Introduction: How to Not Look Like a Jerk While Traveling Abroad

Picture of How to Not Look Like a Jerk While Traveling Abroad

My best friend is an avid world traveller and comes home from her journeys (Iceland, Chile, Mexico, Egypt, Russia, France, Peru, and more) with many interesting stories about coping with the unexpected. Sometimes these surprises come in the form of food or lodging conditions. Other times they come as communication issues or even your fellow American tourists, behaving in ways that make you want to claim "Uuuh...I'm from Canada. Totally not with that guy."

In this Ible I've compiled a list of key travel tips to help you not look like a jerk in a foreign land. Since some of these principles are difficult to capture in a photograph, I decided to draw up some quick cartoons --with me as your traveller icon-- to embody each topic instead. Enjoy!

Step 1: Do Your Research: Intake and Output

Picture of Do Your Research: Intake and Output

When I say do your research, I don't mean obvious stuff like local attractions or what temperatures to expect so you can make clothing choices. I mean really research the native culture in and around your destination so you can decide (presumably before you book) if this is really a place you want to be. How will you decide this? Simple.

Foods and Bathrooms.

Food:

Google the area's native and local cuisine.Does it sound like something you'd be excited, or at least willing, to try? If it doesn't sound like your thing, investigate how modernized or westernized the area is currently. In a worst case scenario, will they have something like McDonald's or Starbucks that you can get by with until you acclimate, feel more experimental, or move on to a different destination?

I feel that food is a big part of any trip and one should always make an effort to try unusual things. If you discover that boiled goat heads are a daily component of any balanced breakfast where you're going, and that isn't something you're willing to scarf down, weigh whether this is really the vacation spot for you. Even if you discover that you don't like these new adventuresome foods, now you know. The galapagos taught my BFF that she hates papaya --now she knows.

Bathrooms:

When investigating your lodging options, make a point of looking at photos of bathrooms when possible. You may also want to try finding out about he visitor bathrooms at any attractions you decide to visit. How similar are they to what you're used to? Can you deal with the differences? Do you need to bring your own toilet paper?

In the U.K. my parents found the "water closets" to be so compact you just barely had enough room to turn and grab the TP. This does not mean all toilets situations in the U.K. will be like that, but they are out there. In India, many places have "squat toilets", which are holes in the tiled floor instead of a raised seat like you'd see in the west. Are you willing and physically able to adapt to the bathroom culture at your destination?

Quick! Where's the Bathroom?!? Most Ible readers seem to agree that the term "toilet" will get you exactly where you want to go, but saying "bathroom" or "restroom" may be confusing.

In your potential destination, is it common to have to pay to use public restrooms? I was reminded by some helpful folks in the comments that in some countries it is very common to have to pay to use the restroom, or considered appropriate to tip a restroom attendant. For the many of us who primarily pay for things with a card these days, this would be a good reason to make sure there's cash/ change in your pocket!

Know the facts ahead of time. The last thing your inn keeper, host, waiter, or tour guide wants to hear is a big rude American "You want me to do WHAAAAT???"

*When booking a stay at a hostel, it is wise to inquire whether bathrooms are communal or uni-sex. My friend has had some surprises with that too. If you don't get a private bathroom, make sure you pack pajamas, loungewear, or a cover-up that you are comfortable walking down halls in. This may include a pair of flip flops or foldable slippers, if you don't want to go barefoot in a communal space.

Step 2: Gesticulation Considerations

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If you only learn two native words I would suggest they be "Hello" (or some other greeting) and "Thank you." You'll use them often and being mindful enough to say them will prevent you from looking like a jerk.

Even if you've got your little translator pulled up on your phone, it's still possible to put your foot in your mouth without even opening it.

Many cultures have hand gestures that mean derogatory or aggressive things, and you want to make sure you aren't unintentionally flinging insults left and right just by using casual western gestures. This website has a good starter FYI list, though there are many more out there. Try googling "(your destination) insult gestures" to see if there is anything obvious you should avoid. Hand signals that are harmless in America -- like "I'm O.K."-- are not cool to do in some other places.

Pointing with your index finger is a good one to avoid. This one may be hard to suppress, especially if you're in a place with amazing sites and want to yell "OMG look at that pyramid!!" Many cultures find pointing to be rude, or too aggressive if you are gesturing toward another person. Try directing someone's gaze with an open palmed hand instead, as that is viewed as more relaxed.

