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The world is a huge place that’s meant to be explored. In addition to seeing the iconic sites and tourist destinations each country has to offer, one of the greatest aspects of traveling abroad is being able to immerse yourself in foreign culture and traditions. There is no better way to get out of your comfort zone, try new things, and develop your character.
For all the amazing experiences traveling abroad can provide, there are plenty of common mistakes you should do your best to avoid. Here are seven to keep in mind.
1. Not Making an Attempt to Speak the Language
Google Translate has made traveling MUCH easier over the past few years. However, you can’t always rely on technology. One of the quickest ways to annoy locals in a foreign country is to assume they speak your language, then get angry and start shouting when they don’t.
Even though you may butcher pronunciation and grammar, the simple fact that you are trying shows respect for the local culture. Memrise is an awesome free tool to learn the basics of the major languages spoken across the world.
2. Carrying Lots of Cash
Just like it’s not wise to carry lots of cash in your own country, carrying a giant wad in a foreign land is even more dangerous. Other than cash being easy to spend and easy to lose, the simple fact that you are a tourist makes you a target for certain people.
Regardless of where you go, chances are, there are locals who make a living by taking advantage of travelers. Play it safe. Give yourself a reasonable daily cash allowance. Even if you have to pay a fee for ATM withdraws, it’s MUCH better than losing a big pile of cash. Many people these days are finding that cryptocurrency is a safer alternative to make payments abroad. If you’re into Bitcoin, here is a great Coinbase review to learn more about this concept.
3. Only Eating Fast Food
Eating in a foreign country can be intimidating, especially for picky folks. If you’re a shy eater, it’s all too easy to stick to the worldwide chains like McDonalds, KFC, or Dunkin’ Donuts. However, sampling new foods is a must-do when traveling abroad, especially if you go to countries like Thailand or France.
When it comes to trying foreign dishes that your body isn’t used to, you simply need to accept the fact that some dishes aren’t going to mesh well with your system. While there’s always a chance you will spend a night in the bathroom speaking to the porcelain, you don’t want to spend your entire trip eating Big Macs that you could get down the street in your own country. Be brave and try new things. You’ll be glad you did.
4. Dressing Too Informal
Many countries have certain dress codes in social and professional situations. The fact that you are a tourist DOES NOT excuse you from this. Even though you are on vacation and it may be desirable to walk around in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, doing so in certain places can be very disrespectful the locals.
Be sure to do your research on the country(s) you are traveling to. Failing to abide by dress codes is one of the worst ways to attract attention in a foreign country.
5. Tipping Too Much, Or Too Little
Tipping is something that varies from country to country. Either doing it or not doing it can be an insult to the staff. For example, in North America, not tipping basically tells the waiter that the service was bad. Being as how most of these workers are only paid a few dollars an hour, tips are the bulk of their income.
On the other hand, tipping in places like Japan might be viewed as a way of telling the waiter they are poor and need your money. When in doubt, refer to this diagram:
6. Not Sticking to a Budget
When traveling, it can be extremely tempting to spend money on all kinds of things like souvenirs, expensive drinks, experiences, ect. After all, you are on vacation, right?
If you aren’t traveling with unlimited funds, you need to make your money last.
Before you set out on your adventure, sit down and assess how much you are bringing in relation to your itinerary. Going into a big city will obviously require more. If you want your trip to include some retail therapy, designate a specific day for it. Be sure to budget a certain amount of money for essentials, and of course, fun money.
Do everything you possibly can to avoid the temptation for unnecessary splurging. One of the worst things to be is broke in a foreign country. Seriously, it’s terrible!
7. Getting Hung Up on Mistakes
When it comes to traveling (in any capacity), the best mindset to adopt is not stressing the little things and going with the flow. Missing a train, a tour, or a sunset is never ideal, but you aren’t doing anyone any favors by getting frustrated in situations you can’t change. This is a time when you are supposed to be enjoying life and creating memories. Don’t let them be angry ones.
If something falls through or doesn’t work out, make the best of it. Walk around and explore the area. You never know, you might find something even better!
Traveling abroad is addicting. The “travel bug” is a very, very real thing.
Throughout all the good times, keep in mind, you are representing more than just yourself. In many ways, you are shaping outside perceptions of your own country. Make sure to do your fair share of prior research.
Now, there are thousands – perhaps millions – of mistakes you can make abroad. If there are any more you can think of and would like to share, please feel free to add it in the comments!