Seven Ways to Gracefully Represent Your Country When You Travel

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When you travel you are representing your home country whether you like it or not, and I suggest that you represent your country well. In college I traveled as a “student diplomat” with a campus-based organization, and it has left its impression on me since. Here are seven tips to help you represent your country with elegance and grace.

Know that you are a guest, but they are not your host.

Respect and cultural sensitivity are great skill sets to learn and to harness. Once you do, you begin to have little to zero expectations towards how you are treated. Do not expect to be treated any better just because you are a guest. Some locals loathe travelers; while others appreciate the money they bring with them. Either way, don’t expect that everyone wants you there. If you sense hostility, acknowledge it and walk away (just don’t let it affect the rest of your experience). If you sense true hospitality, then visibly show gratitude – that is if it is culturally acceptable.

Don’t brag about your home country

Every culture has something unique about it, and some have better customs than others, but you are in another country to learn about a new way of life, and not to display superiority. You might think your country has a better system in customer service or transportation, but to many locals in the country you are visiting this might just be a normal, every day occurrence. Just because something is different to you does not make it worse or better – and in my experience it is best to keep these opinions to yourself.

Don’t assume everyone speaks your language

While it is daunting to learn the native language of a foreign country, small phrases such as “excuse me”, “hello”, and “thank you” can go a long way. The locals will greatly appreciate your efforts for simply trying to speak their language. Also, it will be a way to combat or prevent stereotypes of your own culture.

Listen

You will hear all types of people give you their points of view, some are guaranteed to be much more different than yours. You will find them in hostels, in pubs, and on public transit. Instead of rushing into an argument, listen to what other people have to say and acknowledge their opinion.

Don’t get upset

There will most likely be some cultural norms that you won’t be accustomed to. This can be anything from required modest clothing inside of a church of mosque, to the slow moving or fast paced energy of the city. It is nearly impossible to not be overwhelmed in these situations, but you can fight this anxiety by reminding yourself that you will not live in this moment forever, and that it will pass you faster than you think.

Ask questions

In my travels I have come to learn out that many people like to share information about their country, its history, customs, and landscape. If you ask questions that expose a genuine interest and curiosity in, locals will associate that characteristic with you as a person, as well as your own culture and country. You will also learn way more than you ever would on your own.

Share what you know

Even if you are not curious and ask questions, it is highly probable that many people will be asking your questions about your own country. When I was traveling throughout the Baltic countries, I was surprised to find out how many Eastern Europeans wanted to explore the national parks of the United States. I was glad to share with them all the natural parks I have visited, the ones I wish to go to in the future, which spots to avoid and what spots they should not skip.

If you cannot care less about being a representative that’s fine, but you should also keep in mind that you might be stepping foot into a country that is home to a culture that is entirely different than yours, and because of that, you should be equipped with a certain knowledge of basic etiquette.

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