A lot of what we might call decency is just common sense. It’s the same everywhere. Don’t call names, don’t make assumptions, don’t complain, etc. But the more you travel, the more you realize that human sensibilities are far from universal. What passes for common courtesy in one country could get you tarred and feathered in another.
So, before traveling, it’s a very good idea to do your research. What customs should you observe once you reach your destination? What unwritten rules must you observe to fit in?
Luckily, these people from all over the world recently took to the internet to share things you absolutely must not do in their home countries. You never get a second shot at a first impression.
Things not to do in Singapore. I write on behalf of all Singaporeans who have had to put up with these things.
Do not forget to wash everyday and change your clothes, esp. your shirt and socks. Please shower everyday. You might even need to take a shower three times a day if you have been spending a lot of time outdoors. Its very hot and humid in tropical Singapore. You will sweat profusely if you are outdoors. If you do not wash, you will stink and people will avoid you like the plague.
Do not walk into someone’s private home with your shoes on. It is unhygienic and extremely disrespectful.
Do not talk loudly on the bus, train or in enclosed public spaces, and definitely do not play loud music on your phone speaker. It’s a vulgar and rude thing to do in public places such as train carriages or buses.
Do not drink, eat, smoke on buses, trains, or any public transportation. And if you are carrying the food with you on the bus or train, please try and keep the food hidden and not exposed.
Do not carry the Durian fruit in public places either, it stinks up the place. Recently in Australia, it caused an emergency situation at a University; the Emergency service team was even called in to investigate the “gas” leak. A hazmat team was deployed to remove the odious fruit.
Don’t smile and greet strangers, even neighbors, unless first introduced. When I first returned to Singapore after living in Melbourne for a few years, I was living in a small private apartment block. When I smiled and greeted my neighbors as I did in Melbourne they thought I was crazy. One of them even stood with his mouth open and stared at me until I closed my front door. However if you are European, Singaporeans may treat you differently and smile back because they may realize your customs are different. But if you are Asian, you risk being openly rebuked.
Do not stage a public protest. It only gets you a one way trip to jail. Singapore highly prizes social harmony and cannot tolerate public expressions of dissent.
Do not bring substances into Singapore, even pot. If you have consumed substances before you enter Singapore wait until you have detoxed before entering the country because even having trace amounts in your blood stream is a crime. Singapore is very strict on this. We hang smugglers.
Do not litter, spit or defecate in public. Singapore places great emphasis on hygiene. At one point we even fined people who did not flush public toilets. The government even fitted sensors in lifts to catch idiots who pee in them.
Do not come unprepared for tropical ailments. One word of caution. You should bring the necessary medication to prevent indigestion or food poisoning as the bacteria in a tropical country will be different from a temperate climate. If you also eat too much of a different food/fruit there is no telling how your body will react. So eat with moderation on the first few days of arrival otherwise you might get a stomach ailments before you acclimatize.
Monday through Friday, you cannot buy drinks after 6pm. You can buy until 1pm on Saturday. Sunday is completely off limits. Trust me, we don’t like it either.
Don’t gawk at the people carrying around guns. We’re avid hunters. For some people, it’s how they survive. I’ve seen a couple tourists almost keel over and die when they see guns. Don’t worry! I understand, it can be a bit shocking. Just try not to look horrified, as most of us would probably take offence.
Don’t vent your frustrations about shortages in our markets. We cannot grow our own vegetables, and as a result, we import them. This leads to markets not having some things available for a while.
Don’t just walk into the doctor’s office for a checkup. The doctor’s office is extremely hard to get into. If you want to get checked, you have to get in a line before it opens. But hey! You get it for free!
Don’t wear shorts. This is so obvious, it hurts. People still do it. Our summer is very short, and even then, it’s not much of a summer. Temperatures are very low and often catch tourists off guard.
Don’t touch the sled dogs. Seriously. Don’t do it. No, really. Don’t do it. Those dogs aren’t raised like pets. Unless you have complete assurance from the owner, do not touch them.
Don’t remind us that we’re owned by Denmark. Personally, this one doesn’t bug me. It gets a bit annoying when that’s the only trivia that people know of my country, but it doesn’t truly hurt me. I can’t say the same for some of the other people I know. We don’t hate the Danish (heck, most of us are half Danish!), it’s just a bit tiresome.
