When you’re looking forward to a trip abroad, the main things on your mind are getting there and how much fun you’ll have while you’re there. You’re probably not putting much thought to how your destination may be different than home and how that may affect your usual activities. In fact, depending on where you’re going there may be certain things that you do in your native location that are offensive or inappropriate in a different country.
Traveling abroad can be one of the best experiences you’ll have in your life, but if you go unprepared it can also be one of the worst ones This is why it’s so very important to know a little about the cultural differences of the destination you’re traveling to. Here are few general dos and don’ts to follow, regardless of where you’re traveling to, but these tips are especially important when you want to know how to prepare for your first trip abroad!
Do: Learn a little of the language
Whether you’re going to your destination for a weekend or a week, it’s always helpful to learn a little bit of the language. You don’t have to study to be a fluent speaker of the language but learning a little bit will take you a very long way. It’s especially helpful to learn a few of the basic phrases like:
“Hello”, “Thank you”, “Please”, “Excuse me”, “I’m sorry”, “How much is it?”
Those few words will show respect for their culture and that you’re at least trying to be courteous.
The easiest way to help with the language are apps that you can download to your phone that will translate any phrase that you might be confused about the meaning of. Think about it… if you live in the U.S. and you see people visiting from different countries, you may encounter them and see that they don’t fluently speak English but they know a little bit of the language to communicate with people they encounter.
The same can be said when you travel to a different country. It’s not that you have to speak the language fluently but maybe a week or two before your trip, take the time out to read over some common phrases for that country, you’ll be amazed at how much more wonderful your trip can be when you do that!
Do: Be open-minded
The fact that you’re traveling abroad shows that you have a little bit of open-mindedness. Traveling abroad is the perfect way to get out of your comfort zone too! From the food to the overall culture, when you travel to a country different than your own, you have to open to new things that you’re not used too.
Psychology Today discusses how traveling abroad actually affects your personality. It states that when you travel to a different country, you’re opening yourself up to try something different, and that’s a great personality trait to have. Being open-minded to trying new things might be something you learn on your trip abroad but it’s a life skill that you will carry with you long after your trip has passed.
Do: Learn the cultural norms
Learning cultural norms is something that can really affect how well your trip abroad will go. Understanding that the cultural norms you have back home can be totally different than that of the location you’re visiting is very important.
Just a little bit of research is all it takes. Did you know that in America, holding up your thumb is a sign of approval and holding up your index and middle finger symbolizes “peace” but in other countries, if you do that, it is a sign of disrespect? In some countries, those two hand gestures are the equivalent of holding up your middle finger in America.
It’s little things like that, that are completely harmless, to you, but, in a different country, they symbolize the utmost disrespect. Situations like this are when it’s helpful to learn the phrase “I’m sorry” in the native tongue to at least show that you meant no disrespect.
Don’t: Travel without enough money
When it comes to traveling, you want to always make sure you have enough money, especially when you’re traveling abroad. A good rule of thumb to keep is that when you’re planning your trip abroad, plan it out at least a year in advance to give yourself enough time to save up.
Some people will work a second job to come up with the extra money to fund their trip. Maybe you work Monday through Friday but need a little more money to set aside for the trip, look into part-time jobs that allow you to work evenings or weekends.
If going somewhere and clocking in isn’t something you’re willing to do, then you can also consider a job that allows you to work at your leisure by opening your own online store. A lot of people will take this route for extra income because it does allow you to have the freedom to work at your own pace, plus, you can work from the comfort of your own home.
Whether you choose to work from home or take on a part-time job, both are reliable sources of extra income. The key thing here is to make sure you set up a savings account that will build on the money you save.
Do: Research the laws
It doesn’t matter if you think you’re traveling to a destination that you “feel is safe” and people have told you it’s safe, you still need to do your own research. After all, it’s you traveling there, not them, right? If you are using a travel agent, ask them if there’s anything you need to be aware of. If you’re doing your own travel planning it’s easy to look up the laws and customs of a country on the internet.
Not being aware of the laws in the location you’re traveling to can result in fines, penalties, and even jail time (depending on where you are and the law you violated). This can all be avoidable just by learning about the laws at a destination.
So, do yourself and your memories a huge favor, and learn the laws of your overseas destination.
Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.