Dipping into verbal language for a moment, this is a good time to bring up a very good point gleaned from the comments section. If a person you encounter on your travels does not speak english, REPEATING THE PHRASE LOUDER WILL NOT HELP! SEE HOW ANNOYING THIS IS? AND I'M ONLY TYPING. You might try slowing your speech to make your words clearer, though take care not to attach a condescending tone like you're talking to a child. That could get irritating too. Maintain a normal speaking volume and courteous tone. Focus on key words the person may recognize or try to find a sign or object you can reference. Do your part. Look at your translation dictionary or the internet for help finding the native word.

Step 3: Photo Bug

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Photos are a huge part of most peoples' vacations, but taking them at the wrong time or place can make you look like a huge jerk.

Observe your Surroundings. Are there any signs asking that you please NOT take photos in the area? Be respectful of those signs because sometimes there's a very good reason (flash photography might scare wildlife, for instance). Are the other tourists taking photos in an open and relaxed manner? You may witness someone sneaking a picture in a no photo zone and think maybe it's ok for you to sneak one too. In most cases I would say don't stoop to their level. Aside from looking like a jerk, you could risk getting hauled out by security.

Observe the Tone. Sometimes the sites of most interest are not the most joyful ones. The world has some beautiful cemeteries, war memorials, temples, and burial grounds that are worth seeing, but maybe not the most appropriate places to take selfies. Are the people around you praying, meditating, or visiting ancestors? These are not your moments to have. Do not take pictures of them. I'm not religious, but I understand that these practices mean something to other people and snapping conspicuous photos is obnoxious.

Consent. Consent. CONSENT! Ask a person's consent before you walk right up to them and snap a photo. Don't make someone feel like a novelty or talk about them like they are an object. You may be surprised who knows a bit of english!

Asking consent for a photo is easy, even if you don't know the language. Lift your camera slightly and smile at the person. Maybe nod toward the camera. If they smile back and start to pose, you're all clear to take a picture. If they go wide eyed and turn away or duck behind their hands or clothing, that's an obvious no-go. Some cultures do not understand photographs, and some people are just plain shy as individuals! Respect this and move on. Try asking a different subject later, or in a different setting.

On the note of selfies, do NOT make contact with artifacts, sculptures, or other objects that you are not supposed to touch. No ducking the velvet ropes, no sneaking in through the employee entrance, and no having your friend hold you up on their shoulders so you can take a photo where it looks like you're almost touching the peen on the statue of David. To you, this forbidden touch is nothing, but there's a very real possibility you could do irreparable damage to something that is thousands --or even millions-- of years old. Consider these cringeworthy examples wherein a worker fumbled and knocked King Tut's beard off or when Ke$ha put her entitled millennial mitts all over a real Triceratops skeleton at the LA Natural History Museum. Sidenote: I am very pleased to say I know the NHM employee who schooled her on Twitter about this.

Respect the art and the history behind what you're seeing. Take photos, but take them responsibly.

Step 4: Dining Decorum

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Remember our talk about boiled goat heads? Well let's just say you decided to go to that location anyway, thinking weird food situations wouldn't come up. Let's just say it has. Your gracious host shoves a plate at you that is loaded with roasted grubs, blood pudding, chilled monkey brains, or whatever. What now?

Keep in mind that politeness is very important, and you DID say you'd try new things! Try to stifle any visible signs of revulsion you may be putting out before your host decides you're a jerk. The gross thing on your plate may be considered a real treat here, and you should try to honor the gesture if nothing else. You may find it isn't gross after all.

Unless the situation is so bad that you're literally vomitous, try a little bit. You could be surprised. Have a beverage very handy in case you need to wash it down quick.

If you tried but you just can't stomach the specialty, look for familiar fillers on the table; rice, salad greens, couscous, noodles, vegetables, fruit, breads. Here's a strategy you probably used as a kid: Load your plate, mix things around, and make it appear as though everything else was so delicious that you just couldn't possibly finish all those monkey brains. *Just make sure it isn't important in this culture to clean your plate! Your host's feelings are preserved and hopefully your insides are too. If you know the area well enough, maybe you can suggest you take your host out to dinner the next time and that way you have a little more control over the menu.

