Over the years I’ve seen, heard and smelt some pretty dreadful ‘tourists’ that can make me want to crawl under a rock until they are gone. Folks, if you’re travelling overseas, particularly in a country where you don’t understand the language and the culture – curb your idiosyncrasies and try to blend in.
An example would be in Burma where I spotted a couple at a monastery where it was clearly stated to cover up. But no, they wore cut off denim shorts and a tank top for her and long slung shorts with a muscle shirt for him. This blatant disregard was cringe-worthy and despite a discreet comment by their guide, they laughed it off and continued into the monastery as if the local customs didn’t apply to them. Yowsers!
Now I’m not here to be the Proper Police but there are a few steps you can take to travel without looking like a dick and be respectful to the people in that country. Remember, you are representing your country – an unofficial ambassador so make a good impression.
Tip #1 Dress appropriately
Do a little homework before you go so you are prepared. I nearly always have a large scarf in my tote bag just in case I need to cover up at a temple or shrine (or keep the sun off, make a pillow and so much more). If you dress loud you’re also making yourself a target for thieves. Tone it down. Blend in. This isn’t the time or place to be a fashionista.
Tip #2 Use your manners
Can’t believe I have to say this one but people tend to forget their manners while away. Everywhere in the world, being polite and saying please and thank you gets you a long way.
Tip #3 Don’t be obnoxious
Obnoxious and demanding tourists are a pain in the butt. If something isn’t going as planned – don’t shoot the messenger. Stay calm and work it through. I know that’s a challenge and recently in Jordan, it was hard to hold onto my frustration as I battled with a visa but I knew they were doing the best they could in the confines of their regulations. My getting angry wouldn’t have helped and in fact, it was my politeness that got things over the line.
Tip #4 Don’t be loud
Only one other person in the world will know what this means (and you need to say it with a southern accent) “Oh my God Marianna it’s a peacock!” I was travelling with a girlfriend in China and a very loud American tourist kept banging on about everything she saw – loudly. And she wasn’t even with us – she was in a tour group that was trailing behind the two of us. We knew exactly what was going on by her running commentary. Painful and Annoying. Be mindful of those around you and use your ‘inside voice’.
Tip #5 Don’t tell everyone why your country is better than the one you’re in now
If you’re the type of person who continually says things like “the trains are much better where I come from” OR “the service is faster in my country” OR “we wouldn’t let that happen in my town” – stay home! We all love where we come from but we don’t have to compare that to where we are. Accept the difference and take it in your stride. Don’t be a travel dick!
Tip #6 Don’t take photos without asking
You may think that people can’t see you but they can. Well sometimes. I use an iPhone as my camera so if I want a close-up, I literally have to get right in their face. Therefore, I ask first and around 80% of the time it’s okay. But in others, it isn’t, particularly the Middle East where they are wary of social media. Ask first. Be discreet. You can also share your photo with people – people love that.
Tip #7 Don’t get drunk and make a fool of yourself
Having just returned from Cairo it was made clear to me by a local that getting drunk is frowned upon – a lot! And this goes for other countries as well. It’s not a good look to be vomiting your guts up outside a museum or passed out in your hotel foyer. By all means, imbibe but everything in moderation. Save the binges for when you’re back home. Oh yeh – getting hammered is also a great way of an opportunist thief stealing from you.
Tip #8 Don’t poo poo things
“Aww the food isn’t nice here!” “Weather is a bit crappy!” “Don’t they know what fries are?” Yes, I’ve heard it all and more. People who travel to a new country and yet expect things to be the same as their own. They’ll be pick, pick, picky until it drives you crazy and want to say “why do you bother travelling if you pick faults?” Take a breath people and enjoy the differences that a country has to offer.
Tip #9 Think everyone should speak English
In the mid 20th century 9% of people spoke English worldwide. By 2050 it’ll be 5%. So understand that if you only speak English you are in fact in the minority. If travelling to a non-English speaking country, it’s courteous to try to learn at least a few words in the local language and brush up on your gestures, body language and pointing. And add a big smile to that as well.
Tip #10 Ignore the local rules or play dumb to them
Read and listen! Don’t pretend you didn’t see that sign that said “do not enter” or ignore the “stay off the grass”. And if you’re caught don’t be one of those tourist idiots who puts on a dumb look on their face and says “I didn’t see/understand/know”. Do the right thing, as you’d expect others to do in your own country.
You are a guest in a country and you don’t have God-given rights because you are from overseas. Travelling is an opportunity to step out of the skin of your own country and step into another.
Now it’s your turn.
Share your annoying travel stories.
Leave a comment below.