Inspired by an article my friend Lynne sent me, a recent conversation with my friend Cliff and being annoyed by the lack of consideration displayed by some travelers who made the news lately, here’s a list of things I suggest you DON’T do when you’re abroad.

  1. DON’T travel with a sense of entitlement. Nobody owes you anything. You are a guest in another country.
  2. DON’T be rude because you don’t understand something or things don’t go your way. Be polite and willing to learn. Adapt to the local way of doing things.
  3. DON’T insist on speaking your own language when you’re in a country with a different official language. Of course if it’s an emergency of some sort, that’s a different situation.
  4. DON’T get frustrated when people don’t understand your attempts to speak their language. Your frustration will come across, your point won’t. Use your hands and feet or descriptions if you don’t know the name of an object. Try smiling, it breaks the tension.
  5. DON’T turn it into an ego trip. If you’re just traveling to say “from A over B to C, I’ve done it all!” or to pose nude in front of a landmark (have some respect!), you’re missing what’s essential.
  6. DON’T mock people’s living conditions. If you’re used to clean tap water and are traveling to a place that doesn’t have it, be grateful for your unbelievable luck to live in a place that allows you not to have to worry about these things.

    what not to do abroad

    Iquitos, Peru

  7. DON’T get upset because people are speaking their own language. Make an effort and try to meet people half way.
  8. DON’T impose your own preconceptions. Other cultures, other traditions and beliefs. Show some interest.
  9. DON’T scoff at local food and insist on having fries with ketchup. If you feel the need for food you’re more familiar with, ask for it gracefully and with respect.
  10. DON’T judge because things are different. ‘Different’ doesn’t mean it’s better or worse. It’s just different.

These are based on my own experiences with other travelers and recent news stories. They certainly don’t reflect the behavior of all travelers, but do happen quite a bit. I think it’s the responsibility of the traveler to make efforts to communicate, to reach out, be respectful and show interest.

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