We do everything we can to teach our children how to be great travellers. We talk about other cultures, people, beliefs and places of importance for the people of the lands we are visiting.
Even now after so many trips both the girls can identify places they need to be respectful. It doesn’t always include churches or cemeteries but just even out walking the city.
When I asked them what the main things that upset them seeing other people do we talked about some of the things that upset us.
So here are our tips to be a great traveller.
We all don’t speak the same language. Do yourself a favour and have a go at some of the basic words.
This can never hurt…even if you are really bad most people will be happy you at least tried! The girls, especially Marley took to the basics of a few languages really well and was happy to have a try wherever we went. I think because she was having a go most people really encouraged her to keep trying and they would love to try and teach her more. This really made her happy and it also helped us learn the words as well. (When she started she was a cute blonde haired, blue-eyed 6-year-old trying her hardest to say some words was endearing to people and we managed to get away with quite a lot. It did become embarrassing when she corrected us, though!) I do believe that most people will appreciate you trying to say at least please and thank you. I also liked to say hello and goodbye as much as I could and I found most people smiled and appreciated me trying! This is how to be great, respectful travellers anywhere in the world.
We all have a different history. It might not be ours, but it is important to the people where you are.
As our world becomes smaller and more people travel we realise that most of us are taught different versions of history. We have been on a tour where a member of our group made the tour nearly unbearable by continuously opposing what the tour guide was saying. I understand where that person was coming from but at the same time why go on a tour if you want to argue another point of view? They were taught these things in their history lessons and to a point we were taught the same history in our country but when you are at the place where it all happened it is respectful to listen to the person leading the tour. If you are unsure about some of the information you are getting, feel free to ask at the end of the tour or pull the guide aside and have a talk with them rather than berating them constantly with your version of what happened. Even though it was different from what we had learned it was very uncomfortable to be involved in it. I think the guide was also upset that there was no relenting on her. We apologised to her later for the person on our tour and tried to explain maybe why the other member was so disrespectful. She said something I will never forget. ‘There are always two sides to a story and they are rarely ever the same’
I remember walking into a restaurant once listening to a guy loudly saying ‘I am not eating that crap’. The look on the ladies face was of pure disappointment and I think shock as he got up and walked out. I was stunned because the food looked delicious and he didn’t pay. I felt absolutely terrible as she went over to the cook and told him in their native tongue and all he could do was shake his head. Food is not like home, there are different ways and means to cook. In Australia, we have very strict food safety laws that are not followed in other countries. This is a big shock to some people and I have to admit it was for me the first few times I saw some of the transport methods!
If you are unsure what you can and can’t eat slowly ease into it. If you are more comfortable eating things you know, then stuck to them but please don’t loudly declare that something is crap before you eat it and walk out without paying.
Be prepared: Get travel insurance
We always say ‘if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel’ and this should be something everyone remembers. Again, health care may not be the same as in your country and going to a local hospital or clinic may not be the same as home, especially with coverage if you have no insurance. Having travel insurance will allow you to use facilities and make sure you and the clinic is covered. May people receive a large bill from overseas when they return home with no way of being able to pay them because they thought it wouldn’t happen to them. Being prepared is the best way rather than hoping for the best if something bad does happen.
Do not ever deface anything of importance….ever.
This is just common sense many of you would say, but there have been so many incidents of this happening in recent years that I think it needs to be said. Even if you think it is not important…JUST DON’T. You can never be sure if what you are doing can lead you into a world of trouble later on. With the world of social media, you can always be tracked down later on. It is always to be safer than sorry.
Be Respectful. Always.
This can be taken in so many ways. Do your homework on a country, what they expect and if you know anyone who has been there, ask them for some tips. Respect for their holidays, language, culture and people is of the utmost importance. Just because you have learned it at home in your history class or read it in a book doesn’t mean that that is exactly how they see what happened in their country. Take the time to listen especially if you are on a tour. If you have a differing opinion that’s ok but respect that there are two sides of the story and take it in rather than pushing your view. You don’t have to agree but try to see it from the place you are in. If a place has some crazy laws that you think are mind-blowingly silly…respect them, abide by them. This is not your country and you are not at home, it is best to treat the law with respect, even if you do not agree. Respect people who don’t speak English and make an effort to try and speak their language. Again, you are travelling and not everyone speaks English!
