Traveling abroad can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences a person can have. You should learn about foreign cultures, explore unfamiliar locations, and expand your knowledge. However, you should be wary of any potential mistakes you can make. Here are common travel mistakes Americans make and how to avoid them.
Americans do certain things in foreign countries that can be considered rude and even, in some cases, against the law.
Common Travel Mistakes Americans Make
Not Respecting the Local Culture and Religion
While your personal style is your choice, there are certain societal norms that you have to abide by in a foreign country. Wearing a tank top and a pair of shorts may be an ideal outfit for a visit to the beach, but it is unacceptable to wear when exploring religious temples and museums.
Most places have legible signs regarding the dress code and allowed behavior, so as long as you act accordingly, you won’t have any issues. If the landmark you’re visiting has no signs, you can consult an employee, your tour guide, or even a local resident.
Not Preparing Before You Travel
The crucial element to traveling out of the country is your passport. You cannot leave the U.S. without a valid passport, which the Department of State issues. To simplify and speed up the process, you can take a professional passport photo online and have it sent to your email.
After that, you must deliver them to the Department of State with your application and wait for your passport to be ready. However, some countries might require you to get a visa to enter legally.
So, research the specific country, and make sure you have all the required documents.
Assuming Everyone Speaks English
The English language is, without a doubt, the most internationally spoken language. That, however, doesn’t mean that everyone you encounter understands and speaks it. Especially when you are going to a country where English isn’t one of the official languages, it isn’t nice to assume that people can automatically understand you.
To avoid this misstep, the best method is to ask the person you are addressing whether they speak English. If they say they do, you can ask your questions; if not, move on and try to find an English-speaking person.
Expect Things To Be Exactly Like Home
All countries are different from each other, and that is a good thing. That diversity makes this world beautiful and is the reason we love traveling. So, you shouldn’t expect everything to be exactly like in the States.
Maybe some countries don’t have certain luxuries like car services, or perhaps they go by different names. Expecting everything to be catered to your tastes and habits will leave you disappointed, and you might miss out on the good things the area can offer.
Eating on the Move
You may be used to eating while running errands or riding public transport, but that’s unacceptable in many countries – both in Europe and East Asia. If you are traveling to a country where eating in a public and crowded space is considered a faux pas, you might want to hold off until you are in an area designated for that.
There will be cafes, restaurants, and pubs everywhere you go, so if you don’t want to eat inside your accommodation, you can choose one of those locations.
Sticking to One Part of the Country
A common mistake everyone makes when planning their travels is not gathering information about the place they’ll be visiting. This way, they see a few landmarks and end up going home disappointed with their journey.
So, give yourself time and plan out what you can see. Don’t just explore one part – if you have the means, check what other sights and significant locations there may be. Going to a place to say you’ve visited won’t leave a memorable impression you can share with your friends and family for years to come.
Ignoring Lesser-Known Destinations
Understandably, you are drawn to the most popular travel destinations, like the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal. However, there are many more, just as significant landmarks in every country; they might not be as famous, but a trip to them will definitely be worth it. Not to mention, it cheapens your experience.
Instead of following the crowds, spend some time talking to the locals, and they will be sure to point you to unique places you wouldn’t have known existed otherwise.
Questioning a Local Resident’s Accent
If you happen to run into a local person that speaks English, try to restrain yourself from commenting on their accent. To most of these people, English is a second or even third language, so it is natural that their pronunciation is a little stronger.
Even if your comments are made with the best intentions, they can still be rude and pretentious. Unless your conversation partner brings it up, their accent should not be a subject of discussion.
Asking For Separate Checks
When eating out in a foreign country, especially in a bigger group, it could be considered highly disrespectful to ask for a separate check. In most parts of the world, people split the total into equal sums for everyone who shared a meal.
Just follow the rest of the group when you are unsure whether to ask for a separate check or pay an even part. If everyone else asks to pay separately, then you can too. Otherwise, try not to go against the grain in these social situations.
Before you travel to a foreign country, don’t forget to do your research. Learn about the local customs, regulations, and expectations, especially if you’re planning a more extended trip.
Try your best to be respectful to the locals and the rules in place – sometimes, learning a word or two can get the residents to warm up to you and be more hospitable. As long as you are considerate, you can rest assured that your trip will be worth remembering.