Be a culturally sensitive tourist - anywhere in the world

Greece, Italy, Japan or Thailand… No matter where you travel to this summer, you should know that words are not the only code, which, once decoded, can make your trip more enjoyable. In some cases, the non-verbal language also has a great importance. Each country has its own laws and rules. When you make a gaffe, in some cases you will be perceived with tolerance, because you are a foreigner. But for the locals, the first image of you that lingers in their minds is that of someone without common sense. In some countries, you might even get a fine, or arrested, which I don’t think is something that you want, especially during your holidays. Therefore, do your research about the place you want to visit before you get there.

When you travel in Europe, while in Greece, be careful not to raise your hand in front of another person, like you do when you want to hail a taxi. It is considered a vulgar gesture.

When shopping in Italy, a sign of common sense is to refrain yourself from touching the produce you’re not really interested in. During your stay at the hotel, it is important to comply with the silence-observing schedule, and when in Venice, do not feed the pigeons from your food. You risk a 600 Euro fine.

In Germany, even if there is no intense traffic or there are no cars passing by, don’t cross the street unless there’s a pedestrian crossing. Ignoring the crosswalk will highlight you negatively to the locals.

When visiting Asian countries, you should know that a selfie with Buddha may get you arrested. It is not allowed to stand with your back turned to the statue.

In India, be careful where you cross the street, so as not to get run over by someone. The traffic is chaotic. Bartering is a way of life, and every Indian expects the customer to negotiate the price before buying something. To prove you’re satisfied with the food, leave a very small quantity on the plate, after eating.

If you decide to travel to China, first of all, be careful with your non-verbal language. Chinese place a lot of value on facial expressions. During a conversation, raising the eyebrow is interpreted as a sign of disapproval. So, if you want to get directions, listen without showing any expression. If you are invited to lunch by a Chinese, you should know that might be served up to 20 different types of food. It is common sense to taste a bit of everything, and to leave a small quantity of food on the plate. Do not offer tips for the people offering services. They feel insulted by such a gesture.

What do you need to know, above all, when going to Japan? No matter how hungry you are, you should not eat on the street. Don’t be surprised if the ambulance driver respectfully asks you to get out of the way. In Japan, ambulances drive with a speed of about 30 km/h and stop at every stop sign, asking everyone to stand aside and thanking everyone for understanding.

If you find yourself in Saudi Arabia on a Friday, you should go shopping on Thursday, as Friday is considered to be a holy day and everything is closed. Also, if you get here during Ramadan, under no circumstances are you allowed to eat, drink, or chew gum in public.

When you get to Thailand, don’t point your finger towards anyone, especially not towards your interlocutor. It is impolite. When sitting, bend your legs beneath you. These are considered to be the dirtiest parts of the body. Don’t point the soles of your feet towards anyone, ever. Take your shoes off before entering temples, restaurants, people’s houses. It is a sign of respect for the cleanliness of the establishment. At every entrance, there’s a special place dedicated to washing your legs. In Thai culture, money doesn’t buy everything. If you want something and the person says it is not possible, don’t try to bribe them. Ask again, smiling. If they refuse, let it go. Pay attention to how you use money when you want to pay for something. Put it nicely on the counter. Because of the royal faces printed on the notes, money is treated with the respect due to the king. You can quickly become the object of the locals’ disgust if you crumple the money or throw it on the counter.

In case you decide to visit South Korea, you should know that here, as a sign of respect for the chefs, you should eat everything on the plate.

When travelling in Brazil and talking to the locals, don’t be surprised if they hug you. They are very openhearted, and hugging is a proof of friendship. It means you’re a nice person and they liked you.

If you want to be a friend of Mexicans when travelling their country, you must keep your hands near you. If you have your hands in your pockets, this will be perceived as a rude gesture, showing a lack of interest in the person you’re talking to.

And when you get to Bondi the Australian beach, don’t ever fly a kite or play with the ball. These activities are forbidden.

When travelling in Singapore, make sure you don’t have chewing gum with you. It is forbidden. Studies have shown that there are many public maintenance issues caused by chewing gum. Chewing gum was found stuck in key holes, in postal boxes, on elevator buttons, on the chairs of the public busses, on stairs, pavements and floors. Considering these serious problems, the smallest state in South Asia has decided to ban chewing gum altogether.

Always remember that God created us different. We are all unique, part of His creation. Although we live divided across the word, accustomed to different languages and traditions, we must always treat each other with love and respect. The sacrifice of Jesus knows no boundaries or limitations - it is a free gift for humanity because “God so loved the world” (John 3, 16). Thus, the Bible encourages us to “show proper respect to everyone” (1 Peter 2, 17) and “in everything set them an example by doing what is good” (Titus 2,7).

After reading all of this, you might think making a trip is a brave activity. There are unpredictable situations you need to deal with.

But what about the nice feeling of accomplishment you get after successfully finishing a trip like this? The richness you discover in the people and places you encounter? Do not let yourself be discouraged by the rules, but test your ability to adapt to different situations. Have a nice trip!


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