Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How to be a Successful Internationalist, Not an "Ugly American"

We share the planet with 6 Billion people who speak 6,000 different languages along with all those foreign cultural differences and customs. Americans are known around the world as ETHNOCENTRIC, meaning we know only about our own culture, and do not demonstrate any interest in learning about other cultures. We are also known for only speaking English, and expecting everyone else to speak English. Like in the movies, if they do not understand us, we just start speaking slower and louder.

The "Ugly American" traveler. They make us wince, whinny and purse our lips while breathing in! We've all seen them and their circus antic behavior. Their louder than life voice levels, like listening to stock boys talking about the night before at the grocery store. Their packed fanny packs around their already rotund waists. Their ill fitting, badly fashioned shorts and un tucked shirts. Do not even get me started on those dirty, icky running shoes, although these people look as though they have not 'run' in quite a while. What to do? What to do?

The following are a few tips to help all who wish to be fabulous travelers. I'll throw in a few fine fashionista tips too!

Good mistakes from trying are better than bad mistakes from not trying. Good mistakes include:

  • Knowing a few "magic words" in their language (may I, thank you, please) as well as a few necessary phrases and trying to speak the language thus showing respect.
  • Mispronunciation of their language (unless in Paris).
  • Being aware of and trying their customs (handshaking, bowing, eye contact, stance).
  • Being aware of their culture, trends and taboos and trying to blend into their culture (fashion, mass transportation, religion, gift giving, flowers).
  • Being aware of their local cuisine and trying their food and specialties in every restaurant and street cart and at every meal, (save the visit to McDonald's for home).
  • Eating in the style everyone else eats (Continental Style in Europe, chop sticks in Asia, right hand in the Middle East.)

To be a Successful Internationalist:

  • Please know the name of the President or Prime Minister.
  • Please know the political system.
  • Be aware of the language(s) spoken.
  • Know the official name of the country.
  • Know the collective name for its people.

To be further successful:

  • Show respect always.
  • Be considerate always.
  • Remain non-judgemental in attitude.
  • Remain open-minded to all situations.
  • Observe, ask and listen

To be successful with your fashion:

  • Leave the college jeans, sloppy shorts and dirty tennis shoes at home.
  • For young ladies, new, nicely fitted, fancy "girl jeans" may be an exception....
  • Ladies, please pay attention to local fashion and possible religious customs such as in the Middle East.
  • For ladies, jersey fabric is light, looks good, needs no ironing and travels splendidly!
  • Ladies, a light floral long scarf or plain pashmina is a great accessory tied around your neck, waist or purse and warm cover up for the plane.
  • Always remove hats, sunglasses and gloves when inside.
  • Never shake hands with your other hand in your pocket and gentlemen, please keep your hands out of your pockets.
  • Gentlemen always wear long pants in the evening and especially anywhere for dinner.

Any library or bookstore will have travel books. Please peruse them, read them, take notes.

A modicum of planning will be immeasurably helpful to your traveling manners.

Bon chance et Au Revoir, y'all!