While we are a very friendly people, I don’t suggest touching anyone who you aren’t close to. This applies to many countries though.
For the love of God, do not accuse a Greenlander of killing innocent animals if you are against hunting. Hunting is a part of our culture, and most will look at you with distaste if you tell someone that we’re killing innocent baby seals. We don’t. (By the way, baby seals wouldn’t feed anyone.)
Don’t call Greenlanders eskimos. We prefer Inuit (or Kalaallit). Inuit refers only to the Kalaallit of Greenland, Inupiat of northern Alaska, or the Inuit of Canada.
I know the language sounds strange to those who don’t speak it. For instance: I can’t hear very well becomes Tusaatsiarunnanngittualuujung. It’s okay if you don’t speak Greenlandic! We don’t expect you to. However, I’ve heard some tourists making fun of it. Please don’t make fun! Yes, it’s strange and looks impossible, but it’s a source of great pride for many Greenlanders.
Since we’re a pretty welcoming people, we’ll probably forgive you for messing up with these. I’ll add more when I think of them!
Never ever talk badly about religion (Islam) – Pakistanis have zero tolerance about those who pour hate speech against Islam. Mind you, by doing this you might have to face blasphemy charges.
Never reveal your sexual orientation to people – Pakistan is among the least tolerant countries for homosexuality. According to Pakistani law, you can’t promote homosexuality openly. LGBTs are treated as second-class citizens by the public. Homo- and bisexuality is simply considered against nature.
Never kiss in public place – In Pakistan, you p**s in public, but you don’t kiss in public. Don’t try to touch or hug a girl in a public place. It’s not done.
Don’t let public transport overcharge you – If you’re commuting by public vehicles then they might overcharge you. Autos/cabs usually don’t have fixed rates per kilometre. Get some advice from native people about fare and then travel.
You shouldn’t bring anything you would be despondent to lose – Family heirlooms, expensive jewellery, hefty money, your birth certificate, and the like. Once you lose something, chances are very slim you’ll get it back.
Don’t trust everyone – Some con artists, not all, have mastered the art of befriending travellers, getting them to leave their valuables unattended, and robbing them before taking off.
Credit or debit cards don’t work everywhere – Always keep some cash with you particularly in the outskirts and northern areas of Pakistan.
Avoid wearing short, revealing clothes – This is particularly for women. Don’t wear skirts and shorts and clothes that reveal your cleavage. Dress modestly and cover yourself if you don’t want to be a victim of harassment.
Don’t travel without mosquito repellent – Seasonal insects and mosquitoes are in plenty especially, in monsoon season.
17. The UK
Five things Americans should not do when visiting the United Kingdom.
In Britain we love it when our American friends visit. Avoid making the following mistakes, and your welcome will likely be that much warmer.
1. Make comparisons between the United Kingdom and the United States. Most British people will not care to hear your opinion on what is different, better or worse in the UK than in the U.S. For the most part, we already know. And, like most people around the world, while we are happy to complain to each other about the not-so-good stuff in our country, we probably don’t want to hear about it from some stranger from another place. Plus, for Brits, the way things are done in the US is not necessarily “normal” or the yardstick to compare other places to.
2. Describe things as “quaint”. We Brits often hear visitors from the United States make observations like “villages in the Cotswolds are so quaint” or “London pubs are so quaint”. While we know that this is done with the best of intentions, this may not go down so well with your British hosts.
3. Equate England, Britain and the United Kingdom. This can be forgiven as the reality is far from straightforward. But, nevertheless, as a visitor it is worth making the effort to realize that these are three entirely different things. It’s best to say that you are visiting the UK, since that is the name of our sovereign country. Do not, under any circumstances, refer to Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish people as “English”. The reaction would probably be stronger than if you called someone from Mississippi a “Yankee”.
4. Pronounce place names incorrectly. Yes, it is true that many British place names are pronounced in a way that bears little relation to their spelling or the way their namesakes in the US are pronounced. Yes, this might seem strange or illogical (it’s what comes from spoken and written languages evolving somewhat separately). And yes mispronouncing place names is an occupational hazard of travelling – we all do it. But making the effort to ask how locals pronounce place names is worth it – partly out of courtesy, partly to avoid people (however unfairly) laughing at your pronunciation and partly to avoid confusion (sometimes place names have very different pronunciations from their spellings..)
