How to Travel Abroad Without Being Labeled as a Rude American
Traveling abroad for the first time is one of the best experiences in life. Your eyes will be opened to quite literally a whole new world. You’ll see, taste, smell, and hear things you’ve never even imagined and you’ll meet incredible people who will become fast friends. However, America isn’t so hot right now in the international community, and your association with it won’t do you any favors. There are a few easy things you can do to be a conscientious and considerate traveler, and we’ve laid them all out here so you can travel safely avoid the unfortunate fate of being labeled as a rude American. Bon voyage!
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Nothing says "I'm from a capitalist country of plenty!" like a flatbed of luggage. Don't hog the overhead bin. Pack light out of consideration for your fellow travelers and so you're free to go anywhere on a moment's notice during your trip. You don't want to spend your vacation babysitting baggage anyway.
Learn key phrases.
You'll have a long plane ride so you might as well use it wisely. With all the resources available in print and online these days, you can easily learn a few key phrases in your destination's dominant language. If you learn nothing else, memorize how to say "Thank you."
Locate the bathrooms immediately upon arrival.
Spoiler alert: you're probably going to get diarrhea. It's just a matter of time. Find a place to go through hell discreetly.
Figure out the shower situation.
Traveling is stressful and often involves temperature changes, meaning: you probably stink. Do yourself and everyone else a favor and clean yourself up. Nobody wants to smell you.
Have a plan.
If you don't have at least a loose itinerary for your destination, you'll probably fall prey to tourist attractions and group tours with other Americans who are afraid to leave their comfort zones. Do your research ahead of time, but leave enough space in the schedule to be spontaneous or take a local's suggestion.
If someone gives you directions or the name of a place, write it down. Don't pretend like you can remember it because guaranteed you'll get lost, then be too embarrassed to ask for help. That, or you will ask, and you'll get mugged.
Dress to impress, not to offend.
Admit it: if you've never been to a country, you don't really know what the natives wear. Dress in neutral, clean, modest clothes. You can always pick up that "authentic" article of clothing once you've been in country for a few days.
Get out of your hotel room.
Your hotel room should be your launch pad, nothing more. (Bonus points if you go for the hostel instead.) No brag-worthy adventure was ever had inside a hotel room. Though you may be from isolationist America, remember that you're here to break down walls, not stay in them.
Turn off your phone.
The only thing more annoying than someone talking loudly on their phone in public is an American talking loudly on their phone in English in a non-English speaking country. Hang it up, pal. You can talk to your peeps when you get home.
Eat street food.
Be brave and eat the street food. The worse that can happen is diarrhea, and you're already prepared for that, remember?
Do not sexualize culture.
Yes, certain accents can be a turn-on, but you don't need to share that with the locals. Keep your creepy culture fetish to yourself.
Don't go out looking like this.
Skip any blatantly American gear, wear lighter shade sunglasses (so people can actually see your eyes), and restrain any stupid expressions.
Don't do that.
You're not the king of anything. Sit down and humble yourself, you cocky American.
Stay away from that guy.
Avoid other Americans at all costs. You can do dumb things with them when you're back on your home turf.
When in doubt, say you're Canadian.
Canada offends no one. If you suspect you're in an anti-American environment or just want to fly under the radar, tell inquiring minds that you're from Winnipeg. Nobody knows anything about it except that it's cold, so you're free to make up whatever you want about your fake homeland.
Don't spend the whole trip taking selfies.
You can't experience a place and document it at the same time. You have to choose one. For your own sake, please make it the former. You might hurt yourself (or someone else) with your incessant selfie-taking.
Take your earbuds out.
Nothing says "antisocial" like wearing earbuds in public (even if you're not listening to anything) and nothing says "rude American" like continuing to wear them even when someone is talking to you. Keep your ears open and try listening for once; you might learn something.
Don't act unimpressed.
During your journey, you'll probably end up at landmarks, historical sites, or other areas of interest that just aren't your jam. You don't have to be pretend to be wowed, but don't be disrespectful, either.
Be open to new experiences.
The beauty of travel is that if you go into it with an open mind, something unexpected and wonderful might happen. Release yourself from expectations, stay curious, and let yourself be surprised.