Hello! As I am blogging about our many adventures in three different countries, I keep thinking about all the cultural differences and how it felt to be an American in a foreign country. These are a few things that I suggest knowing or at least to keep in mind, when traveling. These tips don’t apply to every person/place or location, but this is my opinion about the things I want to keep in mind when traveling.
- Keep my volume lower. Depending on where you are visiting and in what location you are, people in foreign countries don’t appreciate a loud visitor. On the trains and even on the streets the loudest people were generally visitors or vendors. Sometimes people will stare a little if you speak in an obviously American accent but I think most of the time it’s the volume of your voice that draws the most attention (as if the obvious selfies and taking pictures of our food didn’t already give it away that we were tourist). I didn’t want to stick out anymore then we did already, so I mainly only spoke when I needed to and paid attention to the actions of other people when needed, such as foot traffic flow. I am not trying to tell anyone they can’t make noise or be outlandish, it’s their trip, but I know that I felt more relaxed when I was being mindful of my volume.
- Learning the basic phrases is important. When we visited France, Austria and Switzerland we knew that we couldn’t learn to speak French or German in such a short time, but we did try and learn how to say greetings and please and thank you. Each day we could at least greet each clerk or server in their native tongue, poorly I might add but we felt like we always got an A for effort. I always appreciated people that noted our efforts and didn’t try and make a big deal about switching into English, I admire people who speak many languages and can converse with people from other places easily. .
- Take care of the grounds. We noticed that a lot of places had multiple recycling bins and trash cans, we always make sure to discard our waste into the appropriate containers. Nothing is worse than a trashy park or walkway, and it can be damaging to the wildlife in the area as well. We always do our part and keep things nice and clean wherever we go. It is also sad when people deface historic structures with names and dates and other markings. I like the idea of preserving the history for many generations to come, and there are others ways to signify you were there without marking them up, like taking a picture for instance.
I know this seems like common sense to most people but in the moment you might find it tempting to throw trash on the ground or put that “R♥P” on the wooden railing, this is the time when people think “it’s only one name” or “this little bit of trash won’t affect the charm of this place”. Show that you care about other people’s space and help keep these areas beautiful please!
- Restaurant etiquette is different. One of the things that we keep in mind is the dining style in a different country. Here in the states it is common for waiters and waitresses to offer refills, clear plates and give the check pretty fast after you are finished with your meal, in most of the countries we have visited it is different. Our experience with eating out in Ireland, France, Austria and Switzerland has been pleasant, we just know that we have to ask for the check and that we won’t being constantly waited on so we can enjoy our meal. Tipping: I did some serious research; Rick Steve’s and tons of other travelers had really good advice on leaving an appropriate tip. We stayed within the 5-8% of our bill and if we didn’t have a large bill, we would leave 1-2 euroS. This was really strange for us since we are used to tipping 10-20% in the states, in Ireland we defiantly left really large tips at every meal out. Dublin Ireland and how we celebrated St. Patrick’s day-March 2016
- Travel safely + Money. Traveling far from home and when you don’t speak another language can be a little scary. First you have limited access to your money/accounts. You really don’t want to be at risk of fraud or get your information stolen and suffer from identity theft, and we also don’t want to get mugged or harmed. Things can be crazy and unsettling being far from home but a few things we kept in mind helped us stay safe and protected from those terrible things. We never went anywhere without each other or letting each other know where we are going and when we would be back. We don’t wear/carry flashy clothes/accessories. I wore very basic clothes and wore a cross body purse. We kept good track of our backpacks and items.
We stayed in public areas and listened to our gut instincts. We never went to the ATM after dark or in a remote location; we also check the ATM machine for extra card readers before we swipe our card. We also paid in cash as much as possible and NEVER flashed around how much cash we had in our wallets. Common sense is key, if something doesn’t feel right/safe DON’T DO IT!
Okay enough about all the things we do, I really just want people to be able to find what works for them and take all this advice from a fellow traveler as just that, advice. I hope at least some of this advice has been helpful! Traveling can be scary but it is the best way in my opinion to broaden your mind and open your heart to so many beautiful things.
Safe travels my friends and hope you come back for the next post. Please let me know if you learned anything from this post.