10 Things to Avoid While Traveling as an American: Numbers 1 and 2

Over the course of the next few posts, I will be providing a few pointers for American travelers in my '10 Things to Avoid While Traveling as an American' series. This list has been developed after years of observations and many more years of personal failures to realize the faults in many American travelers. Many of these may also apply to travelers from other countries, but as an American, I only feel entitled to criticize myself and my own kind. If you take offense to any of the points in this series, it is likely that you are one of the people I'm talking about, and you should reconsider your traveling habits. If you agree with my pointers and laugh, then congratulations, you are a savvy traveler!

NUMBER ONE: Huffing and Puffing

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The only credible huffer and puffer is the angry wolf from the Three Little Pigs, and let’s remember, he was not a beloved figure. If you’re having some troubles and feel a little lost in translation, don’t go huffing and puffing around complaining no one will help you. Similarly, exclaiming ‘Why doesn’t anyone speak any English around here?!’ also does not help. The reality is, everyone probably speaks at least a little English, but they are so put off by your attitude that they feel disinclined to acquiesce to your hmpfs! and pffs! for fear that you, the angry wolf, will also blow their houses down. In line with one part of my {In} Heritage motto: Be kind and patient and you will find the help you need.

NUMBER TWO: Do you speak E-N-G-L-I-S-H? Do you speak English? Inggg-lish?.....Obama? Yea?..okay!

So you’re in a foreign country, and, spoiler alert, not everyone’s mother tongue is English. Before traveling to a country, try learning a few of the basic words and phrases. Words for ‘thank you’, ‘help’,  ‘shark’, or ‘toilet’ can get you a long way when you actually make the effort to learn them. If you find someone who doesn’t speak English, don’t immediately brush them off. I have often found that the people who don’t speak English are the most fun because they are experts in charades, and if you have enough time to successfully decipher their message, the cultural connection is much more meaningful. Instead of someone answering “Go over the bridge, make the first left, and you’ll see a great big sign on the right”, you get to decide what a snakey horizontal wave of the hand means, followed by an abrupt airplane directive motion left, and then strange-looking hand-binoculars, which then lead to hands framing a giant invisible rhombus-shape. Message transmitted?  Feel free to provide a smile and thumbs-up. That’s universal….ish. Message not transmitted? Still smile and pretend like you understood because they deserve to feel good about themselves too; then you can seek out a different charades partner.

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