Easy Tips for Etiquette Abroad

While fall may be fast approaching, summer is not over yet! If you have an upcoming trip abroad, here are some tips to show your hosts that you have put in some time to learn about the country, culture, language and customs. While most folks understand that we are newbies to the country and will give us slack, just a little bit of effort will go a long way to creating a deeper travel experience for yourself.

  1. Language – Knowing these key phrases can make for a more welcoming interactions:
    • Hello/Goodbye
    • Please/thank you/you’re welcome
    • I’m sorry, I don’t speak (language). Do you speak English?
    • Excuse me (there might be two different expressions for “excuse me, I would like your attention”, “excuse me, I need to get by you” and “excuse me/I’m sorry, my mistake”
  2. Greetings Etiquette – Every country is different but you will often find that, when you enter a shop, restaurant, etc., the order of business is often an exchange of greetings. Launching into what you want before this can be seen as impolite.  You can’t go wrong with a friendly hello so why not!?
  3. Food culture – Every country is going to have their specialties and ways of eating. There may be some habits that are meaningful for locals that you would never think of (e.g. having cappuccino after a meal is a no-no in Italy, as is leaving your chopsticks in your food between bites in Korea). Knowing about regional specialties is also fun way to get to know culture!
  4. Dress Codes – How you are dressed can change the way you are perceived. If you want to walk around in your shorts and t-shirt, it’s totally fine of course but you might want to find out what local dress customs are so you at least know what matters to the local people.
  5. Geography and Politics – Doing a little research to get some key facts about the country is a great way to show interest and understand what is going on around you. What is the capital city? How many states/regions are there? What are some key region-to-region differentiators (e.g. the food is spicier in the north versus the south) When was the last election? Who is the current leader? What are the issues that are important?

We offer traveler crash courses for French, Italian and Spanish. Something to think about if you’re preparing for a trip or you just want to try something out.

Happy learning and happy travels!

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