How to be a Respectful Traveler
The best thing about traveling is that it has taught me far more than what I have learned in school. It is much easier to absorb and remember pieces of history after being able to see where it happened in person, but more importantly I have learned how to communicate with people of different cultures and how to do it respectfully. I’ve already touched base on how to dress respectfully in another country, now here three tips I have learned along the way about how to be a respectful traveler.
Greet Others on the Street
In Swaziland, I was told that it is customary to greet people passing by you on the street. You don’t need to greet a whole crowd, but when there is one or two people going by it’s nice to say hello. They do this especially in small villages where everybody knows everybody. The extra benefits of greeting passer-bys are that you’ll learn the greeting in the local language and maybe make a new friend!
Buy Hosts Gifts
Every time I visit friends and family in Japan, my mom has always packed an extra suitcase (no lie) of gifts to give to whomever I stay with. This a great way to say thank you for their sacrifice of housing an annoying kid like me, because in Japanese culture people do not like to have the feeling of owing a favor hanging over their head and prefer to repay it as soon as possible. This is a custom that I have taken into habit when I have stayed in other countries as well. I tend to give gifts of food that is hard to find in their country or typical souvenirs or hand-made gifts from my home city of Seattle.
Don’t Use Your Left Hand – Indonesia
While traveling with my friend in Bali, she explained to me that I shouldn’t shake hands or touch people with my left hand because it is considered dirty. People in Indonesia, Africa, the Middle East, and other parts of Southern Asia use the left hand to clean themselves (no toilet paper!!) while using their customary toilets. While this might not apply to more developed countries, using the left hand in certain circumstances can be considered offensive and gross.
Do you have any tips from traveling on being a respectful traveler? Let me know in the comments below!