By Christian Jay B. Quilo
Photos: N.S. Villaflor
WHEN traveling abroad, especially for leisure, having fun is of utmost priority. But keep in mind that you are in a foreign place, which means things don’t go the same way as they do back home. What is harmless in our country may be considered offensive (or even illegal) in other countries, which is why it is important to be responsible and respectable tourists. With that said, here are a few tips on how you can explore a new country responsibly:
Research ahead on cultural and social norms. It’s best to read up beforehand and get a grasp on the traditions and taboos of your destination. Little things like chewing gum, the way you rest your chopsticks or a simple hand gesture can be perceived very differently in other parts of the world.
Dispose of your rubbish properly. If you can get away with littering here (sadly), in other countries you could get fined when you’re caught. So don’t be lazy and throw your garbage in designated bins. If you can’t find one nearby, keep it with you until you find one. And don’t forget to segregate and be mindful of the labels on them.
When in public transport, do not sit on priority seats. On the train or bus, there are priority seats for the elderly, pregnant women or persons with kids, usually located near the doors. If you happened to be seated on one, vacate it as soon as you see someone who needs it.
Be eco-conscious. Bring your own eco bag, steel straws, water tumbler, etc. If you’re already practicing this habit back home, take it with you on your travels. You’re doing Mother Nature a huge favor.
Learn essential phrases in the local language. The magic words like “please,” “thank you” or “sorry” — these are very important in everyday situations like when your food is served or when you accidentally bumped into someone. Not all locals speak English so it’s nice to be courteous even in simple ways.
Support local. Buy souvenirs from local artisans, get food from the neighborhood street cart. Ditch your favorite international fast food chain or retail brand when you travel and instead, eat and shop where the locals do. Handicrafts make great souvenirs because they represent the hard work of locals, while street food offers travelers a true taste of local cuisine. You get an authentic experience while supporting local businesses — it’s a win-win!
Be polite. Whether you’re asking to have your photo taken or to take a photo of them, ask politely. If they say no, then it’s a no.
Explore by walking or biking. Don’t add to the road traffic and carbon footprint. By walking or cycling, you’ll get in some exercise and it’s a much better way to explore a new city because you can do sightseeing at your own pace and even stop for photo opps along the way.
Dress appropriately. Just because it’s blistering hot outside, that doesn’t mean you can get away with a barely-there pair of shorts or a cleavage-bearing v-neck. Some countries are ultra conservative and wearing clothes as such could warrant attention — and not the good kind. Also, take caution when wearing clothing that have profane or potentially racist or sexist graphics on them.