Speaking of stomachs, this is a good opportunity to remind you of the benefits of Ginger Root. I always carry some ginger capsules with me when I travel. Ginger soothes your stomach, which can help with motion sickness (boats, long car rides) and digestive upset. Ginger teas or candy will have the same, though likely less concentrated, effect. Not a bad thing to have in your toiletry bag in case some food doesn't agree with you!

Step 5: Snack Stash

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I highly recommend traveling with a stash of protein, fruit and nut, or granola bars. They're easy to fit in the negative space left in your carry on and should get through most customs with no problem, provided they are still sealed. Protein bars are especially helpful while you're in transit because they keep you feeling full for longer. Just make sure you drink plenty of water so you can digest the protein properly.

Having a few snack bars stashed on your person will ensure you never get weak or cranky for lack of food. Cranky can sometimes translate into "Jerk", which is what we want to avoid. If you find yourself out sight seeing and start to stress about where to get food/ what is this food?/ I don't understand how much this food costs/ is this meat being sold off the back on an un-refridgerated street cart safe?, etc., take a moment and just eat a snack bar. It'll tide you over and maybe even clear your head a bit so you can make decisions you feel good about.

These snack bars can also come in handy if you've had to do some emergency food avoidance maneuvers, as previously discussed, and need something familiar to fill your tummy.

If traveling with children, remember to get them to drink water and eat a little something now and then, even if they say they aren't hungry. My mom and I found out I'm hypoglycemic the hard way (I thought a Wendy's Frosty counted as a hydrating beverage and I was wrong). Even a few bites of snack bar can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. If you find your kid fading, try a salty snack as they can also give a boost to someone who is dehydrated. McDonald's french fries brought me back from the brink of disaster every time!

Step 6: Pacing

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Observe the pace of your surroundings. If the locals are operating at a more relaxed pace than you're used to, try to make the shift and enjoy it. That's what vacation is about, right?

I'm big on efficiency and moving slowly usually drives me crazy. However, when you remove yourself from the western "GO GO GO!" culture, you realize how crazy that attitude really makes you look.

Simply put, there's no reason to speed walk or shove your way through a tour group if the vibe is decidedly a calm one. Save your energy for a dash if you're late for your flight, or something that really matters.

Conversely, if you find yourself in a very fast paced, busy environment, be mindful of where you're going (and what you might be blocking if you just stand there staring at your phone checking FB). If you're not confident moving through a busy scene, look for a sidewalk or other "slow moving lane" option where you can go to get your bearings without looking like a total jerk. When moving through tight crowds, keep a hand on bags or camera straps to help avoid snagging.

Step 7: The Tipsy Traveller

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Imbibing can also be a major part of a person's vacation. You might do so because there are unusual things to try, or because it's cheaper (in the U.K. it is cheaper to buy a beer than to buy a bottled water), or because a drink is just part of certain meals in that culture.

You should definitely aim to have fun on your trip, but getting ridiculous, sloppy drunk can make you look like a jerk anywhere. I'm not trying to poop on anyone's post-college-European backpacking plans here. There are some good reasons to keep your drinking in check.

Drink with a friend or trusted traveling companion(s).This is really more of a safety issue than anything. If you go out alone and get totally blitzed, bad things can happen. Mild bad case scenario, you get turned around outside the pub and can't figure out how to get back to your hotel. Worst case scenario, seedy locals see that you're a mess and use that to take advantage of you. I'm not going to darken this Ible with the many stories of robbery and violence that you can find elsewhere on the internet, but know that those things do happen and get informed.

Drinking with a trusted friend or group may increase the chances that at least one of you will stay sober enough to read a map, flag a cab, or drag the others back to the hotel safely. It isn't a guarantee, but I definitely advise it over solo boozing when abroad.

Try to be mindful of your intake as best as possible, and read the room. If you're getting the side eye from people, maybe it's time to drink some water. If you get too loose you might accidentally start throwing around some of those uncool gestures we talked about, or simply get labeled a buffoon tourist. It's difficult to come back from that label the next morning when you all load on a tour bus to Machu Picchu together.

Step 8: Adventure On, Jerk-Free!

Now you have the basics you need to not be a jerk abroad! If you enjoyed this, please vote for me in the Travel tips contest and contribute any additional anti-jerk tips you have in the comments below!

Comments

4sc4n10 (author)2017-05-22

I like to buy local clothing on arrival. I discovered in Thailand that being dressed like the locals (flip-flops, Capri pants and "Singha Beer" T-shirt) helped a lot.

