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How Not to Stick Out "Like a Typical American" While Overseas

5 tips for a more pleasant trip abroad.

By Crystal A. WolfePublished 12 months ago 4 min read
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Image by Oli Lynch from Pixabay

Traveling is a passion for me. So far, I have visited eight countries and about to take visit my ninth. It gives me the sense of a new frontier, provides a plethora of new senses, and makes me feel like I am more culturally aware.

There have been some countries that I have visited and I went in blindly. Others, made an effort to do some minor preparations before becoming a guest.

Doing some preparation is worth it! Even a little bit goes a long way and have consistently made my foreign visits exceptionally better.

Below are some tips for you my fellow Americans if you are about to travel abroad.

Learn Some Key Phrases

It’s true that many people across the world know English. However, at a minimum, learn the basics of the country you are visiting. There is no need to try to reach a fluency level for a trip. However, learning some phrases when visiting a country, goes a long way. After all, you are a guest in their country. I have seen the subtle judgmental eyes of some Americans when we meet a foreigner who does not know English. (I have even witnessed some being completely rude, which is 100% uncalled for.)

You may discover that the way you are treated could change on how you correspond with someone. I have found that foreigners become much more polite and helpful once you say a few words in their language. Most of the time, they just want to see you try as a courtesy and is a sign of respect.

Minimize Your Culture Shock

Photo by Ashes Sitoula on Unsplash

When traveling somewhere new, your senses are in overload. Suddenly, your fun could turn into an overwhelming feeling. Overall, you are likely going to experience some kind of culture shock.

The best way to minimize this: Do some research before you depart.

There may be some small things that are normal in the country you are visiting but abnormal in the USA. For example, it’s typical to pay to use the restroom in Europe. Are you walking around Italy with wet hair? If so, that’s a big no, no! Don’t know how to use a bidet? All of this could be avoided with just a little bit of research.

YouTube is a great resource to use for some cultural research before heading to your destination. You may be surprised by what is revealed by the natives.

Learn the Etiquette

Related to doing some research, it’s important to mind your manners! Did you rub your chopsticks together in Japan? If so, you may not know that is considered an insult. In China, belching and making a mess is a sign to the host/hostess that the meal was enjoyable. However, burping in another country may be seen is faux pas. Also, tipping your waiter may be interpreted as being rude.

If you are interested in a few short (yet funny clips) about some cultural etiquette, I recommend this one for a few laughs.

It’s also worth researching hand gestures prior to departing to your destination. What is considered a hand gesture for “Okay” in the US can actually be interpreted as the middle finger elsewhere. Business traveler, Scott McKain learned that the hard way when he visited a local town in Brazil.

Research. Research. Research!

Use Public Transportation

Photo by veerasak Piyawatanakul from Pexels

It’s crazy to see the difference between American culture and other countries when it comes to using public transportation. We. Drive. Everywhere.

We don’t think twice about driving a 100+ miles a day or doing one hour or more commutes daily. Overseas, this is insane to consider.

Using public transportation not only gives you some insight in the lives of locals, but immerses you directly into the country. Taking public transportation is almost an adventure itself.

So, before you go booking a rental car at your next foreign destination, consider taking the subway, train, or bus.

Don’t Be Loud

Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

There is no reason to be in a restaurant hooting and hollering. In the US, how loud we speak can often be noticeable where in many foreign countries, it’s tacky. In fact, a simple Google search of “What other countries find annoying about American tourists” reveals our volume is consistently mentioned.

In The Sydney Morning Herald, Philip Sherwell provides the following guidelines for Americans:

  • Listen just as much as you talk.
  • Do not lecture people.
  • Talk about topics more relevant to the local community. Not world-problems.
  • Speak lower and slower.
  • Keep religious talk to yourself. Religion is deeply personal and not a conversation piece in many cultures.
  • Don’t argue when discussing politics.

Do you have some tips and recommendations for American tourists? If so, tell us in the comments!

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Originally published on Medium.

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About the Creator

Crystal A. Wolfe

Blogger | Creative Writer | Traveler | Full-Time RVer

You can find all of my articles on my blog as well on Medium where I'm most active in Humor, Lifestyle, and Travel. I've self-published one fantasy fiction with the sequel in the works.

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  • Scott Christenson9 months ago

    That's a good article. Overseas, I've sometimes heard (somehow its always middle-aged) americans lecturing the locals on what's wrong with their country. Being really loud in Europe while kind of saying nothing but curse words and bro-speak is another one that sticks out.

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