Traveling outside of the United States, or really any home country, involves putting yourself into an uncomfortable situation. The language sounds unfamiliar, the people don’t share the same habits, the organization of the place is outside of our routine expectations…all of these “differences” stand out to us in glaring detail.
Yet, the reality is, so many similarities exist between human beings. Communication is not as difficult as you think. It is remarkable how much a show of kindness and genuine interest in the lives of individuals allows for mutual respect and connection.
What you realize is that all travel, even within our home countries, challenges our expectations. My advice, then, is to be open to the experience and be open to the challenge of learning about a people and a place. Being open, in this context, means listening carefully; watching hand gestures and other physical cues. When things don’t go the way you expect, allow for the unexpected by not getting angry or resentful.
Most importantly, avoid demanding anything. The stereotypical example of the “rude tourist” is sometimes well deserved (see: Why Americans Get a Bad Rap). The way not to be a rude tourist is to accept what happens. If something does not meet expectations, then kindly ask for what you need. If you don’t get it, then simply move on….always remember the point of the trip and the travel: enjoy the experience or, as Rumi stated, “There is a community of the spirit/Join it, and feel the delight/of walking in the noisy street, and being the noise.”(Coleman Barks, The Essential Rumi).
Travel well, my friends!