About clothing, in some countries, shorts, short skirts, tank tops are considered inappropriate. Sometimes there are places that you can't visit if you don't wear appropriante clothing : in Thailand again, you have to wear "closed shoes" to visit the King's palace ; you can rent horrible plastic shoes there, but believe me, you'd rather bring your own.

Be careful with hair and beard, too. In some countries, a long beard could refer to a neofascist group (Chetniks in former Yugoslavia), Muslim fudamentalists, or just look cool. Tatoos may refer to criminal groups, too, like in Georgia (Europe) or Japan. Full-length clothing can help.

In countries that were recently at war, you might scare people if you wear military-looking clothes. A Croatian friend of mine told me once that he didn't understand why we would wear cargo pants, as he had to fight in the war and just hated anything military from that time on.

How you look like is a form of non-verbal language. Just like spoken language, an effort towards the local norm is much appreciated and open doors to you.

ashleyjlong (author)4sc4n102017-05-22

Fantastic thoughts! I wouldn't have considered these and probably just would have dressed for the weather, but i can absolutely see how certain sacred places may have requirements. Good point about beards and tattoos as well. They have become so common and fashionable in the west and we don't always know the implications elsewhere. Thanks for a great contribution!

Badger55 (author)2017-05-21

My mother tongue is French. I work 15 year oversea speaking only English in Bermuda and I interacted with a lot of foreigner (Indian, British, Australian, Bosnian ...).

My best advise to help them being understood is. (Even if it is only to ask for the toilet.)

Speak slightly more slowly but naturally and ask the person that speak to you to do the same.

In our native tongue the voice dip between each word, we do that without thinking.

In a new language, our subconscious cannot find that dip when we ear it, or reproduce it when we speak it. The brain has to do the job instead. Speaking slightly more slowly allow the brain to do the job while keeping the flow of your ideas. If you are too slow you lose the track of what you want to say or what the other side want to say, same for your interlocutor.

Perk: Your interlocutors are always pleased/charmed (if the opposite sex) that you force yourself to understand and communicate with them. They feel they are important to you.

picturesofsilver (author)2016-02-08

LOL brings pink to my cheeks when I think of my faux pas! great ible

ucn (author)2015-08-02

"Lift your camera slightly and smile at the person. Maybe nod toward the camera. If they smile back and start to pose, you're all clear to take a picture."

Just a note that in many parts of asia, street kids will happily smile and pose for a photo, then hassle you two blocks for payment afterwards.

ashleyjlong (author)ucn2015-08-03

Hmmm....very good point there. I suppose that may happen even if you make no deliberate contact, too. My parents had a bunch of little kids following them around a beach in Mexico and when they realized my parents didn't have any cash to give one of them nabbed my dad's watch! I thought about mentioning more safety/ watch out for your belongings tips in this Ible but didn't want to go into territory where it seemed like I was presuming everyone overseas just wants to steal your purse.

Since it sounds like you experienced this, do you have any tips on how to make bothersome hangers-on go away?

ucn (author)ashleyjlong2016-01-19

Learn a few words of the local language, including NO THANK YOU. Repeat firmly but calmly, escalating tone, loudness and irritation levels as needed. It works on unofficial bag-porters, 'taxi' drivers, street peddlers, begging kids, etc. Having a big heart is good and all, but once you give an inch they'll want a mile. Some friends I know used to pack candy and snacks to give away to street kids in lieu of cash (which usually gets taken away by a syndicate anyway), but they'll soon come swarming around you and you never know what else could go missing in the scrum.

StuNutt (author)ashleyjlong2015-08-12

There's always SOMEBODY in EVERY country who wants to steal your purse, wallet, phone, etc. - including in your home country! A bum-bag (fanny pack in American) is very useful, and only costs a few Pounds, Dollars, Shekels.

This is a great instructable- lots of food for thought.

The main problem is that Americans have a need to be 'nice' all the time. We say 'no' with a smile on our face. Not all cultures feel the need to sugar coat every public interaction. Sometimes smiles are reserved to convey actual emotion, not just 'politeness'. In places where this is the norm, a 'no' accompanied by a smile doesn't necessarily mean 'no'. To effectively communicate, sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zone and be 'rude'.

As for safety and avoiding crime- be aware of your surroundings at all times, keep your head on a swivel and stand up straight. Petty criminals rely on you being distracted or appearing to be an easy mark. Seeing them before they see you takes away any element of surprise. Who would you mug- some guy with squared shoulders who makes eye contact as he passes or someone wandering along slumped over a map or a mobile phone, completely distracted?

