Submitted Date 02/09/2019

Have you been planning on taking an Instagram worth travel adventure in the near future? If so, lucky you! But, you, of course, want to always have the best experience on your vacation and NEVER want to be the clueless tourist who offends the locals. That’s why we want to give you some advice on how to be a well-respected tourist.

Blowing Bubbles in Singapore
Although chewing gum is outlawed in Singapore, you make have ignorantly smuggled some Dubble Bubble during your travels. Consequently, smacking your gum in Singapore will not only attract some dirty looks but will also count as a punishable crime. So when going on vacation to Singapore… maybe stick to mints.

Miscommunication in England
As an American, when somebody asks me: “Are you okay?” This either means I seem upset or not feeling my best. According to some of my friends who lived in London for a few months, this question has a completely different meaning to Londoners. In London, asking if you are okay is more equivalent to “how are you” or ask what’s up. So if a British friend asks if you are okay, have no fear! You aren’t coming off sickly or overly emotional. They just want to make friendly conversation.

Harmless Bragging in Australia
There is something a little fun yet harmless about bragging about ourselves. Sometimes we even see it as a form of pride and confidence for our accomplishments. We might even love bragging to friends about visiting a beautiful place like Australia! However, bragging isn’t always so harmless in Australia. Drawing attention to your own achievements is often seen to be in poor taste. During your next trip down under, think about texting a friend from home to let out your excitement!

Effortless English in Spain
Especially if you’re a tourist, it is quite likely you aren’t going to be fluent in Spanish when you go to visit. Spanish locals are more than willing to speak English with you, but depending on how you approach the conversation, you could end up looking like a rude tourist. Therefore, when initiating conversation in Spain, do your best to try and speak the native language first. If they see you are struggling, they will appreciate the effort and be more than willing to discuss in English. Apps like Duolingo and Google Translate can help you if you have no previous Spanish speaking experience. It may seem small, but it can divide you from the traditional rude American tourist stereotype.

Coffee With Your Commute in Japan
Considering I live in the fast-paced city of Chicago, I often bring my java of choice on my morning train commute, sometimes accompanied by a messy bagel. However, in Japan, this is a major faux pas and will definitely highlight you as a clueless tourist. Upon further research on this topic, I found that there are actually quite a few faux pas one should look out for while visiting in Japan, so comment below if you would like to see a follow-up article! Otherwise, make time in your schedule to dine before your public commute.

Hopefully, these tips will help you feel comfortable respecting cultural conditions when visiting new countries. If you would like to see more article like this, spike my post, leave a comment, share on social media, or email me at Bon Voyage!

Replace intimidation with curiosity. Be your authentic self with everyone you meet, so you make authentic connections.


Please login to post comments on this story

  • Andrea Hope 3 years, 7 months ago

    Good observations. How many countries have you travelled to? I found the tip for Australia to also be relevant in England - self-deprecation is the norm. I remember watching a series of speeches and each person said 'sorry for wasting your time' or 'but what do I know?' kind of comments. In the US, you gain respect through confidence, so I was quite put off at first.

  • David Ross Washington Jr 3 years, 7 months ago

    Great article. Very helpful. I don't see myself visiting these places too soon, but it's great to know in the near future when I do. I actually went over to visit a few countries in Europe as a student ambassador over a decade ago, and it was quite important that our leaders let us know about cultural respect. Good thing I also learned this in my communication classes in college, but the specifics of these very places did help a bunch.

  • Miranda Fotia 3 years, 5 months ago

    Very helpful! I didn't know about any of these cultural faux pas. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jackie Hemingway 3 weeks ago

    Some sage advice and travel tips Emily. I used to be a more frequent international traveler before Covid, and my preference is Spanish speaking countries. I can speak enough to get by but I cringe when I hear Americans butcher a language when visiting a foreign country. In the Dominican Republic, a traveling companion simply put an ‘O’ at the end of every English word thinking that locals would easily understand them…not so much! Not only did it embarrass them, and me, it highly offended those he was trying to communicate with. Fortunately I immediately stepped in, apologized in Spanish and assumed the task of translating for the rest of the trip. I cannot stress enough to a foreign traveler how important it is to make an effort to communicate in the native language. Even if you only learn hello, goodbye and thank you, this is much more acceptable than trying to put your improvisational skills to the test!