So, in the UK, Birmingham is not pronounced “bur-ming-HAM” but rather “BER-ming-um” (and, in general, “ham” in place names is almost always pronounced “um”). Leicester is not pronounced “lie-CES-ter” but rather “LES-tuh”. Oxford is not pronounced “ox-FORD” but rather “OX-fud”. Glasgow is not pronounced “glaaz-GOW” but rather “GLAZ-goh”. Edinburgh is not pronounced “edin-BERG” but rather “ED-in-bruh”. There are many smaller places with even more esoteric spelling/pronunciation combos, but I’ll stop here to avoid spoiling the surprise.
5. Attempt to imitate an accent from any part of the UK. I know I just told you to try to pronounce place names the same way as locals. You should. But exercise caution if you are tempted to try to imitate any UK accent in its entirety. Strangely, people seem to have a low tolerance for badly imitated accents, especially when it’s their own.
16. New Zealand
Don’t Worry. Kiwis don’t say ‘no worries’ in almost every sentence for nothing. If you have a problem in New Zealand someone will help you, just ask.
Don’t Forget your sunscreen. I am currentlyand we have been to some extremely hot places in America, Asia, and Europe. Everywhere we’ve been, the sun is yet to burn me as aggressively as the New Zealand sun.
I’m no scientist so forgive my pigeon explanations but apparently, there are a few reasons for this. The ozone layer is thinner in New Zealand so it lets more of the burning UV rays through.
The position of the Earth in relation to the sun; countries in the southern hemisphere move closer to the sun than those in the Northen hemisphere.
Pollution is lower in this part of the Southern Hemisphere, so there isn’t much of a blocker to protect you from some of those burning UV rays.
If you are from Britain, don’t be offended if you get called Pom. It’s not meant as an insult. New Zealanders are known as kiwis, you are affectionately known as a pom. Simple.
Don’t fret if you forget your shoes. You will not be given a second glance if you walk anywhere in New Zealand in bare feet. Don’t ask me how they do it. We emigrated to New Zealand ten years ago and I’m still unable to walk on gravel without crying.
Never say you can’t tell the difference between a New Zealand accent and an Australian one. Just don’t.
Do not criticize Peruvian food. Seriously, this is maybe the most sacred thing in our country, the one that ties all the people, no matter their social class. Do you want to make your Peruvian friends happy? Compliment the food: “The first thing I did when I visited your country was eat some ceviche. My god, what a wonderful thing!” “Wow! I can’t believe how many different kinds of potatoes you have, your country was blessed by god” “For god sake, I never enjoyed a lunch like when I was in Peru.”
Do not discuss topics related to Chile. Avoid comparisons. A lot of Peruvians still perceive this as a sensitive issue since some war we had with them more than 100 years ago (we lost) and still can’t get over it. If you are looking for a fight you can mix point 1 and 2: “Oh gosh, I never tasted a better pisco than when I was in Chile!”
Don’t assume we all dress like Incas and ride llamas. The Incas are part of our heritage and history but is in the past. If you want to see llamas, go to the highlands; you’ll find a lot of them and rural people dressed with nice typical clothes, but that doesn’t apply for the whole country.
Ask first which are safe places to go as tourist. Specially in Lima. Our capital is a big city and the same common sense applies as in any other big cities in the world: there are bad places and good places, avoid dark streets, don’t show off the bling bling.
When you are taking a taxi, I suggest use Uber or any other taxi apps instead taking one in the street. They are safe and you’ll avoid some problems with local taxis.
More than 37 million tourists visited Germany last year. According to the figures released by the Federal Statistical Office, German tourism had its eight record year in a row in 2017. Today it’s the eighth most visited country in the world and tourism is continuously booming.
Don’t ignore our RED pedestrian lights. People don’t jaywalk in Germany. Stop and wait. It’s for your safety. If you ignore a red pedestrian light it’s possible you’ll be compelled to pay a fine.
