Recently while in Jordan visiting some of our IDEAS Associates, I was reminded of practical ways to be a respectful guest while visiting or working in a country outside the U.S. Here are some travel tips that will make you a welcome guest.
- Learn a few phrases in the local language before arriving. This communicates respect for the national people, even if many in that country speak English.
- Make an effort to understand the geopolitical history of the region. Often as Americans we have a very limited perspective on the history of political conflicts and the impact on those in the regions we visit. Many countries are home to thousands of refugees. Understanding where these refugees come from and the events behind their arrival gives us a better perspective on their lives.
- Learn the basic governmental structure of the country. In a place where there is a monarchy, for example, know the restrictions on speech regarding the royal family.
- Study a map of the region or city you are visiting. When you visit Amman, Jordan you will hear a lot of talk about various traffic circles in the city. Knowing the layout of the city will help orient you as you meet people, find local restaurants, or take an Uber.
- Read an English version of a local newspaper. Be informed of what the locals are reading and talking about. This will give you some understanding of what conversations are happening in the country.
- Attempt to understand the core beliefs of the local people; religious and cultural. Be willing to ask questions, without judgment, to learn more about how people think, work, socialize, and worship.
- Read about cultural norms in the country you are visiting, such as tipping, standards of dress, and sustainable tourism. Respect the local sites, and educate yourself on the history, culture, and importance of any site you visit. Consider visiting sites that are lesser known and visited.
- Worry less about capturing every moment on Instagram and enjoy the experience more. Put away your camera and try to really look at those around you. Be polite, courteous, curious, and willing to learn from the local people.
The opportunity to visit or work in another country is an awesome privilege. A bit of preparation will make the experience a richer one for you and those you encounter.
About the Author: Barb is the IDEAS Director of Community Life and has lived in Cote d' lvoire and France. Enjoy other blog posts by Barb, such as Pitch Your Tent.