At home, ignorance of the law is no excuse for not following it. The same goes for other countries. It’s also wise to follow the customs of the land. A respectful approach to both the laws and customs of the country you’re visiting is fundamental to your trip going safely and smoothly.
While it is worth reading up on the basic laws and customs of your destination, it is unlikely that you will gather all the nuance that you will actually encounter when there. Here are a few tips to help you travel respectfully and safely.
- Watch and learn. Take pause before you walk into a public space or even pick up a tomato at a vegetable stand and you’ll avoid going into places you shouldn’t tread and discover what good manners are in that culture.
- Dress conservatively. This is especially important in cultures where dress is a reflection of respect. Always be neat and clean.
- Recognize and respect what is highly valued in the countries you visit. Electricity and water are often precious commodities. Conserve both as you travel and you can’t go wrong.
- Schedule your day according to local customs. If siestas are the norm, don’t disturb people by looking for an open store mid day.
- Seek ways to give back to the community to be appreciated and protected by locals. This may be giving to a local charity or supporting local crafts people.
- Learn a bit about the history. Understanding the origins of a culture will help you better understand their world view and specific customs.
- Recognize your own prejudices and be prepared to accommodate differences. Look for commonalities as well.
- Realize that, just like at home, what one person does or says is not necessarily representative of an entire culture. Be patient. Look for the good and you’ll find it and likely stay on the right side of safety as well.