International Travel Etiquette
Last updated on 10/14/2021
International etiquette is more than knowing which side of the road to drive on and which fork to use at dinner. It is more about understanding and respecting other cultures, traditions, and customs while avoiding an ethnocentric mindset.
Ethnocentrism is defined as an evaluation of other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of one’s own culture. Basically, being a judgmental tourist.
Culture Tips for International Travel
Mexico is a popular destination for American tourists, but some customs still elude those from the United States. For many Americans visiting a souvenir shop, they are used to paying the price as marked without any opportunity for debate. However, in Mexico, many shop owners expect shoppers to negotiate and try to haggle on the price of a snowglobe.
In addition to feeling out of your comfort zone in this type of unfamiliar scenario, acting in the wrong way may cause you to stand out as a tourist, which could draw unwelcome attention.
Before visiting a new destination - whether it be across the country or across the world - it is always a good idea to do some research on common customs and customs so you can know what to expect and how to best blend in with the locals.
Americans are notorious for being fans of personal space. The idea of getting too close to a stranger makes some people downright squeamish. However, our neighbors to the north in Canada have a somewhat different view. "Quebec Kisses" on the cheek are a common greeting. Across Europe, cheek kisses are as common as an American handshake.
However, in India, kissing is viewed much more intimately and is a rarity to see in a public forum.
Etiquette tip: Embrace the love of a kissing culture, even if it feels slightly odd at first. Follow the lead of the locals if you feel comfortable. Visiting a non-kissing culture? Don’t push your lips around, but know what is expected before you arrive.
While there may not be many nude or topless beaches in the United States, they are very common in European cultures.
However, in some countries, the residents may opt for much more stringent dress codes, covering themselves almost completely from head to toe. Visitors to these counties may also be required you to do the same.
But then there are cultures who opt for much more stringent dress codes, covering themselves from the human eye. They may also require you to do the same. Remember, you’re a guest in their culture, their home. You’ll need to know what is expected.
Etiquette tip: Don’t get caught staring, no matter the level of undress. Our recommendation is to always remember that you are a guest while traveling and follow local recommendations. Most importantly, be knowledgeable about the culture of your destination so you’ll know what is expected upon arrival.
A New York Minute
Americans are used to speed and immediate gratification. We want our orders taken now, our food served fast, and online purchases delivered before we go to bed. This may be one of the hardest concepts for international rookies to learn, but the rest of the world does not work like this. India has a very unique look at time, so much so that a late train is not considered a big deal for them.
Etiquette tip: For every New York Minute, there is an equal and greater travel minute. Just take a breath and enjoy the fact you are somewhere new, experiencing something wonderful.
General Tips for Americans Traveling Abroad
Always remember to be polite and kind. Those traits are inherently human and speak volumes in all cultures. Get out there and see the world but please, for the respect to the locals, consider leaving the selfie-stick at home.