Don’t dodge the fare. Never. Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt am Main have a well organized public transport system. As a tourist, you can grasp the opportunity to buy a daysaver ticket. It’s worth it.
Never be late. Be dead on time. You have an appointment or a date at 8 o’clock? Then don’t be late. Punctuality is the golden rule here. Yes. 8:01 is late. Your friends or business partners will be annoyed. Punctuality is not about being on time, it’s basically about respecting your commitments.
Don’t expect that every shop accepts credit cards. We love our cash. It makes us ”happy”. Especially small corner shops with delicious food won’t accept credit cards.
No noise on Sundays. Sunday is our “I-hate-my-neighbours-because-they-make-noise”-day. I am quite serious.
Don’t visit concentration camps if you don’t take it seriously. A concentration camp is a sad and historical place. A bunch of idiots from abroad did the Nazi salute in front of Israeli tourists. This happened a few years ago. Absolutely disgusting.
Recycle your trash. This is another golden rule. We feel bound to separate it. Please do the same and help to reduce it. That’s an accomplishment for all human beings.
Do not attempt to enter Canada with a handgun — or any gun, really. Our gun laws are very different from the USA. Your best case scenario is it gets confiscated. It only gets worse from there.
Do not carry an open adult beverage outside of your home or a licensed facility. When travelling in Spain, I quite enjoyed walking around the streets of Seville while supping a drink that I just purchased from a vending machine. Unfortunately it’s not permitted here.
Just a friendly reminder that Canada is an extremely large country. We are almost the same size as Europe. Do not expect to visit Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa in one day — or even one trip.
Italian towns are safe on the average, however you have to know where to go and where not to and beware pickpocketing and petty crime. Moreover, beware of cheaters and scammers. For instance, don’t play the three-card game you see at squares and rail stations, they always cheat.
If you go to a posh bar in town centres and you’re given an English-only menu, try to get the Italian version: it has been reported the former has higher prices than the second.
If you don’t speak Italian, don’t expect to find people who understand English. You can address them in your language; unlike the French, we don’t feel insulted when foreigners don’t make the effort to say at least a few words in our language. However, the problem is that foreign language teaching is very poor in Italian schools and the consequences are very evident. On the plus side, we usually try to help as much as we can, with gestures, riding you to your destination or the like.
Don’t ask people how much they earn. That’s considered like a crime against privacy and most Italians don’t like this information to be known, mostly for fiscal reasons. On the other hand, it’s usually fine to say which political side you’re on. Older people argue hard about politics all the time, almost never taking it seriously, while youths don’t give a toss about it. Socialism and (democratic) communism are not evils here; unfortunately, sometimes fascism is not either.
Don’t yell insults or show the middle finger while driving. We used to do that a lot in the past, since driving in Italy is often exasperating. However, being hot-tempered is becoming dangerous and physical aggressions have been reported.
Don’t rely on public transports, public administration or anything for which organization or an efficient state are required. Apart from exceptions (such as the Milan underground), we’re not good at all on these things and everyone just tries to be smart, play by ear and take it easy (e.g., in most places, you should rent a car).
Don’t say the usual bad things about Italy, like mentioning the mafia, Berlusconi, or the like. Most Italians don’t have a clue about how the rest of world works. They think that things like corruption are everywhere and that, after all, Italy is the best place to live.
When someone offers you food or drinks, especially if you’ve just eaten a first portion of the dish being offered, and that was cooked by the lady of the house, you’re supposed to accept or have a good excuse for not doing so. Refusing is considered impolite or a sign you didn’t like it.
Similarly, don’t look for Starbucks in Italy. They have no chance to make profits here, until they stop smuggling dirty black water as coffee in their anonymous commercial shops.
Expect to be frowned upon when you cut spaghetti with the knife. We eat them by rolling them around the fork. I guess you need a bit of practice to learn how to do it (well, actually I don’t know how hard it can be, cause we learn it before we start saying ‘mummy’).
Don’t criticize Ho Chi Minh when talking with locals, unless you are 100% sure they are die-hard anti-communists. But who knows if the men whom you are talking to are secret police?
Don’t leave your belongings unattended. Violent crime is relatively rare compared to other countries, but petty crime (pick-pocketing, purse slashing, bag snatching) is growing.
