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When You’re a Tourist, Mind Your Manners

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When preparing to go on vacation, remember to pack your manners. No matter where you end up travelling, the locals are going to base a lot on your behaviour, including how they perceive your culture in general, on how you behave.

It seems as though many who travel abroad forget to be polite to those that host them when they are away from home. Some suggest that behavior on vacation is directly related to whether or not you’ve visited before. The thinking is that, once you’ve had a taste of the culture, surely you’ll be more sensitive the next time? Others argue that, regardless of how many times you’ve come around, tourists remain a painful necessity to any economy.

While it’s not limited to one demographic or culture, there are some tourists that are notoriously worse than others. However, no matter where you’re from, you’re getting a bad rap for one thing or another. So, how does the bad behavior break down? We’ve got a quick overview of who’s notorious for what when they’re on vacation.

A recent survey has given Brits the top nod for bad behavior when they’re travelling abroad. They’ve been labeled as noisy, rude, badly dressed and terrible tippers. In addition, recent research by the popular online travel agent Expedia shows that Britons are thought to be untidy. Maybe that is a direct result of their sometimes haphazard dress. While not as obvious as it used to be, for some reason, people are still able to tell a Brit from anyone else. Things are looking up though; seven years ago, a survey similar in nature labeled Brits the worst tourists overall, while they now place fifth.

Other badly behaving tourists include those that call Germany their native land. Considered the absolute worst tippers, one might think that they are stingy. If you consider the tipping system they are accustomed to, it may shed a new light on things. In Germany, wait staff do not work on a small hourly wage plus tip system, they work on an hourly wage, period. So, when you go out to dinner in Germany, you don’t tip. Maybe their bad tipping behavior is not stinginess as much as it is a lack of knowledge.

Living in America and think you’ve packed a fashionable wardrobe? Think again. Americans are notoriously the worst dressed tourists around. Many also find the Americans to be lacking in manners and obnoxiously loud, albeit not as bad as the Brits, Russian and Danes. Those from the U.S. do score points though for at least attempting to learn and speak the native language of the countries they are going to visit.

Attempting to take the bull by the horns, the Chinese government has taken the liberty of posting the “do’s” and “don’ts” of travel etiquette in train stations, bus stops and hotels across Beijing. Although many of the Chinese are angered by what they feel is degrading treatment by their own government, the government is not budging. They are trying to curb the Chinese bad behaviour before the Olympics next year. They’ve even gone so far as to issue pamphlets and make travel agencies and their tour guides responsible for correcting the tourists’ behavior. Talk about uncomfortable.

So, who gets kudos for being the overall best behaved on their summer vacation? The Japanese. Considered both polite and tidy, they seem to ruffle no one’s feathers. In Reuters’s 2007 study, they scored a full 35% higher than the Americans who came in second.

Remember, when on vacation, do like the Romans do… or like the Japanese do. Be courteous and keep in mind that you are representing your entire nation when you are out and about. Figure out local customs and, if you’re really brave, learn a little bit of the language before you go. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well your efforts are received.

Tribune Properties produce a series of travel guides, including for the Spanish islands of Mallorca and Minorca

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