If you want to enjoy a fantastic experience, be a great companion, not piss off other tourists and certainly get on with the locals, you need to know the ways to not be a jerk when traveling. Traveling should be fun and you should be able to relax 100%, but it also does mean that to get the best out of it, you need to be aware of the way your behavior can impact on those around you, and be prepared to make adjustments, in a way you wouldn’t back home. It’s easier to not be a jerk when traveling than you might think – it’s mostly courtesy, recognition of customs, and a little thought.
One of the ways to not be a jerk when traveling is to remember that you are allotted a single seat on a train, bus, plane, or other mode of transportation, and perhaps a little storage. That’s all you bought and all you have a right to. Your luggage and belongings shouldn’t take up space while other passengers have to stand. People are more important than your stuff. Put your stuff in your lap and let someone sit down, or buy an additional seat. However, even if you bought that other seat, no one will know you bought an extra seat and you’ll still look like a jerk.
Take cues from those around you. Match the loudness of the voices in the vicinity, don’t talk any louder, especially when in confined places like restaurants, busses or trains. Different cultures have different ideas about what is a loud, rude conversation, and when you are their country try to respect their customs.
Although it doesn’t seem that excessive bags or extra heavy bags would be anyone’s problem but yours, think about carrying all those bags or weight when the 14th day of your vacation arrives - you’ll be sick of it and ready to jettison a few unnecessary items. Furthermore, you won’t annoy fellow travelers with your excess, allowing them room for their bags and belongings. Think also of porters and bus or taxi drivers who might have to lift your bags and take them to your hotel room or store them.
If you’ve been standing in line for anything, it’s likely you know what the reason is. Therefore, there is no reason why you should not be ready. If you are standing in line to order food, decide what you want before you get to the front of the line. If identification will be required, have that identification ready. If you are expected to pay something, have your credit card, debit card, or cash handy and easy to access. Going through airport security, have your belt off, your shoes off, your ticket and I.D. ready, and your computer out of the bag BEFORE you get to the X-ray machine.
Even if people DO speak English, they are not obligated to speak it. Humble yourself, and learn the magic words “please” and “thank you” in the local language, and you’ll be amazed at how many people are willing to help you even if they don’t know many English words. Also, if they speak English, they may speak it differently than you and it may still be correct English-every country’s language develops in different ways. American English developed differently than England’s English, yet they are both correct..
You may or may not be an adventurous eater, but you don’t need to be a jerk. You may be able to order off the menu then ask for multiple changes when dining in the U.S., but it’s not done much elsewhere. Food in other countries is usually made with local ingredients and in the way it was meant to be eaten in that particular country. Americans also have their traditions-Philly cheesesteak, pizza, or hoagies/subs are cherished traditions we wouldn’t change for anyone, so don’t expect your host country to change everything for you.
You may unintentionally be a jerk if you use the wrong gesture in a country where your innocent “thumbs up,” for example, could be the worst of insults to your hosts. Take time to study your host country a little bit, and find out which gestures to avoid. American gestures people use without thinking can be misinterpreted by those not familiar with them, like the sign for “A-OK,” the gesture of holding your nose when something smells bad, or shaking hands with your left hand may be badly interpreted. These gestures look as offensive to the people living in certain countries as it does for us to see someone pointing using their middle finger, as some Asian people do.
See! I told you it’s easy not to be a jerk when traveling and your experience will be all the richer for it. Do you moderate your behavior when in a different country or are you a “take me as I am” kinda gal?