If you are a victim of petty crime don't waste time trying to file a police report. You are an extremely low priority to the local cops. A friend of mine was mugged in Amsterdam. He tried to report it to the cops. When they found out he wasn't hurt and he'd only lost a few guilders and a camera, the cop rolled his eyes and said 'Let me guess- it was skinny pale guy in a leather jacket and jeans?', which basically describes every junkie in the red light district. Don't waste precious vacation time on fruitless police reports- call it a tourist tax and get on with your trip.

On the other side of that coin, if you ever find yourself in custody, don't expect special treatment because you're an American. I saw a kid getting dragged out of a local bar in Freeport as he screamed 'I'm an American! You can't do this!' I kinda giggled when one of the cops smiled politely and punched him. Never be that guy.

TLDR- If a nail doesn't stick out it usually won't get hammered.

jlms (author)Chuck Stephens2015-08-05

You need a police report if you will make insurance claims.

Chuck Stephens (author)jlms2015-08-05

I said petty crime. If you lost a cheap camera and a few bucks, it's not worth the time.

Just yesterday I read an interesting article about a Lakota man's observations about the invading European/ American culture (we're talking about back in the cowboy days). One observation was that excessive manners, niceties, and needless chit chat was viewed as not genuine. That's definitely how I feel about it!

Great safety tips about looking alert --that's good advice for anyone anywhere!. When I walk alone even in my own neighborhood I make a point of looking very in command and like I know exactly where I'm going. Having been jumped once, I could probably write a whole separate Ible about personal safety for women based on the self defense research I did after.

lynmiller (author)2015-09-16

Very well said! As a missionary, I see my share of cringe worthy tourists. One addition--ask your guide if to tell you if there's something you're doing wrong. Simply being aproachable can save him lots of embarrasment too.

veryrealperson (author)2015-08-30

Suprised this won.

You're not alone --I was too! There were a number of a really great projects and I can only guess that it resonated with a lot of voters.

EcoExpatMike (author)2015-08-26

I have to say the drawings rock pretty hard.

Even if you beat me out for the best prize...

ashleyjlong (author)EcoExpatMike2015-08-26

Thanks, EcoExpatMike. I was pretty surprised by this win. I'm glad people enjoyed the cartoons and that there was so much active dialogue in the comments. I'm really happy to see that you'll be taking home a prize too. Your Ible was full of great first hand recommendations that will keep overseas travelers safer! I especially liked the passport section because I know less about that end of it.

EcoExpatMike (author)ashleyjlong2015-08-26

Well, I started working as an Expat in 2003, and the advice I got about going overseas to work in war zones was TERRIBLE! I am HOPING to work where no one shoots at me, where I can drag the family along. If only I had the merest shred of artistic talent. the pic is April & I in Iraq where we met in 2004. She'd wear HALF her body weight in armor for her work commute every day!

jockney (author)2015-08-19

Wow, where on earth did you buy bottled water from in the UK????. Our tap water is perfectly ok to drink, im still alive. Central london is a complete rip-off like most capital cities in europe. Avoid having to buy anything such as drinks and food from train and tube stations,bus and coach terminals etc if possible as they are like 'legal mugging'.

StuNutt (author)2015-08-11

Is water REALLY more expensive than beer in England ? ? ?

I'd never noticed that, but then I don't usually drink WATER ;)
BTW - Tap-water is pretty much safe to drink anywhere in UK, unless the tap is marked otherwise (e.g. in public gardens if the water may be just for irrigation)

JeffY1 (author)2015-08-11

Don't assume that someone is being impolite if they don't behave like people do in the U.S., as it may well be a cultural difference. For example, standing in line and waiting your turn (AKA "queuing up") isn't a standard practice in many cultures, so don't get pissed off when people cut in front of you. And many times people in different cultures appear to be aloof or unfriendly in their interactions with strangers, compared to glad-handing Americas; this is often just a cultural difference and nothing personal. The opposite can also be true - people appearing to be overly friendly and familiar - and can be misread as someone trying to con you or take advantage. Again, get to know these cultural differences before you judge people you meet when you travel as they should be judged... as individuals.

analogue23 (author)2015-08-10

Do people REALLY need to be told not to point?? Or told not to yell?

ashleyjlong (author)analogue232015-08-10

Ha! It seems stupid, right? Unfortunately I've seen way too many people who definitely have to be told...sometimes multiple times.

