Setting Expectations When Travelling Internationally
If you have the means to travel abroad, do it. Life is too short to stay in one area your whole life. At one point, you should be willing to leave your comfort zone. Go explore the different cultures, communities, sights, and food other countries have to offer. Sure, the United States is so big that traveling to another state can feel like another country; but nothing beats the thrill of travelling to an entirely new place far away from your own home.
Of course, should you find yourself in a different country, expect that the culture and practices that are commonplace in your area may not be the norm in other countries. Here’s what else you should expect when travelling abroad and what you can do to prepare.
Prepare for Long-Haul Flights
If you’ve travelled to other states or nearby countries in North America, you might think you’ve become accustomed to flying. But if you’re going to countries in Asia or Europe, that’s at least a 12-hour flight. Staying in first or business class can make the trip more bearable. Make sure you’re mentally and physically prepared for the trip; especially if you’re cramped in economy.
Make sure your phone, laptop, and tablet are fully charged before boarding the plane. Is your phone is at the stage where the battery is worn out and easily diminishes power? Bring a fully-charged power bank to keep it charging. Be ready with a book to read or a few movies to watch. Though some airlines offer in-flight movies you can watch on a screen.
While most airplane seats can recline, if you’re in a full flight and someone is sitting behind you, it is rude to recline and cramp them even further in your seat. Bring a small pillow and a blanket if you need it to sleep comfortably. Preferably a neck pillow so you can be comfortable sleeping in a sitting position. Dress comfortably but smartly. If you know you’ll have difficulty sleeping, consult a doctor about taking sleeping pills.
Research on the Local Culture
Before travelling abroad, it always helps to research about the country and their practices so that you don’t offend locals. Or aren’t offended by their treatment, and have an easier way navigating the people and the places you’re visiting.
For example, did you know that the Vatican City has a strict dress code? This is especially true in holy places such as St. Peter’s Basilica? Visitors need to dress conservatively. Men and women must not wear sleeveless tops that reveal their chests or midriffs and bottoms that stop above the knees. Their shoes must also be close-toed. In case a visitor shows up with a dress code violation, they may rent a scarf or cloak to wear.
That’s a given, since areas like the Vatican practice a conservative religion. But what about other cultures?
In the US, it is courteous to leave around 15 to 20% of your bill as a tip for good service. If you don’t tip, you’re saying they provided poor service. In Japan, however, it is considered an insult if you leave them a tip, according to InsideJapanTours.com. Japanese people provide good service because they value honor and pride more than they do about money. If you leave them a tip, it’s like you’re saying you pity them because their job doesn’t pay them enough.
To avoid committing social faux passes abroad, do your research on the country’s culture. This will also give you time to learn more about the places you want to visit. This will help you make the most of your international trip.
Avoid “Begpacking” for Money
Foreigners strive to earn a visa to visit the United States. And even fewer tourists are granted to earn the chance to work here. According to Emsylaw.com, foreigners require an employer to sponsor them. Or, if they’re visiting they must have enough money to fund their stay. Other countries may have more lenient laws regarding foreigners working in their country; but foreigners look down on Americans who travel and beg strangers for money to fund their trip.
In fact, it’s earned a derogatory name – “begpacking.” Travelling, especially travelling abroad is a privilege. Many Americans end up going to third-world countries and begging locals for freebies, handouts, and money to fund their activities there. If you go to countries like Thailand, you’ll find plenty of Americans on the street selling odds and ends. Some even simply hold out a cardboard sign asking for money without giving anything in return.
If you plan to travel abroad, only do it if you have the financial means to go around. It’s distasteful for to see a person from a developed country go to a developing country and beg for money to fund their leisure. Especially next to poor locals begging for money for everyday necessities. If you consider doing this during your travels, prepare to get dirty looks from locals and fellow tourists who’ll most likely refuse to give you money.
Recognize Social Cues
Remember that you’re travelling abroad. What you consider rude and bad manners in the US may be normal and actually praised in other countries. If you’re travelling for work, for example; Germans prefer to be straightforward, no-nonsense, and blunt. While Italians are more personal and require you to build relationships. French people find it rude to hug someone you just met; since the French consider hugging more intimate than kissing on the cheek.
If the locals remember that their culture and social practices may be different. Once you get past the culture shock, you may end up wanting to get to know these people better.
What country will you visit next? With so many options, be sure to do your research, find a trip that fits your budget, and get ready to experience a whole new world.