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I have many rules when I travel, but I have one main rule that I will never break.
I want to share this rule with you.
Research is important
Making an effort to research the country and culture I am going to visit is a must, and if you’re not doing this before you travel, you need to change that immediately.
Simple things like knowing what languages are spoken in that country and what religions are practiced are essential to making your trip a success. Finding out if it is customary to tip in that country is also crucial. Many countries don’t believe in the tipping culture so it’s important to to know what’s expected before you go!
Researching key differences between your country and the country you are visiting is also important. Some things that may be considered standard in your country could be considered obscene in your host country or vice versa. In North America, spitting is frowned upon but in China it’s common practice. In Western countries, women can wear whatever they please, but in most Middle-Eastern countries women should cover at a minimum their shoulders and sometimes their heads. There are so many little things that could be different and that you wouldn’t know unless you’ve taken the time to research the country you are about to visit.
It’s easy to buy a plane ticket, book a hotel room, and just “wing it” but chances are if you’re going to a country with a culture that differs from yours in many aspects, you’ll be in for a rude awakening. I can imagine people being completely taken by surprise at how different a country is to their own and have a miserable trip because they did not prepare themselves adequately.
Another important part of research, at least in my opinion, is researching the language. Knowing what the primary language used in the country is great but it’s not enough. I also make the extra effort to learn a few simple words (Hello, goodbye, thank you, I’m sorry, excuse me, where is? Do you speak English?). Honestly, doing this is a great way to get people to help you. Chances are you will get turned around, and you might need some help. Being able to approach someone in their language can go a long way. People are always willing to help, and that’s especially true when you made an effort to learn some of their language.
Cool anecdote time: I remember the day I went into a coffee bar in Italy, and I was able to do the entire transaction from ordering the coffee to leaving the establishment in Italian. As I was walking out the owner of the shop, who had just served me, asked me in English where I had learned Italian. I explained that I didn’t speak Italian, but I studied a bit of the language to get by while I was there. The owner told me that people never really attempted to speak his language and that he appreaciated my effort. He then proceeded to ask me if I wanted another espresso on the house!
Making an effort can go a long way, and I guarantee it can get you out of a bind as well.
Obviously, these are my two cents on the matter, and you’re all free to do whatever you please, but I think you should definitely put it the effort to ensure maximum awesomeness during your travels!
Comment below and tell me what you think!