When it comes to international travel, steeping in a foreign culture with customs and traditions different from the ones people are used to at home may be both intriguing and challenging. Etiquette varies from culture to culture and what may be considered normal in one country may cause a faux pas in another. Whether travelling for business or leisure, knowing a few facts regarding the culture and etiquette of the host country may empower the travellers and help them better prepare for the trip and make the experience more agreeable.
From boarding a plane, dealing with a seat mate, engaging with a taxi driver, to visiting a tourist attraction and communicating with the locals, each step of the trip may present an opportunity to demonstrate a productive and open-minded attitude. Prior research on the customs and traditions of the host country as well as a certain level of common sense and a few strategic tips may take tourists a long way when visiting a foreign country.
Etiquette in Japan
Japanese society seems to be ruled by specific codes of behaviour. Age, seniority, honour and understanding the subtext of what people are saying may be some important aspects of Japanese culture. Guests may like to address the Japanese by their title and their surname rather than by the first name. Personal space seems to be an important consideration in Japan, therefore guests may like to keep three or four feet away from their acquaintance. When invited in a Japanese house, dressing modestly and appropriately may be expected. A gift may be presented to the host using both hands at the end of a visit.
Etiquette in Italy
Making a healthy first impression seems to be a central factor of the Italian social etiquette. From aesthetics to the way people carry themselves, physical appearance and moral behaviour concur at making a healthy impression or bella figura, as the Italians say. When in Italy, dressing well and conducting oneself with a degree of quiet confidence may be interpreted as respectable and considerate. When greeting a local, it may be healthy manners to show enthusiasm, give a firm handshake and retain eye contact whilst shaking hands and engaging in conversation.
Etiquette in India
Instead of shaking hands like in the West, greeting is India is done by clasping the hands together and saying “Na mastay” while nodding and bowing to the person being greeted. When travelling in India, observing the local dress code may show respect; for example, women may wish to wear a light cotton scarf around the shoulders and cover the head when entering an Indian temple.
Etiquette in Scandinavia
Norway, Sweden and Denmark seem to share similar customs and practices of etiquette whilst retaining independent national identities. Scandinavians tend to be egalitarian, tolerant, fairly reserved yet casual, practical, progressive and modest. Proper etiquette may involve treating men and women equally in social situations, although traditional customs such as pulling a chair out or holding a door open for a lady may prevail.
Etiquette in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
The UAE is a federation of seven Middle Eastern ‘sheikhdoms’ or states. Religion seems to play an important part in shaping local customs and etiquette. Tourists may be greeted with the phrase “salaam aleikum”, which means “peace be upon you”. A proper response may be “aleikum assalaam”, which translates as “and on you peace”. When attending a meeting or visiting a local family, greeting each man in the room individually, starting with the host, a quick light grasping of hands and eye contact with a smile may be considered polite. Shaking a woman’s hand may be appropriate only if the woman initiates the handshake.
How may tourists respectfully engage with the locals when visiting a new destination?