My husband and I love to travel, but time and time again our trips have been marred (though thankfully not completely!) by those who practice poor travel etiquette. Some people seem to leave their manners at home when they go on vacation, and it can turn an idyllic journey into a stressful, unpleasant experience. As we head into summer, let’s try to make a good impression abroad by following these etiquette pointers:
-Be quiet. I seem to always get stuck next to the person blaring loud music out of their iPods, or chatting loudly on their cell phones about personal matters. I know some trains offer quiet coaches that ban these activities, but wouldn’t it be nice if everyone just respected each other and turned the volume down? The same goes for when you’re watching TV in your hotel room, or having a boisterous conversation during dinner in a nice restaurant. (Remember: One person’s friendly American is another’s unbearably loud, obnoxious stereotype.)
-Be patient. I’m still shocked when I see grown people push each other to get off airplanes, or storm onto a train or bus without waiting for other people to disembark. What’s the rush? It also helps to be patient when trying to communicate in a foreign country. The locals are being patient to help you… the least you can do is do the same! So many people visit foreign places and expect everyone to speak English. When they find that’s not the case, they get upset. I’ve been watching “The Amazing Race” and one contestant has constantly belittled those who couldn’t speak English (even when she was in China). In last night’s finale she arrived in the US and hopped in a cab driven by a man with an Asian accent. Instead of working with him to get to her destination, she bemoaned his language skills and called him a “dumbass”—to his face. Talk about an “Ugly American.”
-Be prepared. Whether you’re traveling to the Ozarks or Istanbul, you should always do some research before you go. Learn some key phrases, get an understanding of the place’s geography and customs, and make a real effort to be independent and informed. Don’t just expect some local to take you by the hand and guide you to everywhere you want to go—not unless you’re paying them!
With a little effort you can get more out of your vacation and make the experience more enjoyable for you and everyone around you. Traveling is supposed to be fun, remember?