Traveling abroad creates confusing situations out of activities that are everyday back home. Whether for vacation or business, your trip should be about enjoyment, not worrying about offending your hosts or under-tipping the wait staff. Follow these do’s and don’ts, take a deep breath, and relax. Let’s go see the world!
Do your research. Etiquette varies so much from place to place that it is best to ask a local or consult the many Internet resources about a particular location’s tipping customs, table manners, and any other situations that you are likely to encounter. Vayama offers one option for research. Also, for our US readers, check the State Department for travel warnings and tips for traveling abroad. But do realize you may make a mistake. If you do, just apologize with grace. A good host would not hold ignorance of customs against you.
Don’t hold up the line. Your homemade jam may make the best hostess gift but may require you to check your bag. If you are carrying anything that TSA may find questionable, review their guidelines online before you leave for the airport.
Do be considerate of fellow passengers. Avoid dominating both armrests, playing your music too loudly (when permitted at all,) or taking so long to turn off your phone that the plane is late for take off. And for the sake of anyone over 5’4s knees, recline your seatback slowly.
Don’t get caught unprepared. Flight delays, bad weather and more can put a damper on a trip but bringing along a book or other entertainment can at least distract in the meantime.
Do respect houses of worship. Many popular tourist destinations include sacred places, from the Sistine Chapel to the Tian Tan Buddha. Often, these areas require more modest clothing than other local destinations so pay special attention when planning your trip. For instance, in Italy it can be very helpful to carry a pashmina that can put around bare shoulders to visit the many churches.
Don’t give in to language barriers. Some areas may require the use of a translator or guide, but technology also offers many solutions. Consider purchasing a handheld electronic translator or download an app to your phone to help with longer transactions. Learning a few key phrases will also help you get around and will show locals your interest in their culture.
Lastly, do dress smart on travel day. Dress comfortably, with layers, in shoes that you can slip on and off for security. We do miss, however, the days where one dressed up to fly (at least the dressing-up part.) So pick the comfortable maxidress or well-fitting jeans but please leave the sarongs for the beach and the sweatpants for home.
Please share etiquette you’ve learned while traveling in the comments. (Embarrassing stories about how you learned them are optional- but encouraged!) Traveling to the US? Here’s our advice for tipping. Loving the tassel pictured above? It’s from our June 2012 issue, along with two other great travel DIY projects.