Their monetary value aside, tourists are pretty much despised in most places in the world. Sure, you can travel to a remote village in Afghanistan and get treated like a long-lost relative, but visit any destination frequented by tourists and chances are the locals aren’t too excited about your presence.
It’s understandable. Tourists sometimes behave badly, destroy the environment and important historical sights. Of course, they’re not all like that but it’s enough to leave a negative impression on some locals. With this in mind, here are a few ways to be a less hate-able tourist:
Stop Expecting People to Accommodate You
No one is expecting you to master Mandarin, but knowing a few basic words in order to communicate with locals is not such a crazy thought. This goes back to being respectful: If you’re visiting someone else’s country, know a little bit about their customs and language. It will help you connect with locals and show them that you’re trying and not expecting them to accommodate you.
That also goes for cultural norms. The last thing you want is to inadvertently make an obscene gesture or ask an inappropriate question when your intention is just to be friendly. Learn about local customs and avoid any behavior that could be interpreted as disrespectful or rude. It takes just a few minutes of research and could save you a lot of heartache.
Don’t Trash Talk the Locals
“I can’t believe these people don’t speak English!” You decided to visit their country, so expecting them to speak your language is absurd. Especially since there are tourists from all over the world visiting many of the same cities – are the locals really expected to learn all those languages? On the other hand, the locals may actually understand you, so don’t trash talk them. You never know who can understand you and take offense.
I get it, we’re all just trying to see new places and enjoy our time off from work. But on your next trip, consider giving back to the community you’re visiting. If you’re in Greece, head over to one of the refugee camps and offer a helping hand.
They’re always looking for instructors and warehouse volunteers and it’s actually a great way to meet locals and fellow travelers alike. See if the local homeless shelter needs volunteers to help out in the kitchen, or maybe there’s a beach clean-up crew you can join for an afternoon. These experiences aren’t just fulfilling, they build a lot of good will between tourists and local communities.
Ultimately, being a good tourist is about being respectful, open, and making an honest attempt to connect with people. It’s the arrogant tourists who isolate themselves and treat locals with contempt that get labeled as “bad.” Be kind, understanding, and you’ll get the same treatment in return.
Do you have any tips for how to be a less hate-able tourist? Please share below.
[Image: Max Pixel]