. Determining how to properly greet, and how to address someone appropriately will go a long way, especially when you require assistance.
When visiting many destinations across Europe, the way you approach your greeting can either make or break your interaction with a local. Italians, while seemingly relaxed and casual at times, are quite formal in their communication; particularly while shopping.
If you are planning a visit to Italy, Italians pride themselves on providing one on one service placing importance on formality. Upon entering a shop, don’t announce your presence loudly as this may interrupt the service of other patrons. Also of note, don’t rifle through a display in an attempt to find your size. Peruse the shop with your eyes only and be patient. Once it is your turn, you will be attended to with the same care and concern given to the other patron. When an assistant is free, they will help you find what you are looking for. Politely preface your greeting with ‘Buongiorno’ before lunchtime or ‘Buona sera’ in the afternoon and evening. Pay attention to how you have been received as this will allow you to ‘excuse yourself’ if required and start again.
2. Dress Appropriately – No Matter What the Weather!
When packing for your trip consider the weather for the duration of your journey alongside the activities that you choose to do. Check out the local fashion before you go and find out what the acceptable dress codes are for every aspect of your trip. The expectation for little cafes will differ from that of certain restaurants. Without question, places of worship will require a particular modest adjustment to your clothing. Your tank top and ripped jean shorts may be offensive to some in certain cultures, even if it is the height of summer and it’s sweltering outside.
A sarong or pashmina for women is very versatile to either cover the shoulders or use as a head covering. For men, if you’re going to a restaurant, check whether a shirt and jacket are required. In casual situations, choose simple, clean t-shirts, or short sleeve polos. Your goal is to dress with propriety at all times.
3. Behave In a Manner Worthy of You
As with your manners, your behavior will either have a door opened for you or proverbially slammed in your face. What is commonplace for you may be incredibly offensive to others. This is especially true regarding simple hand gestures. There are plenty of infographics regarding hand gestures that may offend depending on the country. Saying ‘hello’ in Greece by simply raising your open palm to someone is the equivalent of saying ‘talk-to-the-hand,’ in even more offensive terms.
4. Ask Before You Photograph!
The laws in every country vary when it comes to photographing anything including individual buildings, places of worship and even people.
While filling your Insta profile with beautiful memories may be tempting, in the Middle East, it is not acceptable to take an unsolicited photograph of a Muslim woman. While she may be a part of the perfect exhibit of local life, it’s a crime with a substantial fine if you have not sought permission to do so.
No matter where you are, it is a good rule of thumb to look around for any signs prohibiting photography. If you don’t see any, always ask if you aren’t sure.
World travel is an exciting and enriching experience when you can appreciate the everyday life and customs as the locals do. The art of becoming a distinguished traveler is more than just decorating your passport with stamps that chronicle your experiences. Tourists take photos of the locals, travelers make friends with them.