Learning The Social & Cultural Norms Of A Foreign Country Before You Visit, So You Don’t Look Like A Jerk

There is little more eye-opening than traveling to another country. With just one or a few more plane rides, your surroundings suddenly change from the familiar to things you may have never experienced before – the language, the money, the architecture, the food, and – this is a biggie – the social norms.

It’s so easy to make a social faux pas when you’re in a foreign country. And yes, of course, the “locals” are going to immediately know you’re “not from there” (it’s more than going to a country where the people’s skin may be a different color than yours – I’m talking about how Americans can be identified by their dress and demeanor, just as I can point out British tourists all over Orlando without hearing them say a word) and might give you a pass if you make a social mistake (but you may wind up helping where you live to win the award for the country with worst behaved tourists). But I, for one, would rather fit in when it comes to social and cultural norms, if I can. Here are a few things you may or may not have known about how they do things in:
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And The Award For The Country With The Worst Behaved Tourists Goes To…

As much as we humans are all part of a “global community” more than ever, there are still lots of differences between us. Where you’re raised usually plays a big role in how you’re raised and therefore how you present in public, since the social norms of different areas of the world (or even of different parts of the same country) can vary greatly.

Fortunately, more and more people are able to travel nowadays. With so many differences between us, on top of the stereotypes that arise from those differences (loud, obnoxious, demanding American, anyone? [I can say that; I’m from the U.S.]), there’s bound to be some finger pointing in terms of who the worst behaved tourists are.

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Ten Gestures That Are Innocent In The U.S. But Offensive In Other Countries

When travel to a different country, many people try to follow the rule of “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” They may learn as many of theĀ social norms of the country as they can, and familiarize themselves in what’s considered appropriate behavior and what’s not, with the hope that they’re not looked down upon and/or don’t perpetuate the more negative stereotype of Americans.

Unfortunately, there are several gestures often used in the U.S. that can be horrible to do in some other countries. And it’s one thing to make sure you, for example, don’t blow your nose in public in Japan, but quite another to stop using a hand gesture that you possibly have habitually used all your life. For example…

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What’s Up With All The Brazilian Tour Groups At Walt Disney World? (& Some Advice About Them)

A daily part of tourism in ANY tourist area is tour groups. Whether the groups are from another state, another country or the church in the next town over, they arrive by the busload and give lots of money to the hotel and restaurant industries and, in the case of Central Florida, the theme park industry.

Although tour groups come to Orlando from a lot of places (Argentina, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, Asian countries, etc), the group that tends to gather the most reactions are the ones from Brazil. Those groups tend to be kids (girls more often than boys) in their mid-teens, they travel in groups of 25 or more and tend to have the same shirts, knapsacks, etc. They speak Portuguese, which sounds a bit like a cross between Spanish and Italian, but is not exactly the same.

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If What Happened During Air Travel Was The Same In Real Life, Here’s How Awful it Would Be

Every place you encounter has “social norms,” which are the behavioral rules that it’s assumed (or at least hoped) people will follow. Each place has its own sets of social norms, so the things you’re supposed to do, say and act at, let’s say, jury duty, are not the same as those if you’re at a baseball game.

Social norms also vary from country to country (here are some examples I bet you didn’t know about) and knowing and following those social norms while you’re there (i.e. not blowing your nose in public in Japan) shows you have respect for that country, its people and its social norms.

But just as blowing your nose in public in Japan would be looked at oddly, there are other examples where the social norms of one aspect of traveling would be totally crazy in another. Take a look…

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