If there is a dress code please abide by it.
Plenty of places we have gone have had signs to say what will and what won’t be considered appropriate attire for that place. Majority of the time I have looked at the site or I have done some research on the place we are visiting so I am not in attire that they will think inappropriate. Having two children in tow as well makes me plan for this better. I understand what a dress code is but a screaming over-dressed child, who is boiling hot will not necessarily be so understanding! As a rule, I carry two large scarves with me wherever I go. They cover shoulders or our heads if need be. (We have never visited somewhere where our heads need to be covered but I am sure it will happen at some stage) I know sometimes it is just an honest mistake and places can get so hot you just don’t think ahead or plans change and you end up somewhere you didn’t plan on that day but please NEVER abuse the people or call their customs stupid.
Your children are welcome. Please teach them the importance of respect.
Our kids were welcome everywhere and most places were actually happy that we were taking them. There are some things that you need to tell your kids about if they are at the age of understanding it, even a little bit. We did the no yelling in the churches, no running in sacred places, no going crazy at the dinner table at a restaurant, please don’t touch every single thing you can get your hands on in a shop, sometimes you will have to wear a little more clothing than you want to on a hot day and don’t drive your mother crazy and make her cry in the street so your father yells at the two of you (In my defence it was toward the end of the trip and I was in serious need of a small amount of time on my own!) Sometimes we mastered it and high-fived ourselves at our magnificent-ness at parenting and then other times we really wished the street would just swallow us up! All in all, the girls were very well behaved in most places and in some when they were really acting up we got a lot of sympathetic looks. No one would tell them off but in some places, you could see the frustration on other peoples faces. When the kids were struggling we tried our best to make it fun or we went to see the place by ourselves.
Don’t fit the stereotype of what your country is perceived to be.
I know some nationalities are known to be rude, disrespectful, loud and pushy. As an Australian, we have certain kangaroo-rider, beach-loving, koala-owner, ‘Throw another shrimp on the barbie’ stereotype thing going on. I know plenty of people in the past who have happily told people that yes we all ride kangaroos wherever we go and we all have a pet koala! Although it is funny at the time it probably isn’t the best in the end! For our girls, we try to tell them that the best way that they can represent their country overseas is to respect and abide by other rules, laws and ways of life. Don’t just believe everything you read about a place, go out and find out about it for yourself. Make up your own mind and then go from there. Leave a place the way you found it but have it bettered in your mind. Most of all leave it with the people that hosted you saying “Gee that Aussie girl was a really nice young lady, I hope they return one day”.
Not everyone needs to hear you being drunk at the restaurant.
Everyone is entitled to have a great time on holidays and let their hair down, but this doesn’t mean being an absolute pain to the people serving you at a restaurant. We have come across this plenty of times especially in Germany where the beer is magnificent so some people then think it is ok to become extremely drunk and rude. Now we are not saying that all people are like this, but there seems to be one in every group that just takes it that one step too far…we are not easily offended so most things we will let fly but being rude to people at work who are trying to do their best for you is a massive no-no to us. (We have both worked in hospitality before) So please remember just because you are in a foreign country there are possibly people around you who do speak the same language and understand every rude, crude and nasty comment you are making. If a mate is being like this do the right thing and pull them aside and remind them of their manners and if they continue, take them home.
Some of us will look at this and think it is all common sense but in the end, I do think it is becoming something that is fewer and further between. Our world is getting so much smaller and we are able to go to so many more places now that I think we forget that not everyone is the same, not everyone has the same ideals. If you are there, be there. Be understanding, learn something you didn’t know, except someone else’s story, do something you thought you would never do but most of all respect the place you are in. I hope this helps you to be great travellers.
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