Traveling abroad should be a perfect opportunity to soak in a culture, enjoy different cuisine, and remind yourself that the world is an amazing, diverse place. Unfortunately, a lot of tourists engage in annoying and frustrating behaviors that give all of the well-meaning travelers a bad name. Do you live in a city that sees a lot of tourism? Do they ever drive you nuts? Here’s a look at 10 common problems that tourists create.
1. Plane Seat Negotiator
Being the type who plans things carefully, you book an aisle seat so that you don’t have to disrupt the people you’re sandwiched in between every time you want to get up. Or perhaps you book a window seat so that you can enjoy looking out at the clouds or whatever. Either way, there’s nothing worse than having a fellow traveler try to coax you into switching seats because they were too lazy to plan ahead… or even worse, after you board the plane you find them “mistakenly” sitting in your seat in hopes that it will make the negotiation process easier for them.
2. “Well, Where I’m From Blah Blah Blah…”
In your country, you have your ways of doing things. When you eat sandwiches, you forgo buns altogether and just eat two large fried chicken patties with cheese and bacon in between. Awesome! But when you’re abroad, please don’t be that guy who has to constantly remind the locals how the food, culture, politics, and general way of life is so much “better” where you’re from. The entire point of an overseas trip should be to keep an open mind and accept (and even appreciate!) the differences.
3. “I’m in Your Country, But You Should Speak My Language”
When you’re abroad, there’s nothing wrong with hoping that the locals speak your language, especially if you need help. But to be annoyed over the fact that they don’t ALL speak English is pretty ridiculous. Learning some phrases is both practical and demonstrates a sign of respect. Admittedly, it can backfire sometimes. As a frequent visitor of Poland, I know the basics of ordering food and buying a train ticket. But when they start asking additional questions, I’m all puzzled and then they end up having to switch to English.
4. The McTraveler
You get on the plane and fly 4,000 miles all the way to Paris… and then spend your vacation going to McDonalds, Burger King and Starbucks, and that’s only because they don’t have Taco Bells there. If it’s an extended vacation then, yeah, I suppose I can understand an occasional Big Mac. But there are tons of travelers who only eat at places that they also have back home and in the process really miss out on the amazing and unique culinary experiences.
5. Selfie Overkill
You visit the Parthenon. You want your selfie. Big Ben behind you? It’s selfie time. Balancing dangerously on a bridge in Seville so that you can snap a selfie? Bad idea, as one unfortunate Polish tourist found out back in 2014 when she fell off the Triana Bridge to her death. It’s one thing to capture important moments while traveling, but the obsession of having to pause take selfies absolutely everywhere takes away from the fun of just enjoying yourself.
6. “I’ll Go Just Ahead and Speak Louder So You Can Understand Me”
For some reason, travelers think that if they just speak English louder, the confused locals will understand what they mean. This isn’t just an issue when abroad, of course. When I was in high school we had a foreign exchange student from Spain who didn’t know English particularly well, so our social studies teacher raised his voice in hopes that this would solve the language barrier. Surprise! It didn’t.
In Europe – and especially Eastern Europe – the ladies enjoy the summers by wearing as little as possible. It makes me rejoice! But nonetheless, it’s not the smartest idea when visiting, say, the Vatican. A couple of years back while in Venice, I noticed signs helpfully reminding tourists that Venice is in fact a city and not a beach resort, and that tourists should not be exploring the city in swimwear. Along the same lines, while topless sunbathing is a normal thing in Spain and France, the locals in Sri Lanka don’t really appreciate it much.
8. Weather Whiner
A traveler come all the way out to a rainforest… only to have to contend with the dreaded rain. Another finds Scotland to be grey and gloomy. Did they even do any research (or in the case of the rainforest, catch the “rain” part?) before choosing these destinations?
9. Pedestrian Traffic Blocker
When walking through busy pedestrian areas with lots of foot traffic, there is always a frustratingly high number of people who seem oblivious to the fact that pausing to check text messages is not the most considerate thing to do. You’ll even find people casually chatting while in front of subway escalators. Please don’t be that guy.
10. Cultural Exchange
Sadly, when foreigners travel somewhere abroad, the only interaction they have with the locals is when they need to buy or order something. When you’re off in Barcelona, Rome, Skopje, or whatever it is you’re going, get to know the people who live there. For instance, I’ve made tons of friends all over Europe by using Couchsurfing and finding somebody available to get a coffee or take me on a little tour of their city. Give it a try!