What makes travelling so appealing is experiencing other cultures, however, this can often lead to differences of opinion when it comes to cultures who don’t share our beliefs and customs. Learning what is culturally acceptable in a country you are planning to visit is not only respectable, it can help you avoid uncomfortable situations and sometimes even jail. Here are some great tips to consider before you travel.
Do your homework on the destination in question, and not just a quick Google search. The Government of Canada has resources on their website as does your travel agent. In addition, you may know someone who has already been to that country. Ask as many questions as you can on this end as many countries have zero tolerance for ignorance.
Don’t assume you are exempt from local laws because you are a Westerner. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, as they say. Being a good guest means respecting local customs, no matter who you are.
It is important to recognize that many countries and cultures have dress codes. These dress codes may be for both sexes, and often it’s aimed primarily at women. Regardless of your moral dilemmas, this may be law in the country you are visiting. Do not be offended if you are asked to cover up, especially if visiting a Muslim country or if you are visiting a holy site. Be aware of what covering up means in each location.
If you are travelling with medication make sure it’s not illegal at your destination. Some medications including anti-depressants, painkillers, and even over-the-counter cough syrups are banned or have specific rules around them in certain countries. In addition, countries like Singapore and some Middle East countries have very extreme laws governing what they consider to be drug trafficking.
Alcohol and public intoxication in North America aren’t illegal, however, in some countries being drunk in public is a jail-able offense and in certain Middle Eastern countries consuming alcohol is as well. Once again, it’s important to find out what the local laws are regarding alcohol if you plan on celebrating. There are many dry cities in the world and, no, bringing your own is not allowed.
If you are a tattoo lover, make sure you can cover them up if need be. Whether you don a small flower on your ankle or the name of a loved one etched on your neck, some countries like Japan, Turkey, and Iran are not tolerant of ink at all. Iran is the only one on this list that has made tattoos illegal due to Sharia Law. In some cases, it’s the tattoo itself, such as a Buddha tattoo in Sri Lanka (Sri Lankans feel that this is an insult to Buddhism). As archaic as it seems, it is a very real law in Iran and an incredibly offensive insult in other countries that may find you being asked to leave a public pool or spa.
When dining, make sure you are aware of local customs and pricing before you head out. It is easy to download a conversion app to make sure you avoid being overcharged. In some countries, it is highly inappropriate to dispute the bill and can land you in hot water with locals. Good to know the rules before you eat.
Although tipping isn’t illegal in any country it can be extremely offensive and/or insulting to someone in Oman or Japan. If you do try to tip in a restaurant or after a taxi ride, your tip will sometimes be refused. In this case, don’t insist and apologize if you feel they have been offended.