Don’t bring any publication that promotes, supports or encourages locals oppose the current regime. Seriously.
Don’t stop, use your phone or camera near buildings that have policemen/soldiers standing outside.
In terms of payment, don’t expect to get by with credit card. Many places accept cash only, even in big cities like Hanoi or Saigon. Some shops accept credit cards, but request that you pay an extra 2-3% (although this is illegal).
Don’t be so serious when people are late. When someone says, “Give me 10 minutes”, it doesn’t mean they will show up after 10 minutes exactly.
Don’t forget to bring some toilet paper while travelling. A number of public toilets do not offer paper, not to mention sometimes toilets are so dirty that you have to clean them before using.
Don’t drink water directly from the tap. Boil water first, or buy bottled water.
Don’t get bitten by mosquitos. Bringing mosquito repellent is always better than being hospitalized with dengue fever.
Don’t expect everyone to queue up for services. Many people do queue but sadly a number of folks still enjoy cutting the line.
Don’t wear revealing clothes and shoes when entering pagodas.
Don’t embarrass or make locals lose face. Confucian countries have a very unique culture called as “Saving Face culture”. If you make someone lose face even accidentally, the infraction is rarely forgiven.
Don’t hook up with locals unless you know your partner very well. Many Vietnamese have zero or insufficient sex education. The number of new HIV infections has been on the rise in this country.
Don’t do public displays of affection. Not all Vietnamese are liberal.
Don’t hug or kiss people when you meet them the first time. Shaking hands only.
Don’t tip. It’s not a part of our culture.
Don’t eat before old men at your table start to pick up their chopsticks. Respecting elders is tradition in Vietnam.
Don’t forget to haggle when shopping. The prices offered to foreigners are usually much higher than to locals. Keep using your bargaining skill as much as possible.
Don’t use a mirror, hair comb, or hair brush while sitting in vehicle such as car or bus. It is a common belief, especially among drivers, that by doing so you will awake spirits who died due to traffic accidents and spirits will bring death to those awaking them.
Don’t give a bouquet with even number of flowers. Even numbers are for dead people, not living folks.
Don’t open umbrellas when you are inside. People believe spirits fear sunlight so they hide in umbrellas. When you open it, spirits will roam the house.
Don’t stick chopsticks straight into your rice bowl. That is to honour dead people, also supposed to bring bad luck.
Do not leave your belongings (laptop, smartphone, purse) in the car when you go out (especially in urban areas). There is a 50% chance they won’t be there when you return.
No matter how luxurious or expensive the hotel/place you are staying is, do not drink its tap water
Do not argue with police officers. They (mostly traffic police) will make sure they prove a point to you.
If you are gay, never show your affection in public or even in night clubs.
If you’re an atheist, please keep it to yourself. We are religious people and we take our religions personally.
When invited to someone’s home, do not refuse food. You have no idea how much time they have spent to specially prepare it for you. Eating with your hands is a plus.
Do not over-complain about how hot it is. The third and fourth time will start annoying us.
If you are going to get a bus ticket (regional busses – especially in Dar es Salaam) don’t go alone. I repeat, DO NOT GO ALONE. Get a local to escort you. You will thank me later for this.
If it’s Ramadan (especially in Zanzibar) NEVER wear revealing clothing (for women) or eat in public.
For guys who are here to have ‘fun’… No matter how classy, outspoken and beautiful she is, do not leave a woman alone in your hotel room. She might not be there when you return, and neither will your laptop, wallet etc.
Do not assume people (locals) are going to be on time. However, as a foreigner people are going to expect you to be on time.
The first thing you must not do is to visit this country if you’re just a tourist. Unless you’re an adventurer, NGO worker, a Somali who wants to see relatives; It is really not worth it coming here for now.
Please hide your valuables: smartphones, tablets, jewelery, etc. Don’t keep them inside the car even if the windows are tinted. Also, don’t leave your laptop bag in a public place for obvious reasons.
Do not walk alone in the street, especially at night. Walk with someone or where there are lot of people. Because one: if something bad happens, you’ll get help quickly, and two: bored boys are also dangerous boys. If they see bling-bling things I mentioned above, at best they’d just steal it from you or at worst, they’ll kill you. No kidding here. (This also applies to relatively safe places in Somaliland and Puntland.)
