You have your plane ticket, the hotel is booked and you have time off work! What more do you need? When visiting another country it is always helpful to get accustomed to the traditions and manners that will be expected of us. Navigating those waters however is not always easy or evident. Despite the “When in Rome….” attitude most people adopt, the Huatulco Eye mailbox fills with readers asking us to please print some guidelines. To be fair most of us don’t know when we have made a major faux pas or paso en falso in español!
Para empezar…. To get started.
Language: This is a common sense rule for wherever you are traveling. Learn the basics! Simple greetings and how to ask for what you want- the onus is on the visitor. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone speaking English just below a shout at a blank faced waiter/ taxi driver/ stranger on the street! They don’t have a hearing problem, chances are they don’t understand a word you are saying. Always travel with a basic phrase book or cheat sheet. Even better take an online language tutorial or sign up for a language class as part of your vacation. Even if you are staying in a 5 star hotel, basic etiquette dictates you should learn a few words. Not only will learning a new language help you in your travels, it opens up the possibility of meeting locals, making friends and learning more about the culture. Remember the wise words of James Michener “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”
By the same token don’t assume people don’t understand English, French, German or Swedish! Sitting on the beach and you see something you can’t help but comment on with a catty ‘OMG look at….’. Advice: whisper or be nice.