DLM87 (author)analogue232015-08-10

.

jayb1 (author)2015-08-06

Learn some local words, like, as mentioned, Please & Thank you, Hello etc, You will be surprised by the response. Even if you don't pronounce it properly you will have tried. You, made an effort, & laugh if you get it wrong. The locals will appreciate your effort & may even relax the Tourist Price a bit. Don't forget there are usually three prices, Local, Xpats & Tourists. Also if you chat to the locals they do appreciate it, as they want to improve their "English."

justjimAZ (author)jayb12015-08-10

Except in France.

BeachsideHank (author)jayb12015-08-06

"Also if you chat to the locals they do appreciate it, as they want to improve their "English."

Very true, for many their livelihood depends on learning it, so taking the time to be instructive and supportive will be rewarded. I found that part to be more fun than the tour sometimes.

ChrisA27 (author)2015-08-06

Don't take fruit to Chile. It's a pretty big deal since fruit flies are almost nonexistent there and the country relies on exporting lots of fruit.

pacman41 (author)2015-08-05

I was in UK last year. In my experience, beer was always more expensive than bottled water. On the other hand, it is sometimes the reverse in Australia.

Peter

fantine (author)2015-08-05

Brilliant ibbile only made better by discussion.

Many years ago I visited a country that had great pride of hospitality - and living memory of starvation. I was humiliated by my fellow travellers loudly discussing their "food issues" at every meal. No one needs to hear about what you DON'T like. Take a pass on the lamb, if you choose, without comments about meat, and don't voice disgust at eggplant, fava beans & other "strange" offerings! When you decline seconds or dessert, do not refer to your horror of calories or sugar, just your satisfaction in what you have already consumed - and your sincere gratitude.

On a practical note, I was advised that when ordering bottled water to insist on receiving an un-opened bottle to insure that I wasn't given a bottle refilled from the tap.

ashleyjlong (author)fantine2015-08-05

Yes! Those are good points and exactly the type of mindful approach that should be encouraged. I've often wondered how nuts we must look to countries where people go malnourished, when we say "oh I really shouldn't have any carbs. I'm trying to fit into a dress 6 months from now."

fantine (author)ashleyjlong2015-08-05

Good travels to you! You are undoubtedly an admirable ambassador.

ashleyjlong (author)fantine2015-08-05

Thanks --good travels to you as well!

jeanniel1 (author)2015-08-05

On our round the world trip, we looked up and learned the basic few words first before entering the country: "Thank you" "Please" "Good Morning" "Where is the toilet?" Google Translate with the audio really helped, too. Some languages weren't readable as they were in the native script, so we'd just show the screen. I recommend using simple sentences for translating, as the compound ones got confused in translation.

espdp2 (author)2015-08-04

One surprising thing that was really impressed on me as a Soldier stationed in South Korea is that groups of Americans walk five abreast on sidewalks and streets, while the locals walk ducks-in-a-row. We looked like a bulldozer plowing through the town without meaning to. I made sure to pass that warning along to the new arrivals.

ashleyjlong (author)espdp22015-08-05

That drives me nuts when I see it! Definitely something more people should be considerate of, even on sidewalks at home.

jlms (author)espdp22015-08-05

Thank you! Americans are completely unaware of this, they do the same in Europe.

mcresearch (author)2015-08-05

Any time you have dozens of replies to your ible, you have a successful article. As far as the toilet / bathroom / W.C. debate goes; in the U.K. everyone will understand if you ask where the loo is. Water closet was a term devised by the victorians to distinguish from the more primitive earth closet.

I remember arriving by train in downtown Madrid after midnight many years ago during the Franco regime. Everything was closed and I asked some people in my broken Spanish where I could relieve myself. After the message got through, the answer came back in the form of an expansive sweep of the arm indicating anywhere I liked. Probably couldn't get away with that nowadays.

ashleyjlong (author)mcresearch2015-08-05

Ha! Yes I certainly like that people are engaged in this one, though I never guessed the casual mention of a water closet would be the center of debate!

LuenW (author)2015-08-05

When carrying food into a country, decare it. Some foods are prohibited.

rrralph (author)2015-08-04

Wrong on slowing down- It's a huge help to a non-native speaker.

