“Foreign etiquette” for travelers..fact or fiction?

by Efficient Traveler on March 30, 2011

The Efficient Traveler visits 4 to 5 international countries a year, having logged about 30 different countries in 6 continents (all except Antarctica!). I make a point to learn the culture and customs of the country I visit, not just for business, but for personal reasons. The Efficient Traveler enjoys the scenery, culture, and food of other countries; but to do so, one must have some knowledge of cultural etiquette. I recommend this great book, “Behave Yourself!” on good behavior while traveling abroad. 

I also read up on travel guides like Lonely Planet and Eyewitness Travel.  But always ask a local if these customs are ‘real’. For example, on my trip to Greece last year, I read that you never show your palm or wave…but a local told me that was not really true. Perhaps several years ago, but not today. What’s great is that many foreigners, particularly businessmen, don’t hold us to those standards…only other countrymen. So, it’s more likely to be rude if that action is performed by someone in their own country. 

There was a good article in the USA Today :”Foreign etiquette for Americans: A guide to dos and don’ts abroad“.  It pointed out many of those key points from the travel guides. But again, dont worry to much about them, as most foreigners accept that we dont know all the customs. I especially liked one of the comments made below the article about how other cultures should also know about coming the US. For example, spitting on the street is common in China, but not in the US. Tipping is not common in Europe, but is in the US, etc. But, it always goes back to you are more responsible for your behavior in your own country than abroad!

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