Manners make a difference in any setting, but particularly when travelling, where the way you are greeted in a hotel, a shop or a bar probably reflects on the behaviour of the previous travellers.
Many countries have their own way of conducting themselves socially, and it is easy to perform a social faux pas that will leave you red in the face and probably scorned at, in the country you are visiting.
Behaving properly in public, on an aeroplane, when using public transport and especially in a country foreign to you, is imperative if you want to avoid ostracisation and even possible arrest.
What is the golden rule for 21st century travelling?
“Respect your fellow travellers, respect the culture you are visiting, and always consider how your behaviour will affect others,” says Andy and employee at Hosea Kutako International Airport.
That applies when you get to your destination, too. “What may be fine in your neighbourhood may not be appropriate elsewhere. Cut-off denim shorts, for example, are only appropriate for the beach; just leave them at home.”
There’s a lot of queuing involved when you are travelling. From the check-in counter to the security scan. Use that time to prepare for what you know is coming.
“People who arrive at the counter and then start fumbling for their passport and boarding pass are just annoying.”
Everyone has their favourite way of passing time while waiting to board; some read, some send emails and others might catch up on their personal grooming!
Travellers see everything from toenail clipping to eyebrow plucking and even pimple squeezing. It even happens during the flight. A rule of thumb: if you would normally do it in the privacy of your bathroom, don’t do it anywhere else.
Pushing your way forward in the security queue or when trying to board is an absolute no! That also applies on the disembarking end, when you are waiting to collect your luggage. “Baggage carousel behaviour is appalling,” says Andy. “If we all just took a step back, then everyone would have a clear view of the bags as they come down onto the carousel.” Humans generally don’t do well in confined spaces, and on a plane as is the case in a lift, we rarely acknowledge each other.
Greeting is the minimum social interaction that qualifies as polite. “It establishes a baseline, telling your neighbour that the person who they will be sitting next to for several hours is a reasonable person.”
For the same reason people travelling with children should ensure that, when making the rules clear to their children (no kicking the seat in front, no playing with the tray, etc), they do so loud enough for people around them to hear.
“If people know you are monitoring your children, they can relax a bit, rather than spending the flight worrying about how badly your children might behave.”
Don’t recline your seat unless the flight is over three hours long. If it is a long flight recline your seat only after drinks service. And always recline slowly. Some people like to watch movies. Some people catch up with work. Others read or play games. Whichever you choose, remember that you are in a public space.
“If you are playing a video game, turn the sound off, so you don’t disturb the comfort of other passengers and if you are on a flight on which you can make calls, do so quietly.”
When you are travelling by road it is important to tip appropriately. Check for the customs of the country that you are visiting and if you can, tip generously.
Put money aside for the staff member who has given you great service, press a few notes into the doorman’s hands, leave a tip next to the TV for your room attendant. These are all appropriate.
Travel can be challenging. Sometimes things go wrong; people do things differently than how they are done at home. “Maintaining a good attitude is an important part of being a good traveller. Be open to learning new things and accept that things won’t always go the way you would like them to.”
Learn about the place you are going. Learn the language, at least a little. A simple “hello” or “thank you” or “it was nice meeting you” will go a long way if it’s in your host’s home language.
If you are on a business trip get there early and always keep it professional. Research your host country if traveling abroad, to find out what the appropriate professional conduct is. Praise, don’t criticise, the food, or worse, the country. Don’t mention what you don’t like or what you found disappointing.
If your hosts start to tell you about the place you’re visiting, pay attention. This is one of the travel etiquette tips that’s simply good manners, and good business.
Remember the folks back home. If you have kids, they might ask you “did you bring me anything?” when you get back home. Your co-workers might not ask the same question, but it’s still nice to think about them.
In some countries it is polite to finish everything on your plate; in others, it is an insult to your host. Here are some customs that might be helpful:
Kissing on the cheeks is a normal greeting, even among men.
Although bare feet are customary in houses and temples, never expose the soles of your feet to another person, or towards a sacred image.
Most visitors realise that public displays of affection, even between married couples, are a no-no. Fewer realise that swearing and rude hand gestures are also illegal.
It is impolite to point with your fingers; use your chin instead.