Cultural Sensitivity

Before you travel to other cultures, learn a few basic rules about how to behave where you are going. All cultures have dos and donts, and you don’t want to consciously offend. Americans have bad reputations in many places, so a few basic rules can keep you from getting into trouble.

The place where I had the most to learn was France. Before sitting down for a meal with French people, learn, for example, that you should keep your hands on the table at all times. Never put them in your lap. This offends many and is easy to avoid. Concentrate! And never expect a large breakfast. The French like bread or a croissant in the morning and generally avoid heavy foods then.

Italy is not a place to act like an American. I had to learn that in meeting any Italian to first engage in small talk and exchange basic pleasantries before asking for directions or where to dine.

Cats were all over Buenos Aires. Strays are accepted in public parks and such, and you will just be an outsider if you complain about them. The same goes for dogs in places like Greece.

Tipping is optional in Australia. I had a good Australian friend who actively hated tipping and would always make his dislike for leaving one in restaurants.

Don’t wear shoes indoors in Japan. Keeping your shoes on inside is a sure way to offend the Japanese.

Don’t talk politics in most places. I recall accidentally hearing ugly American sentiments in Hungary, and I did not know how to deal with this. Talking politics is best avoided elsewhere too. It is not generally deemed proper to talk about the government in most Balkan countries and Greece and The Czech Republic and Moldova and….

It’s not a good idea to bring up the Queen or the royal family in general in Great Britain, and don’t be late for appointments to meet Brits in London and elsewhere.

Never turn down an alcoholic drink in Russia. That is considered rude. Ruth and I were on a Russian cruise ship, and vodka was automatically served with dinner and sparkling wine accompanied breakfast. This is routine and not worth fighting.

Don’t drink tap water in China. If you buy a bottle of water, make sure the seal is not broken. If it is broken, return the bottle for one that has not been tampered with.

Learn the words for hello, please, and thank you most places you travel to. This is especially welcomed in places like Croatia but a good idea everywhere. This practice is always appreciated.

Hank

About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road is...today's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roadsrus

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