Xieda (author)rrralph2015-08-05

The author said that extra volume wouldn't help, but to try slowing down instead. =) I would add enunciation to that also.

ashleyjlong (author)rrralph2015-08-04

That's helpful input. Many people I have observed seem offended by it, but maybe that had more to do with the tone the english speaker was using?

rrralph (author)ashleyjlong2015-08-05

Hello, good to hear from you!
I base my comments partly on my own experience living in Costa Rica, Peru, and Mexico. Having a native speaker slow down (esp. if a city person) helps tremendously. Same for them if we switch to English.

Tone matters, and even more, attitude. An American who gets loud is often also getting frustrated and then angry and condescending, and that's not good

yonkersplanner (author)2015-08-04

Read the Ugly American - it's still in print, is a quick read, and even after 50+ years has something to teach the American going abroad. As you get into the book you will quickly see which character you want to be and how you might leave the best impression of your country behind. I love the authors idea that the only thing that westerners need to do elsewhere in the world to "sell" themselves is to simply be a decent open to adventures person.

Do keep in mind the book (U.A) is a work of fiction, not fact as many assume.

realife11 (author)yonkersplanner2015-08-05

I'm going to preface the following as saying that MOST people that travel are good, polite and wouldn't dream of offending anyone. It's just those few in the minority that make everyone else look bad.

That book (the Ugly American) should also be revised for every country on the planet (for example: 'the ugly frenchman'...the ugly dane'...etc,.etc.). I've talked to many people here in the U.S., Canada and abroad, and they've all told me stories of non-american tourists that acted just as obnoxious or rude (so it's not 'just' U.S. tourists). One example, (in a major park tourist area in Canada) I had jokingly asked one of the locals if he had met any 'ugly americans'. He laughed and said that 'actually' the people from the U.S. weren't the problem, he said the ones he met were mostly polite. His experience was that the majority of 'ugly' tourists he met were from 3 major countries (which I will remain nameless...don't want to offend anyone!). This was about 20 years ago. He described them as very wealthy and very rude.

(I've even witnessed incredibly rude tourists, from a few other countries, in some major natioanl parks in the U.S.)

My point is that people from any country can be rude and insensitive to the cultures of other places, so it would be a very good idea to publish that book in other languages catered to each country. Rudeness among tourists is universal. Not all tourists are rude, but not all rude tourists are 'only' from one or more countries. Rudeness is everywhere in every country. You probably just see it more in tourists from countries that have the money and means to travel more. The people that traditionally can travel the most are wealthy persons, and perhaps some of those persons just don't care. Not all obviously, but if only some are rude, it makes the rest of the people from that country look bad as well. As a tourist, you are the embassador for your country.

And funny story...I once witnessed a person from a European country, not being understood when they spoke english to one of the locals in the country we were in (because the local person didn't speak english), so what did they do? They S-P-O-K-E L-O-U-D-E-R and S-L-O-W-E-R !!!

Haha.

So as I said...rudeness is a universal trait, it's not exclusive to the U.S.

I think they should rename that book, "THE UGLY TOURIST".

Sounds like a good read. Thanks for the recommendation.

Lowadobe (author)2015-08-04

Re: WC vs Toilet, etc. People - the folks in other countries don't "keep calling" it anything. That's very American of you, if you get my drift. It is what they call it. Always have. A toilet is either called a W.C. or Toilet and the door is almost always marked W.C.. This is throughout that continent and beyond where it was a "Colonial" territory (India, et al) Just don't call it a "Bathroom" or "Salle de Bain". That's the usual doozy made by Americans. It is funny! Imagine having a stranger come up to you in public and ask "Do you have a shower?" or "Could you please tell me where the bathtub is? - (I have to pee.)" LOL

ashleyjlong (author)Lowadobe2015-08-04

There seems to be a very mixed reaction to the term "water closet" among the U.K. readers. I think what you took as very "American" was just my, perhaps unsuccessful, attempt to incorporate the feedback I was getting about whether that term is current/ accurate. Some people have said they're a thing of the past and almost seemed upset that I mentioned it, and others say that tourist attractions have held on to the term as a part of history (which is alI meant by "keep calling"). You may notice I ended up removing the w.c. bit from the Ible as it seemed people were getting way too hung up on the term and it may have been distracting from the overall point of the section. I have always known a W.C. and a toilet are the same thing and I think most readers understood that as well.

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