Whether it’s the delicious cheeses of Wisconsin, world-class wines of California, or the unmatched beauty of our national parks, most of us are proud of what we have to offer here in the US. In fact, when out-of-town visitors come knocking, we typically go out of our way to show off the best of our little hamlet. Still, how many of us apply this same measure of pride or effort for foreign tourists? Granted, serving as tour guide on a daily basis may be near to impossible for those living in touristy locations, such as San Francisco. Nevertheless, simple courtesy doesn’t take much effort. After all, we are all ambassadors of our country whether we are at home or abroad.
Consider how you would want to be treated.
As an etiquette teacher, I teach that the basic tenet of ‘manners’ is to treat others as we wish to be treated. Therefore, it is only good manners to treat our foreign guests with kindness and courtesy. For instance, when at the airport, try to realize that a foreigner may have been traveling hours, perhaps days, to get here. So if they appear frustrated and confused, empathize and assist them any way you can.
Having felt that confusion many times as a foreign tourist, I empathize. For example, my husband and I were running in circles in an Italian airport trying to find the exact location where a van was to retrieve us. We didn’t know much Italian and didn’t know what to do. Luckily, a very nice Italian woman noticed us and offered her assistance. She called our hotel, found out where we needed to be, and showed us where to go. Because of her kindness, we will remember her always.
Be a good host.
Crossing our state boarders can be a bit confusing even for US citizens at times. Just one example is a toll road, of which is completely foreign to me. I’ve never encountered one here at home, thus wouldn’t know what to do. So, imagine how foreigners might feel as they attempt to navigate an unknown city. Fold in our various accents and euphemisms…total confusion.
Once upon a great vacation, my husband and I were lost in Paris. Jabbering to each other while standing on a street corner, map in hand and pointing in all different directions, a pleasant young Frenchman approached us smiling. Most politely, he walked us down the block and pointed us in the right direction.
Let us challenge ourselves to be just as hospitable. When approached by an apparent foreign tourist, smile and try to appear welcoming. Talk slowly, annunciating each word. If they are lost and if time allows, walk them to where they need to be or draw them a map.
Respect visitor’s culture.
The peoples of every country have their own set of behavior expectations–better known as etiquette or protocol. When we travel, most of us — at least — try to learn what some of those expectations are. However, none of us can know all expected behaviors or the etiquette of other cultures. It would be best to remember this when observing foreign tourists. They may push in line, avoid eye contact, or spit in the street. Although we may find these behaviors ill-mannered, they may be quite acceptable and common in their country.
Respect our tourists by remembering that they live by a different set of etiquette rules. Hey, we may appear ill-mannered to them when visiting their country.
More by Rebecca
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