Like in other typical Muslim countries mentioned in other answers here, wear modest dresses. Women: cover your whole body except face and hands. Men: cover your knees. Drinking is prohibited. During Ramadan, eating and drinking is banned in public. And, of course, when entering someone else’s house, remove your shoes.
Bonus: Just to be clear, kids. If you’re thinking of joining the pirates, then don’t bother doing it for this whole piracy thing is over and the so-called “Great Pirates Age” ended in rather anticlimactic way, so go back and read/watch One Piece, Pirates of the Caribbean or wherever else your romantic idea of pirates comes from.
8. The Philippines
Do not leave bags unattended in airport. Don’t give reasons for security to open them. Secure your bags. Preferably, seal them in plastic. There’s a good reason for this.
The issue is called “laglag bala” or literally “bullet planting”. When passing through the detector, it will light up, and officials need to “inspect”. They will have a bullet on hand. They will plant and then magically “find” a bullet in your bag.
According to our nonsense law, having a bullet in luggage is a crime. Even if it is just 1 bullet and no gun. Beause random people are kungfu martial arts masters who can toss a bullet with bare hands and kill. It is ridiculous, because bullets are being found in the bags of foreign missionaries, elderly nuns, graduate students.
Airport security don’t mind looking like idiots for arresting a 70-year-old nun because she has bullets in her bag. Best case scenario, you have to pay a bribe.
Do not agree to “kontrata” or contracts for taxis. Most of the time this is a scam to get more out of foreigners. Contract means the meter will not be used, and a fixed amount will be agreed on, based on the distance. Usually it is 3x or more the rate if you used the meter. Sometimes they will use reasons like “there’s bad traffic going there.”
Avoid going out alone at night, especially if you are obviously not a local and most especially if you are a young lady.
Do not go to crowded places such as wet markets unless you have a friend who is familiar with the place. Avoid bringing much cash and preferably keep your jewelry and gadgets at home. While you are busy loading Camera360 in your tablet, your smartphone has already disappeared from your pocket.
When visiting Rwanda, don’t bring any plastic bags as they are prohibited in the country. When you try to bring them, they will be confiscated right at the airport. Same goes with throwing waste in the environment, our country is very clean, and throwing any waste would be a shame for you, and the authorities can punish you for that.
Don’t openly discuss ethnic issues. 22 years ago our country had seen one of the most atrocious massacres in human history. You shouldn’t go around asking everyone what? where? how? who are you? The good way to learn this history is to try and visit some memorials which are rich in that history. You’ll find them near the main city, Kigali, and almost in every other city across the country.
Don’t try to take pictures of everything you see especially people even young kids in the street without first asking. Yes, our country is still under development, you might see poor neighborhoods, young street kids or some funny things you can make out of those pictures. Taking photos of those vulnerable people without their permission is a sensitive issue in our culture.
You shouldn’t be annoyed or irritated if someone didn’t make it on time. For many people being late “is just okay.” One hour or 4 hours late would still be okay. So if you are meeting someone either for business or personal affairs just bear this in mind and be patient.
Restaurant and other service businesses. You will be treated really well, in fact a special treatment will be given to you if you are a foreigner (Rwandans are very welcoming and we are naturally good to our neighbours). But don’t take advantage of it or think that they want something from you.
Rwanda is very safe and secure. Contrary to the popular belief, you can move around anytime you want; even midnight.
Don’t expect anyone to understand what you are talking about, even if you speak English or French. The majority of people only know one language, Kinyarwanda. Taxis, local traders, waiters, service providers… they try hard to understand you, but make sure when you are traveling to have a local guide with you (this will also help you pay less for everything, because you will not be overcharged).
Don’t bring cats or dogs to public places or smoke in public. This doesn’t mean Rwandans hate animals, it means they respect other people’s views almost on anything. There are also special places reserved for smokers.
When you are a guest to someone’s home, don’t pay (or contribute) for the food or drinks offered unless asked to. This is rude or in some cases disrespectful.
