One of the reasons people travel is to see new places and meet new people. There is an opportunity to see another way of life and experience cultures that are different from our own. We want to bottle up our experience (or capture it on video/image) and take it home with us to share with others. But, how often have you stopped to wonder if you’re crossing a line with the people that call that place home?
Before visiting any location some care should be taken to understand what the local norms are. If you’re visiting a conservative culture don’t pack your short shorts and spaghetti tanks, even if it will be scorching hot. When visiting religious sites, take time to plan ahead of time to dress appropriately. Do a little bit of research on local customs of interpersonal interaction and social taboos. This can go a long way to make sure you’re seen as a welcome guest instead of an invading tourist.
Curb Your Desire to Photograph Everything
Photos are an important part of traveling, you want to remember your trip. However, before you take a picture, and especially before you photograph people and children take a step back. Put yourself in the shoes of your subject. Would you want someone photographing you without your permission? If there’s a scene you really want to capture, or someone engaging in an activity that you’d love to remember, ask them first. Even offer them (if it’s a trades person, shopkeeper, etc) a small amount of money in exchange for the picture. If photography is really important to you, and you’re visiting a country that you don’t speak the language fluently, learn how to ask if it’s ok to take a picture before you go. Really a little bit of courtesy goes a long way.
Be on Your Best Behavior
We’ve all experienced situations where there’s been a raucous group of people in a hotel, on a train, or in another public setting acting obnoxious. Being on your best behavior goes along with being respectful. Alcohol has a way of bringing out the worst in people, so keeping your consumption in check is one way to help this. It’s also no secret that when traveling exhaustion and nerves fuse short quickly. It’s not ever good to go off the handle at those in service positions trying to assist you. Stay well rested and be as patient as possible so that you don’t end up looking like the spoiled, demanding visitor.
These are just a few of the ways visitors can respect locals while traveling. Do you have other suggestions? What is some of the worst behavior you’ve seen while traveling?