12 Most Annoying Things You Can Do as a Tourist Abroad
Ditch these habits before your next trip abroad.
Traveling opens our minds and gives us a broader view of the world, but the experience of going abroad can take some getting used to. If you’re worried about making a faux pax in another country, the best thing to do is start by getting to know the place before you go — that means researching the cultural norms, restaurant etiquette, and language. Scroll on for some very annoying (and, yes, in some cases, pretty darn offensive) things you definitely don’t want to do the next time you leave the United States.
Related: The 7 Most Annoying People You’ll Meet at the Airport — and How to Deal With Them
1. Expecting Everyone to Speak English
Yes, English is prevalent in most parts of the world (even when it’s not the official language) but that doesn’t mean you should expect — or worse, demand — that someone in another country caters to your linguistic shortcomings. Instead, grab a guidebook and learn a few key phrases, or simply use Google Translate.
2. Ignoring Cultural Customs
This shouldn’t need to be said and yet it does: Social etiquette matters when traveling abroad. Not bothering to familiarize yourself with important customs such as greetings, tipping, and even which hand to use for passing a plate is a surefire way to embarrass yourself and disrespect others. We can’t imagine you’d want to do either of those things.
3. Dressing Inappropriately
It may be fine to walk around in mini shorts during a heatwave at home (and the weather may even warrant minimal apparel on your travels), but that might not be culturally appropriate depending on your destination. For example, it’s customary to cover arms and legs at temples across Thailand and Bali, yet hundreds of tourists each year snap selfies wearing outfits that fall way outside of those respectful guidelines.
4. Not Leaving the Hotel or Resort
Please don’t pull a White Lotus and spend every waking moment — including meals — at the hotel or resort. Certainly, many properties around the world play host to some incredible restaurants and offer fascinating cultural experiences, but those should be supplements to getting out and exploring the destination.
5. Rushing Through Meals
Meals in the United States often feel like a sprint to read the menu, order, eat, pay, and leave. But it’s quite the opposite abroad — especially in Europe — where the entire dining experience is meant to be slower and more pleasurable. Please stop snapping to get the attention of the server and demanding the bill the moment you put down the fork.
6. Assuming Things Will Be Open All the Time
America may operate on a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work schedule and have many 24-hour mega stores, but that isn’t the case in most other places. Countries such as Spain and Italy take a mid-day break. Tapping on windows expecting a store owner to open the door because you allocated souvenir shopping to an inopportune time is strongly discouraged.
7. Disrespecting Monuments
Disrespecting monuments and symbols of cultural significance (by climbing up on tombs or hopping over marked-off areas, for example) for a photo is beyond rude. How would you feel if someone scaled the Statue of Liberty or the Washington Monument to snap a selfie? Exactly.
8. Attempting to Pay with USD
The U.S. dollar is the currency in the United States, not the world. While it’s happily accepted in certain places, most of the time it just adds a layer of stress and annoyance for everyone. Caroline Quinn, a travel expert at Black Tomato, recommends taking out local currency on arrival if you forget to bring it with you.
9. Having Way Too Much Luggage
Do yourself a favor and resist the urge to overpack. It ups your odds of something going missing in transit, and it might make finding a ride difficult, as smaller cars are more common in some other countries. “It reads a bit amateurish and can impact the vehicles you’re able to fit in, which adds unnecessary costs and stress for both travelers and hosts,” says Quinn.
10. Being Overly Critical of Food and Culture
Admittedly, traveling abroad is different. Isn’t that the point? If you wanted more of the same, why not just stay home? There’s no upside in comparing everything you eat, see, and experience to the way things are in the United States and then critiquing based on that very narrow lens. For the love of all things travel, don’t utter the words “I’ve eaten better [insert the country’s] food in [U.S. city].”
11. Asking for Food Modifications
Unless you’re requesting modifications because of an allergy or dietary restriction, asking for endless changes causes undue stress to people preparing the food. “It’s also rather insensitive to demand alterations to traditional dishes and local cooking styles,” adds Quinn.
12. Sticking to the Tourist Spots
If you spend the whole time eating at international chain restaurants dotted around the biggest tourist attractions that basically only cater to travelers, how will you ever get a taste of the local food? The same can be said of ultra-touristy souvenir shops and bars. A good rule of thumb? If a place only has reviews from Americans, consider picking a different spot.
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