The Opinion – Travel Etiquette

the opinion : travel etiquette

presse agent Karen Cleveland

travel is what you make of it. there’s a lovely old adage that if life is a book, not venturing abroad is akin to not turning to the next page.  and while i’m a firm proponent that jumping on a last-minute flight going  anywhere is always a great idea, spending some time gussying up on your destination’s customs can make the difference between being a tourist and really traveling.

travel etiquette basics

1. make friends with Google Translate

  • a humble attempt at a few sentences, regardless of how mispronounced they might be, will earn far more points than slowly repeating yourself with expansive gestures in English. try. just try. practice saying the basics like “hello”, “good bye”, “please”, “thank you” and, “can you help me”. it is also helpful to be able to ask whether someone speaks English in the language that you’re addressing them in.

2. friendly, but not sloppy

  • some languages have formal and informal variants (like “tú” and “usted” in Spanish) so take care not to be too casual. likewise, “ciao” is often reserved for close relations. erring on the side of grammatical formality shows a respect for the language and place you’re visiting, and that you’ve brushed up a bit – both ingratiating qualities.

3. nuances and customs

  • maps and fanny packs aren’t the only things that scream “tourist”. abide by local conventions, whether it is keeping arms and legs covered in sacred places, or respecting requests not to take photos. eating and drinking like a local will also help you settle into an authentic experience, so take your cues from where and how they dine.

4. be curious

  • fortune favours the bold, so when traveling, balance your sense of respect with a voracious curiosity. most locals love to answer questions about their homeland, particularly when they are thoughtful, sincere and asked by someone genuinely interested in understanding their culture. you’ll gain insights and make memories from chatting up a local that you would never glean by reading a travel guide.

based in Toronto, Karen Cleveland tackles all things etiquette, from the traditional to the taboo. follow her on Twitter @SchoolFinishing & visit

(First appeared in The Travel Presse, May 2012)