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Responsible Tourism: Four Tips to Being a Polite Guest Abroad

polite guest abroad

Tourists have a reputation for being a nuisance to the places that they visit. This is obviously not true of every tourist, but many do tend to do too little to understand the customs of the places that they visit beforehand. Here are but a few things to do when going on your trip.

Do your research beforehand

Always be prepared when you arrive in any unfamiliar destination. Read up on local customs, faux pas that you should avoid, places to visit, and perhaps most importantly, make sure to read up on and be sensitive about any serious issues that are occurring in the area, as ignorance could offend residents.

Learn the language (even if only basic things)

Learning the language of the place you plan to visit not only makes your presence more pleasant to the locals, but it is a valuable skill to take home with you. If you can communicate with people on your journey – and do so well – you are more likely to have a pleasant time, and the people you interact with will likely enjoy your company more. Plus, it’ll make it easier to ask them where the bathroom is! Going off of the research section, you should also specifically research language customs. For instance, in Japan, it is considered very informal to refer to a person by their first name; normally, you would only do this with someone you consider a good friend.

Try to blend in

One of the best ways to avoid the negative stigma that is attached to tourism is to simply disguise the fact that you are a tourist in the first place. This may not be easy if you are black, white, what have you and are visiting Japan since the non-Asian population there is very low (somewhere around 5%). However, with the right approach, there are ways for you to slip under their radar. This is not something that everyone will have available to them, but if you have someone who you can visit the country with or who lives there already (be it a friend or family member), it can be a huge benefit, as they can help you avoid making mistakes, find the best places to visit, and generally have an enjoyable time.

For the love of all that is good, be respectful to people and property!

This cannot be emphasized enough. No matter how poor your research is, no matter how bad you are at speaking the language, no matter how poorly you blend, all of that is excusable to some extent. What is inexcusable however is, upon arrival, generally making an ass out of yourself. Treat the locals only as you would want to be treated, and treat the property and landmarks the same. You do not want to be this guy, who decided that it would be an awesome idea to try and pose with a historic statue of a Portuguese king, only to wind up destroying it.

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