Don’t get annoyed if you are being called ‘muzungu’ everywhere. Literally muzungu means ‘a traveler’ but it is widely known as ‘white people’. Even Asians are called ‘muzungu’. Don’t think they are being racists or are they trying to insult you.
Most people have written about specific customs and rules. I want to write something different. Slum Tours.
Slum tourism is the newest trend among tourists visiting India. Basically, it’s paying money to watch and photograph poor people living in miserable conditions.
Slum tourism in India first started in the Dharavi slum of Mumbai and has now spread to Delhi as well.
It’s not a new thing: slum tours originated in the slums of Manhattan and were subsequently used to ‘educate’ white people in South Africa about black people. Many prominent tourism companies even include slum tours in their packages.
I know what you are thinking, that these tours somehow help the slum dwellers. Nope.
Firstly, the companies aren’t doing it for free, they obviously make profit, which is a horrible thing to do, and secondly, we don’t need this kind of charity. Slum dwellers are not safari animals for tourists to gawk at and photograph.
Everyone and everything you see in India is real. You don’t need to visit slums to experience the ‘Real India’.
There is nothing in the whole world that my country can’t offer. From coral reefs to the highest mountains, from white deserts to mangroves, from 6 distinct seasons to all major religions, you ask for it, India has it.
Just leave the underprivileged people alone. Please don’t go on slum tours while visiting India. It will neither give you any joy, nor any satisfaction. Don’t fill your camera with someone else’s misery. Fill it with beauty and serenity.
The most important rule: don’t expect to be in dream-land. There’s a difference with how pretty a town is and what is going on within. That goes without saying for most, but I’ve met people abroad who had a completely idealist view of France and I feel like some points need to be cleared up.
France isn’t a big romantic film. It’s not like in the movies. Some areas are beautiful, and some areas won’t be as glamorous, or they will just be as average as it gets. Our country and especially Paris are usually extremely romanticized in foreign movies and naive tourists often end up disappointed because they started off with insanely high expectations of constant bohemian lifestyle and flowers and accordion music. No, really, I’ve met legit grown-ups who thought it was like that.
Have a basic understanding of French, because the cliché is true: we mostly don’t like to speak any other language than ours. Don’t go with the hope that people might talk to you in English because you’re going to be disappointed and almost in awe to see how locals can be quick to shut you off. It’s rude but many people will not care if you don’t speak French and will not make an effort to understand you.
Young people are increasingly more welcoming to English so if you truly can’t get it out in French, try out with a younger person rather than the over 40. It’s a generalization, of course, but it usually is the best tactic.
Don’t be too harsh if someone leans in to give you la bise. You’re absolutely allowed to tell people that it makes you uncomfortable or just to salute them in another way, and then they usually will get the hint and won’t lean forward. But get used to the fact that people are probably going to salute you with a kiss on each cheek even if they know you’re not French, so if you haven’t seen them before, they might lean in immediately and catch you off-guard. Don’t get me wrong, we know what personal space is, but la bise is something we rarely think of as weird.
Don’t say “tu” to someone you don’t know at all. When you speak French, remember that there is a great difference between saying ‘tu’ and ‘vous’ to someone even though they both mean ‘you.’ If the person is a new acquaintance you’re having a friendly conversation with, it’s likely they won’t mind if you slip, but beware not to use ‘tu’ with people in shops or public service overall. They will literally feel insulted.
Don’t go eating where the majority of tourists go eating. Our food is great, but don’t think it’s going to be great everywhere just because you’re in French territory or because the restaurant looks typically French. Many cafés and restaurants are made Parisian style and like to promote that facade to attract clients despite the fact that their food will probably have been recycled. And usually, it will be overpriced just because of you’re sitting on a pretty chair with pretty paintings around you.
To find good traditional french cuisine, ask trustworthy and friendly locals and they will give you good addresses. Don’t go where you see the most tourists. You’re likely not to get the best for your money except if it’s a reputed, high-standing venue.
Don’t drink and drive. This is an absolute no no.
Don’t harass women — like putting your hand on them, or telling them that they are hot. Sweden is quite feminist.
Don’t brag, mostly because it is so boring to listen to, and I guess this might be universal. People might ignore you and walk away.
