After watching the last two episodes of The Real Housewives of New York City, I feel the need to vent about some of the women’s horrific behavior while on their trip to Morocco. I realize that this is a reality show and that ratings are of supreme importance to Bravo, but having traveled through three continents and seeing first hand how American tourists should and should not act, I can’t help but pity the people of Morocco who had to put up with these women. Here are a few tips on how not to offend foreign locals.
Do Your Research: Whether you are traveling to Europe, South America or Africa, it’s important to brush up on your foreign language skills and take the time to research the country’s culture. Most locals who live in tourist cities don’t expect you to speak their language, but it’s nice to at least attempt a few words. Most locals appreciate the effort rather than just assuming they should speak English. After all, you are a tourist in their country. Also learn about the history and culture of a country. This way you can get involved in local activities and better understand seasonal festivals. Don’t make silly mistakes like asking for an Irish Car Bomb at an Irish pub….do you know how the drink got it’s name?
Dress the Part: When Sonja and Ramona got off their flight to Morocco, they were not dressed appropriately for a Middle Eastern country. Not only is Morocco more conservative than some other countries, but the weather is extremely hot. Wearing skinny jeans and a sweater is neither functional nor fashionable for the country. For Middle Eastern countries, blend personal style with appropriate day-wear. When I was in Egypt, I wore a lot of colorful and conservative tunics over-top jeans. Likewise, if you are traveling to Paris, expect a swarm of gypsies to target your purse if you are wearing UGG boots and a North Face jacket. These items scream American tourist.
Blend In: The best way to experience local life is to try to blend a bit. This doesn’t mean you need to hide who you are. You should be proud of your own country and heritage but this is one way to better understand how other countries operate. Many Americans who live abroad are frustrated by the stereotypical “Loud American” tourist that presents a poor representation for Americans who are respectful while traveling. Prove this stereotype wrong by acting polite and discreet.
Image via Greg Walters’ flickr stream