When traveling abroad, locals consider you more than just a tourist, but a representative of the country you belong.
Traveling to foreign ports of call, particularly in the Third World can provide some of the most enriching and memorable experiences of a lifetime. However, so often one forgets that it also bears certain responsibility. Most foreigners look upon travelers not just as individuals, but also as representatives of the country they call home. Excuse the pun, but it comes with the territory.
While abroad, one seldom witnesses a flagrant disregard for social customs or mores; however, subtle yet demeaning comments or activities continue to surface. Consider that your guide, who often speaks impeccable English, most likely will understand the language equally well. Third world countries are a prime example where many sights and fragrances are unique to our senses. Often one can hear travelers speak at length about the uncleanliness, poorly spoken English by staff, or the self-perceived horrors of what might be seen in the local marketplace. One should keep in mind that whatever comments are made about the local economy, living conditions or cultural ethos generally, may not only be demeaning, but also extremely upsetting to the person attempting to present the best of what their country has to offer.
At the very least, if one must comment on what appears strange and unusual, cheer for what has been accomplished. Discussing family with a guide always is a great way to show interest in their well being. No real need to present them with photos of one’s palatial estate, for they return home to a crowded apartment, perhaps even a dirt floor. Focus primarily on their lives and their family, together with commenting on the good you have observed in their country, which will endear you to their hearts. Observing your attire, together with how well you are likely to be accommodated at the finest of hotels within the country will provide enough clues to your majesty.
As you set off on the great adventure, choose to have a smile upon your lips and a warmth within your heart. Be certain to listen and not to preach. To witness and not to judge. Be quiet about suggesting change, which might seem obvious, and allow the country to make a change in you. After all, it is their Motherland and they love it as much as you love your own.
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