Don’t be bothered if people don’t believe in any god. Almost no one is going to church anymore unless it is for special happenings such as marriage or funerals.
Don’t expect any strangers to talk to you, sit down beside you, or chat to you while waiting for the bus.
Respect the line and queue. People really care about discipline. Be polite when queuing, even if it doesn’t make sense.
3. The Netherlands
Don’t take things too personally. Dutch people are VERY direct. They say what they think — well, to a certain extent, but an extent that you’re probably not used to anywhere other than the internet. When we’re blunt to you, count to three and accept it.
Don’t hide your opinion from friends too much. Say it, for the same reason as above. We take hiding opinions to be some kind of weakness, or even cowardice.
Don’t spontaneously complain about our country. We complain about our country quite a lot ourselves, but somehow we don’t like foreigners to do it for us.
Try to ignore annoying kids as much as possible. Don’t take the parents’ job of telling them what they shouldn’t do or how they shouldn’t act — unless it is really, really obvious.
Do not expect the male to pay for your drink. Sorry, ladies. Equal share of the bill.
Treat everyone as an equal. I cannot emphasize this enough: treat everyone as an equal! Never reject people for their social status. The Netherlands is a very liberal country, and nobody can claim himself superior to others. Your big car will not do you any extra favors in traffic. Your rich background will not get you faster service at the bank. As an elite-class person, there are no excuses for disrespecting people for their origin or class position.
If you are bothered by simple folks, be nice and find an excuse for heading on. It is better not to brag about your background or successes, either. I’m sorry, you’ll really have to deal with being a normal commoner while you’re here.
Don’t talk to people in the train. Well, this is, I suppose, a European thing. We consider our time on the train time for ourselves. Contact with others during that time, with the exception of friends or digital talks, are not generally desired.
Don’t have thick skin. Mexicans are jokers by nature, so don’t take anything too seriously and avoid being easily offended. We usually mean no harm.
Don’t be condescending. Mexico has a long history of being a cultural hub, so we love hosting tourists and we’re good at it. Most Mexicans I know love hearing a good story, specially if it comes from foreign people. Non-Mexicans find themselves being the center of interest in coffee shops, gatherings and tourism spots.
But I’ve seen this attention being misunderstood as some kind of colonial servility. If you are a tourist. avoid this mistake as it is considered extremely insulting, even if nobody will tell you (we don’t do confrontation either). I knew a Spanish guy that once said, “Mexicans love us because we’re Spanish.” To which a Mexican replied, “Mexicans love you because they’re Mexican.”
NEVER GO TO PLACES LOCALS TELL YOU NOT TO. During the past few years we’ve been experiencing increasing numbers of European tourists purposely visiting ultra-dangerous neighborhoods in hopes of “knowing the real Mexico”. Please don’t do this, its nerve-wracking for us Mexicans to witness such ridiculous behavior. Believe me, if we as locals don’t go to some hoods, you shouldn’t either. Our cultural “host gene” is so strong that you might just get away with it unharmed. But why take such a big risk? It’s simply not worth it, and I guarantee you won’t have a good time and neither will the poor Mexicans around you worrying to death.
1. The United States
Many laws vary by city and state jurisdictions. Research which states you are visiting while in the USA as laws can change from one state to another (even from one city to another)! What’s legal here may get you hard time a few miles down the road.
On that note, don’t assume all Americans are alike. We’re a country of over 300 million people spread out over 3,000 miles. There are vast cultural differences between someone from the South, the Midwest, East Coast, West Coast, etc. Also, many Americans identify with their state first (New Yorker, Texan, Californian) before they identify with the country as a whole.
Don’t overreact to the crime and safety issues. America is going through the lowest rates of violent crime in over 40 years. Yes, there are bad areas in every city, but most tourist areas and surrounding neighborhoods are safe for the average traveller.
Race conversation is a taboo. America still has many issues with race (although we’re a bit more forthcoming about them than Europeans), and a flat-out discussion about race (or religion or politics for that matter) is simply not a good idea in mixed company at the dinner table.
Finally, Americans LOVE their personal space. The double-kiss or triple-kiss hello intimidates us and it surprises most foreigners when we back away in disgust. We only tend to hug family or close friends (and straight male-male hugs are generally frowned upon).