You've dreamt of this trip for a long time and now that it is planned and scheduled you're ready. But are you? Do you know the do's and don'ts of the culture you're visiting? One of my tasks is to prepare you for the trip - everything from packing lists to dietary needs, language services, luggage services, and yes...social behaviors.
Before your trip, research a bit about the country you’re headed to. You don’t have to know a lot, but general awareness is important, and people will appreciate that you’re informed,” says Gayle Cotton, author of Say Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication. To prepare, there’s a wealth of resources to browse online, including CultureGrams, downloadable guides to more than 200 countries.
Don't: Forget Your Manners
Learn a few words in the country’s language, such as “hello,” “goodbye,” “please,” and “thank you." The free iTranslate app is great and has more than 90 languages.
Do: Keep Your Hands to Yourself
Be careful with your hand gestures. In China, it’s rude to point with your index finger, and in Brazil, the gesture that means “A-OK” in the U.S. (making a circle by touching your index finger to your thumb) is considered obscene. Use an open hand – not just an index finger – if you need to point at something, and in general, avoid peace signs, thumbs-ups, and other gestures that may not mean the same in your travel destination as they do at home.
Don't: Be Disrespectful
Speaking negatively about the royal family in Thailand is an offense so serious it could land you in prison. And even if people don’t speak your language, they may still understand you.
"Don’t talk loudly about how strange the local dress is or how bizarre the food tastes", says Lanie Denslow, president of the Protocol & Diplomacy International – Protocol Officers Association. “Your behavior sets a reputation for your home country.”
Do: Cover Up, Especially in Conservative Countries
In Muslim countries such as Morocco, women should dress modestly. Pack long pants or skirts, and shirts that have a collar and cover the shoulders. Bring a light scarf and use it to cover your head or arms before entering sacred buildings. Consider some of the places you'll visit regardless of whether you think the country is conservative or not. If visiting the stunning architecture and glittering gold mosaics of the Basilica di San Marco in Venice, women will absolutely not be allowed inside the church with shoulders or knees visible. While waiting to enter, you will see plenty in line not covered but they will be pulled aside and made to purchase a cover up for around one euro once you get closer to the door. Cover up or expect to buy a cover.
Don't: Photograph Someone Without Permission
Some of the most stunning travel shots capture citizens of other cultures, but don’t start snapping away without getting permission. If there’s a language barrier, hold your camera toward your subject and politely nod to let them know you’d like to take their picture.
Now you're almost ready. However, I'll make sure you know the ins and outs of cultural mores of the country you are visiting. The last thing either of us wants is for you to be called out as a thoughtless (or worse) tourist when you'd rather be known as a citizen of the world.
'til next week.
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I create indulgent, transformative vacations for people who crave immersive travel. If you don't have the time to plan the details of your own well-deserved escape, don't know where to begin, or are simply longing to make unforgettable memories with those you love, then don’t wait another day. Let's talk.
Contact: GLOBAL EXOTIC ADVENTURES - Juliet Weller, Founder