My husband Bernie and I are about to head to Europe for a much-needed vacation. As such, I’m brushing up on my international travel etiquette. Even though I spent a lot of time growing up in France and Venezuela, I still find myself on uncertain footing in places that are foreign to me. But that’s part of the fun! Challenge yourself to be a better traveler by following these travel tips:
-Learn a little language. If you’re visiting a country where English is not the mother tongue, do yourself and the locals a favor by learning at least a few key phrases. You needn’t be fluent in French, but it will greatly help you be more independent and respectful—why rely on others to speak English? For starters, teach yourself the sayings for hello, goodbye, excuse me (in case you accidentally bump into someone), please, thank you, how much, and where. Don’t get frustrated if you stop and ask a local for directions and they don’t speak English.
-Walk this way. Observe the rules of traffic. In the UK people, like cars, tend to walk on the left, which is the opposite of how we walk here in the States. They also have “zebra crossings,” which are black and white striped road crossings (Beatles fans will recall the iconic Abbey Road photo) which give pedestrians the right of way. If you have rented a car, you must stop at these crossings if a pedestrian is present. If you are walking, go ahead and cross—standing there and waving cars on will only slow traffic further.
-Brush up on local etiquette. Every country has its own set of mores. In some areas it’s considered offensive to use the left hand when waving or handing over money. In other countries, being showy or loud can rub others the wrong way. I recommend reading the etiquette section of your guidebook before you go. As a general rule, though, being polite and having good manners will get you far!
-Roll with the punches. Every culture has its own customs, some of which may seem odd or unconventional to us. We may be served food that we wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. However, it’s always best to be respectful and enjoy the ride. Acting like a baby or a giggling five-year-old is rude. After all, why even leave the house if you expect everything to be just like home?