Wearing khaki pants, button-up Hawaiian shirts and a camera around their neck – you can spot them instantly in a big crowd. They’re easy targets for scammers, vulnerable to pickpockets and the brunt of most jokes: No one wants to be a typical annoying tourist.
Yet we’re all guilty of the annoying tendencies that give tourists such a bad name, and sometimes we may not even know we’re doing it. Avoid succumbing to the stereotype next time you go away: follow our tips for becoming a better visitor…
Tip 1: Do your research
With all of the resources available, there’s no excuse not to learn about your destination prior to arrival. Whether it’s sights, customs or culture, immerse yourself in the literature of the area beforehand so you’re not lost in translation on arrival. Know the capital city, name and rate of the local currency and what language they speak.
There’s nothing worse than showing up in inappropriate clothes or doing something offensive without realizing. You’re there to learn, but you’re also there to appreciate and respect the culture you’re immersing yourself in.
Tip 2: Go local
Hearing “CAN I HAVE UN SANDWICH” walking down the streets in France is enough to make everyone cringe. And although no one expects you to master the language in one week, learning a little goes a long way. Yes, some Europeans speak English – some speak better English than English speakers do – but some don’t. It’s ignorant to expect people from other countries to speak your language.
Half the fun is learning to order a Parisian pastry in French or to perfect your Polish when asking for perogies. Plus, you can come home after your trip and brag about being able to order beer in eight languages. You even get a custom made language guide for each city in your travel pack – so there’s no excuse.
Another tip to live like a local is avoiding fast food or coffee chains whenever possible. If you’re in Italy, why would you ever go to McDonalds? All of the Italian grandmothers with generations of handed-down cooking experience are shaming you the second you walk under those golden arches. Street food is cheap, delicious and what most pedestrians grab when they need a meal on the go.
Tip 3: Take your time
We’d like to stress quality over quantity here. Yes, you want to see all the major sites in Europe, but did you really visit each city properly if all you did was rush around and take photos before dashing off to the next place? Hint: If you leave more exhausted than you came, did you really enjoy yourself?
You may be used to a fast-paced way of life back home, but sometimes it’s best to stop and smell the Dutch tulips. A Spanish siesta is a great way to avoid the midday heat, catch a nap or people watch. Learn to schedule slowly, even if your trip is a short one. Don’t be the tourist that spends their entire trip on a double-decker hop-on-hop-off bus.
Tip 4: Have fun, but not too much fun
The extreme examples – and very common ones – are the stag-dos of Amsterdam, Krakow and Prague. Drunken, loud, obnoxious: you can hear them coming a mile off. They’ve come away to party and that’s about it. A big component of travelling is the vibrant and different nightlife you’ll find in most cities. We admit we’re all guilty of getting a little too rowdy – stumbling home, arms linked with the Bulgarian girls you met at the bar… but the main thing is to know when it has gone too far.
If you’re getting so blasted you’re humiliating yourself in public, trying to steal stuff or yelling “God Save the Queen” at the top of your lungs, you should probably take your hangover and rethink your life decisions. Don’t be that person that makes locals resent having tourists around.
If anything, use your common sense. You’ve had tourists visit your city at home. If you don’t like it when they take pictures of you, maybe you shouldn’t take pictures of them on your trip. If you don’t appreciate it when someone starts babbling at you in the street in a language you don’t understand, maybe you should learn a few words of theirs. Just remember to be thoughtful, smile and not to overthink it.
And please, leave the loafers at home.
• • •
Originally published in Euroventure