• How to be a good tourist

    2013-09-26

    Let's face it, Americans don't exactly have the best reputation for being good tourists. Many people perceive us as loud, rude and ignorant, which is unfortunate, seeing that many American travelers are quite polite and unassuming. If you want to help fight the "obnoxious American" stereotype, then there are a few things you should keep in mind when you travel:

    Don't expect English
    It's true that many foreign countries have populations that speak English, even if it's not the national language. However, assuming that everyone in Berlin or Amsterdam will be fluent in your language is inappropriate. Though you can't be expected to master the language of every nation you visit, it's a good idea to know some basic phrases before you ship off, including "Does anyone here speak English?" If you find that people in the region you are visiting aren't proficient in English, don't get angry or frustrated. Instead, do your best to use gestures and phrase books to make communication easier.

    You can't take it with you
    History buffs love to visit ancient ruins or important historical sites, but no matter how fascinating such locations are, you should not under any circumstances attempt to pocket any of the natural items nearby to take home as a souvenir. It may not seem like much of a big deal if you pocket a single stone or seashell, but imagine what would happen if every single tourist did so? In no time, Stonehenge would be little more than an empty field.

    You compare, you despair
    When you embark on international travel, you're bound to encounter some cultural differences that stop you in your tracks. It may be irritating when a restaurant doesn't have your favorite brand of jelly, and you might find it utterly confusing to see motorists driving on the left side of the road, but remember, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Don't make too many comparisons to the way things are done in your home country - after all, these quirks are completely normal to natives in the nation you're visiting.

    Be proud, not confrontational
    America is a great nation, and it's played a major part in modern world history. While it's perfectly fine to be proud of where you come from, it's also important to recognize that many global citizens have pride for their homeland. You shouldn't be embarrassed that you are from the U.S., but avoid making statements that might lead foreigners to think that you don't value their culture and history as well.  

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