Learn a Few Customs Before You Travel

If you plan on visiting another country, you need to know a few customs. So, here are some tips on how to be a well-behaved tourist, courtesy of MSN Travel.

  • Dress for success. It may sound shallow, but how you dress is very important to how you’ll be perceived abroad. For example, in Saudi Arabia, local women - as well as female visitors - are expected to cover their heads as a sign of modesty. In some parts of West Africa, people are superstitious about wearing white in public. That’s because all-white garments are typically worn at funerals. So, prepare for your trip by reading books of cultural etiquette, or by finding recent photos or films about your destination.
  • Talk the talk. You don’t have to speak the language fluently, but knowing a few simple phrases can really help. Take the Parisians. They have the reputation of being rude to tourists, but most will open up after you speak a few words of French - no matter how bad your pronunciation! So learn a few basic pleasantries: Hello, good-bye, thank you, excuse me, I'm sorry, and how are you? These six little phrases will get you a long way.                   
  • Avoid gift faux pas. In many places, gift-giving is actually expected. For example, people in China and Japan exchange gifts as a sign of friendship. However, choose wisely, because the meaning and purpose of gifts are often heavily weighed. If you're visiting a family, you’ll want to pick something that both parents and children can use - such as desserts or decorations. Also, keep in mind that cultural beliefs may limit gifts that are appropriate. For instance, although you should always bring your Beijing host a gift, never give an umbrella or a green hat - both words are similar to Mandarin words that could be considered offensive. Remember – everyone makes mistakes. No matter how much you prepare, you’re likely to hit a few etiquette bumps in a foreign country. Just do your best to be pleasant, and you’ll come out ahead. If all else fails – SMILE. It’s the universal language of kindness.

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