Most of the information available regarding learning international etiquette is focused on business travelers, and for good reason. The last thing a business person wants to see is an important merger or brokered deal going down in flames due to a clumsy mistake.
But why should non-business travelers learn about the foreign culture before a trip?
While people who are serving foreign tourists are often more forgiving, others may not be so understanding. Causing offense to someone who is in a position of power, such as an officer of the law, or to someone who holds the keys to a portion of your trip, such as a tour operator or innkeeper, and you could cause yourself, and your travel plans, a great deal of harm.
Business travelers aren’t the only types of travelers who can be significantly affected by cross-cultural mistakes:
You bet they are. Here are just a few examples:
There are, of course, many more differences between the various cultures of the world, but it’s important to note that culture is a fluid and changing thing – it’s not static. In each society, the culture will have many nuances affecting the balance of its unique business and social etiquette rule structure. The personal cultures of individuals that live within the society – their religion, their gender, and more – also affect the culture, making it difficult to quantify.
If you’ve purchased a travel guide, such as those from Lonely Planet, Frommer’s or Fodor’s, it will typically have information about the foreign etiquette, customs, and protocol of the country you are visiting.
While we can’t vouch for the accuracy of the information available there, the Internet of course has a number of useful and free resources for studying foreign customs and etiquette as well, including (but not limited to) the following websites:
Smartphone users may also find useful international etiquette apps that can help them navigate the cultural landscape in a foreign country.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.