Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Travel Etiquette - When in Rome....

Remember when an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at George Bush on a recent farewell tour in Iraq? Bush later said that that incident was one of the weirdest of his life. But anyone who understands Middle Eastern culture knew that exposing the sole of the shoe to someone is considered a strong sign of disrespect. It is not a weird incident, just a part of Middle Eastern culture. Unfortunately, too many of us have travelled to a foreign country only to be bamboozled by the strangeness of their customs. It does not have to be that way, as long as travellers understand a culture and display the proper etiquette.

Etiquette is the code of principles, such as respect and honour, in any given society. It is really the manner in which you convey those principles to others that can be a little tricky and may make others feel uncomfortable. Travellers want to experience new cultures and live in the moment, but they should also be careful not to offend the locals. There are many ways to travel the world and still be respectful of every local culture you visit, but most of us do not have the time study cultures extensively. The first thing you can do is pick up a book about the country you are visiting. Most travel books have an etiquette section to give you a brief overview of cultural mores.

Meeting And Greeting

Whether you are travelling for business or pleasure, meeting your foreign hosts in the correct manner is crucial to achieving a good first impression. If you are unsure of how a greeting should take place, wait for your host to offer the greeting first.

In Europe, North and South America, a greeting usually consists of a firm handshake, eye contact and a smile. In China and Japan, a handshake will suffice, but your host may bow down to greet you. In the Middle East, your handshake should be gentle and should be accompanied with a smile. Men should not shake a woman's hand unless she initiates the handshake. In relaxed occasions, women may greet each other with a kiss on each cheek.

Dress Code

Many cultures around the world have not yet accepted the idea of women walking around in booty shorts and men walking around topless. Your safest bet is to stick to conservative, comfortable clothing. For business, men should always wear a tailored business suit with a tie. He should be well groomed. In North and South America and in Europe, women can wear a business suit as well. In Middle Eastern and Asian countries, women should opt for a long skirt and long sleeved shirt or blazer. Women in business suits may come off as too aggressive and masculine in many Asian cultures. No matter where the destination, women must always keep makeup to a minimum so as to appear professional.

International Etiquette

Here are some etiquette tips for some of the most visited countries around the world:

Mexico: Keep your hands above the table at all times.

Germany: Use a fork and knife to eat sandwiches, fruits and most other foods.

Austria: Always arrive on time to social engagements.

France: Do not be nosy, as the French value their privacy.

China: Do not click your fingers or whistle in China; it's considered very rude.

Spain: Never be late for a bullfight, but it is okay to be up to 30 minutes late for any other social engagement.

Italy: Never burp in public and try not to yawn in front of others.

Syria: It is a sign of respect to take off your shoes when you enter someone's home.

UK: Always wait for your host to begin eating before you do.

US: If you are offered a second helping of food, accept it.

When In Rome, Do As The Romans Do

Before embarking on your journey or business trip, research your destination country to learn a bit about their culture so that you do not offend the locals. If you are ever in doubt about your behaviour, just do as the locals do.

Remember, just because something is different does not mean it is wrong. Customs, behaviours and religious practices are unique to every culture and should be respected when you are in someone else's home. Differences in culture should not be considered deficiencies; they are just different.

by: zafana zahili