If you are a young British tourist reading this, it’s not a great start. We are notoriously bad when it comes to tourism, parading our illusion of superiority over other cultures and having no regard for appropriate social practices. Here’s a few tips to help prevent you from being that ignorant tourist that everyone hates.
If you don’t know the language, learn at least these 5 phrases
Ideally when travelling, it’d be great to learn the language and converse as the locals do, though people understand this is a hard task.
But please, refrain from just speaking at them in English. Learn these 5 important phrases as a bare minimum, and people will appreciate that atleast you are trying.
Hello 🙂 – Goodbye – Thank you – Sorry/Excuse me – Do you speak English?
Using these, as well as some elaborate hand signs, you should be able to get by with a few less unnaproving frowns.
Find out about the culture
If it’s Ibiza, party away. But in some places it is very innapropriate to drink publicly, or party loudly. You are a guest in another culture, and you should behave accordingly with respect to their society.
Your actions will often have far greater impact then words, it doesn’t take long to find out how to greet others and behave appropriately in another culture.
Maybe your bus is 4 hours late or your hostel doesn’t have internet. What we might consider to be ‘unacceptable’ is very much the norm in some other countries, and vica-versa.
This doesn’t mean that they are worse, we are just different societies. Don’t ussume other people will meet your expectations, because they might see things differently. So refrain from getting angry and learn to be patient and understanding.
Don’t judge people for their opinions
This is especially true if travelling to non-western countries. Unfortunately in wealthy western countries we have a habit of thinking we’ve got it all right and that anyone that doesn’t believe in Capitalism, Democracy, Equality or Human Rights is simply ignorant.
Fortunately, not everyone is like us. So don’t judge someone for not thinking like you, and accept that your beliefs are a product of the society you live in and not superior knowledge. You might think you are standing up for what’s right, but in all likelihood you are just trying to force your opinions down someone’s throat.
Be genuinely interested in other people
When talking with other travellers or locals, try to avoid just dictating your life story. Ask them questions about theirs instead. Most people like talking about themselves, but it’s nice to have a discussion, not a monologue.
Sharing your own experiences is great, and other travellers will be interested in your stories, just don’t over do it.
Avoid one-upping people
Maybe you are amazing at sports, graduated from Cambridge or visited lots of countries. That’s cool! But don’t try one-up people and rub it in, just be humble about your achievements and praiseworthy of others.
You don’t need to hide what you’ve done in life, but don’t use it to show someone you are ‘better’ then them.
* Disclaimer: I’m definitely guilty of all of the above, that’s probably how I ended up learning about them in the first place.*