I have had the great fortune and privilege of being able to travel in recent years. My husband and I travel several times a year domestically and once every two years or so, we travel internationally.
Being a tourist, especially in a foreign country, one has a certain responsibility to be as respectful as one can of the traditions and expectations of the specific country. US foreign policy doesn’t give us the go ahead to be obnoxious or get away with “typical” American behavior. It is my strong opinion, that when traveling abroad, one drop all notions that US conveniences or ways of life extend globally. You cannot always expect such things as bellmen or elevators or the restaurant staff promptly bringing the bill shortly after dessert. Even washcloths are absent from hotel bathrooms in Europe, so if you are not a soap-in-hand kind of latherer, bring your own.
Language is also something that can be a hindrance or a fun learning tool. If you are traveling outside the US, and the country has their own language, don’t assume everyone will speak English. Why would you think that? French tourists traveling here don’t expect us to respond with mais bien sûr (but of course), after they order their morning café au lait. Nor should we have the same expectation. Learn the basics. Hello, Thank You, Goodbye, Bathroom, How Much, I would like, etc. Also learn the customs, such as in Italy and France shop owners like to be greeted upon you entering their store. Not doing so is considered rude.
Last September in France, I did my very best to speak in French. Sometimes it was to say Je parle peu français (I speak little French) if I found myself too deep in the conversation and not understanding. Usually I got a smile and a thorough a game of charades, communication was typically achieved. I had a little difficulty at a restaurant in Normandy when I began in French and then had to revert to English, but still the waitress spoke to me in French, even though she spoke to the table beside us in broken English. I did have a small victory while we were in a local farmers market in Bourges (not touristy, therefore no English). We were given the task of getting things for our lunch for a picnic later in the day. I managed to get my husband and I a nice slice of duck pâté, herbed olives, a baguette, some ham and two small apple tarts. I was rather pleased with myself!
I have never really considered myself a tourist, even when traveling. I try to blend in clothing wise, I never hold a map up and look about aimlessly, nor do I display my camera around my neck. I am the master of the 3 sec. shot. Provided no one is in the frame, with stealth-like precision I get my shot within 3 seconds and get out of the way. Oblivious photo-taking tourists drive me insane. Get your shot and get the hell out of the way, other people want the same photo you do. I didn’t even bother with the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. I’m not personally drawn to it anyway, but I did take a photo of everyone else taking photos. The photo provides a fun memory of the experience.
Enjoying our first summer with our new condo in downtown Seattle, I now have a new understanding regarding tourists. We live just two blocks from the famed Pike Place Market. We’ve had a beautiful summer and the cruise ships have been in port. I love the fresh flowers at the market and just can’t seem to remember what a madhouse it is each and every time I venture to the market to get a colorful bouquet. I forget, I’m now living in a tourist destination. I kind of have sympathy for the Venetians and Parisians now.
A few travel tips:
I don’t care what you wear (in Seattle). Unlike the rule, no white tennis shoes in Paris.
Don’t stop in the middle of a crowded walkway or any walkway. If you need to stop, step aside.
Don’t take more then 10 sec. to take a photo.
Don’t text and walk. Look where you are going!
Don’t crowd or push your way to the front. I have noticed this about a certain group of people. In your country it’s fine, but don’t do it here! It’s very rude.
Please wear deodorant!
Assume the way of life & customs of the country you are in.
Don’t assume you are in your homeland.
Learn language pleasantries of the country your are visiting.
We visit different countries and areas to experience what they have to offer. Ultimately we spend our money to eat, shop and be entertained by a hosting city. It is a give and take relationship on both sides. Just because another country is different, doesn’t mean it’s bad or wrong. It’s part of traveling, you just have to go with it. If I learned anything while traveling, it’s to sit back and enjoy the ride. Because fighting it truly can ruin the experience. And isn’t that what it’s all about, the experience?