17 Things Americans Need to Avoid at All Costs When Traveling Abroad

Whether you’re taking a short vacation to a new country or traveling for a longer period of time, you want to get the most out of your trip. Avoid these 17 common mistakes to make sure you soak up all the culture while avoiding embarrassing errors.

Disrespecting Local Customs and Traditions

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When you are traveling to a different country, it is important to take time to educate yourself on local customs so you don’t offend or disrespect locals. Consider how you dress, as in some traditional or religious settings there may be rules on what is appropriate, and try to interact with the locals as they interact with one another.

Skimping on Travel Insurance

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According to Money Helper, “Travel insurance provides financial protection if you face certain problems when you’re traveling or on holiday. It covers a range of possibilities, from lost luggage to the cost of medical care if you become ill or have an accident.” Take time to read through your policy documents so you know what you’re covered for.

Ignoring Local Laws and Regulations

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Some countries have different rules and laws, and you don’t want to be caught doing something illegal simply due to a lack of research. Consider local road rules, including pedestrian rights and public transportation rules; ensure your visas are correct; and make sure you respect laws surrounding how you act in public.

Overlooking Dietary Restrictions and Preferences

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If you plan on eating out at local restaurants, it can be helpful to research popular dishes to understand the ingredients that might be included. That way, you can avoid any allergic reactions or dietary conflicts. It is also respectful to research the customs around local meal times and dining etiquette.

Neglecting Personal Safety

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Make sure you keep your belongings safely attached to you, and try not to take too much cash out at once. Allianz Assistance says if you do become a victim of crime, “Make sure you report the crime as soon as possible and ensure you receive a police report.” By doing this, you’ll be in the best position to make a claim on your insurance.

Failing to Respect Environmental Guidelines

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Another way to show respect for locals and communities is to follow their environmental practices. Make sure you segregate your waste as they do, and observe guidelines when it comes to interacting with wildlife. You can also support local sustainability initiatives by choosing eco-friendly accommodations and shopping with sustainable businesses.

Overlooking Communication Nuances

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Some cultures have a direct way of communicating; others are more subtle. By researching and adapting to this, you’ll enhance your mutual understanding of business owners and other locals you come across. Consider etiquette around the use of mobile phones, speaking volume, and public behavior.

Disregarding Local Transportation Etiquette

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Every culture has different norms when it comes to public transportation, and making sure you research these can prevent any embarrassing situations. Consider the customs around queuing in line, noise levels, and seat allocation, and if you’re using taxis, it’s worth knowing the practices around fare negotiation.

Forgetting to Adapt to Local Etiquette

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According to the Government of Canada, before you go away, “look into the differences and the similarities between your own culture and the host culture to understand where to adapt your behavior…. Find a balance between assimilating to the new culture and maintaining [your] own cultural identity.” Mastering basic greetings and phrases and looking into any cultural or social events taking place in the country is a great way to start.

Underestimating Cultural Significance

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Local arts and historical landmarks can be of extreme cultural significance, so it’s important to avoid disrespectful actions or speech at these places. It’s also nice to show locals that you enjoy their culture by participating in festivals or traditions.

Ignoring Health Practices

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To make your trip as comfortable as possible, it’s a good idea to research recommendations on consuming tap water or specific foods to avoid health issues. It’s also sensible to carry any vaccinations or medications you might require for the destination.

Not Understanding Service Etiquette

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You might be used to a certain type of service, but norms in hospitality and timeliness vary across countries, so try to remain patient if it’s not what you’re used to. If you face a challenging situation, remain kind and avoid offending locals by making negative comparisons to your home country.

Mismanaging Money and Currency

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It’s important to take time to understand exchange rates to stay on budget, as well as research the best way to spend while away. The Independent says, “Using a credit card to pay for purchases while traveling can be a safe way to spend, but without the right card, the charges can swiftly rack up.”

Not Preparing for Connectivity Issues

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If you require internet access while you’re away, it’s a good idea to research the connectivity in the area to avoid disappointment when you get there. It’s also helpful to make alternative arrangements in case you can’t connect to the internet, including offline maps and local SIM cards.

Overlooking Local Time and Punctuality Norms

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Working hours and meal times vary across the globe, so it is helpful to adapt your lifestyle to fit with this so that you don’t face disappointment when it comes to restaurant or shop opening hours. It’s also a good idea to observe the locals’ attitudes toward timeliness and align with this.

Failing to Respect Personal Space and Privacy

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Personal space preferences can vary between cultures, so try to observe and mimic practices in lines and crowded places to maintain respectful distances and avoid discomfort. It is also important to avoid asking intrusive questions or taking actions that might invade privacy or personal boundaries.

Neglecting to Appreciate Local Hospitality

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By expressing genuine gratitude for local hospitality, you’ll build a rapport with people and show respect for their culture. Engaging openly with locals and showing respect for their way of life will leave them feeling respected and enrich your travel experience.

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