It was a hot day, so when the couple ended their morning on the beach, they chose a little shop – in their swimsuits. They wrapped themselves in a sparkling scarf around her bikini bottoms, and in his flip-flops and motto-mop, they sold into the sheikh little shop on the main lane. The audience gasped and stared. Mothers covered their children's gawking eyes. Mature men and women snorted or shook their heads. "They must be Americans," one salesman whispered knowingly to another. Unfortunately, she was right.
When traveling, whether for business, pleasure or on vacation, pay attention to your behavior. Americans are becoming increasingly known for their disrespect while abroad. Did I say stay? The image of "Ugly American" is already far too widespread. Speaking stereotypically, wise cracked, inappropriately dressed, humble US foreigners who flaunt their lifestyle while on the road are unfortunately, in some ways, far too real. With anti-American sentiment growing worldwide, Microsoft-McDonald's international companies and business publications such as the Wall Street Journal have been discussing the theme over and over. Here are some tips on how to foster a better, more intelligent, educated, and respectful image when traveling abroad.
Familiar with geography
Planning a trip abroad? First line of business – get a card and get acquainted with it. Have an idea of how the city and its surroundings are organized. Knows important sites and landmarks. Many good travel guides provide the necessary information about getting around. This can be especially important if the local language uses a non-Western alphabet. In a recent trip to Colombia, my wife and I listened to the fun when a foreigner explained his family to the compass – wrong. He turned north and south in spite of having a quiet sunset in the Pacific.
Dress in moderation
You can't say enough about local clothing and customs. In many countries, it is disrespectful for women to dress freely and show bare skin or body parts in public. Carrying hairy coffins or legs that are on display, even for men, can be considered offensive in many cultures. If you are unsure about what is right, ask a conscientious person or browse informative websites about local customs information. Useful rules of thumb are no bare feet, torso, back or arms in public. Simulate a local dress to make sure you respect their cultural standards. Embera Indian women, usually topless in their culture, cover colorful wrap as they visit non-Indian towns and villages along the Pacific coast of South America to respect the social standards of their neighbors. Embera men, with normal thong furry cloth, wear tops and pants outside the villages for the same reasons.
Watch what and how you speak
Your speech reflects who and what you are. It can be a useful tool to mix culture or dissatisfaction. Do not create resentment by constantly babbling about "riches," power, business, or social status. People do not care to hear how their "inferior" way of life may seem to you.
In Part 2 of this three-part series, we look at what to say and how to say it when we go abroad to: "Think of your husband as you travel: Religion is taboo, politics is out."
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