Over half of Americans don’t have a passport. Officially, the number of citizens with a valid form of the identification hovers around 46%. If you’re one of the privileged who does have the ability to travel abroad, be sure to make the most of your journeys by not behaving like a clueless stranger.
There’s a good argument to made for not making the effort to blend in, though. Let’s say you travel to Europe during the sweltering summer— a popular time for families the world over to go on a vacation. Whether you’re exploring Paris or Venice during these peak travel times, you’re almost bound to find a fellow countryman in these densely populated areas. Naturally, congregating with people that share the same mother tongue, cultural habits, and worldviews means that you do not necessarily have to be en garde with regards to your accent, questions, and general out-of-placeness.
However, a Fall journey is a well known travel hack. Autumnal romps about the continent will mean cooler temperatures, less competition with gaggles of tourists, and thinner crowds. But it also means a reduced chance of the comforting feeling that comes with finding a fellow citizen abroad.
So what are you to do when you’re dead set on taking advantage of the cooler temperature and lower airfare, but don’t want to come across as the lone gawking tourist? You’re going to need to do a little research, but it’s worth it in the end.
And If France or Italy is on your radar, you’re in luck: travel consultant Faith Jolley, who actually grew up in the Hexagon has recently compiled a few tips on how to put locals at ease. Remember, you don’t need to change who you are. However, it is a common courtesy to adhere to other cultural norms and not force others to bend to the expectations of the stranger.
- You may very well encounter lengthy lines here. But remember that patience is a virtue: take this time to ponder your place in the world and soak in the different sights and sounds you may not encounter back at home.
- You don’t need to be fluent in another language to go travel abroad. But try to use the common salutations and valedictions. Be it “Hello”, “hola”, “buongiorno”, you’re at least showing that you’re willing to wade into the waters of multicultural exchange. This goes doubly in France. There, first-name exchanges are rare in formal/business settings, so a “Bonjour madame” is really the only way to go.
- Get out and eat. Do not stay cooped up in your hotel and chow down on whatever they bring you. Forgo the provided breakfast (which is of usually shoddy quality anyway), and opt for a trip to the local cafe instead.
- Get lost. Seriously. There’s nothing wrong with ambling about and just seeing where the road takes you. Don’t worry, in big cities like Paris, you’ll usually be safe. And metro stations seem to be everywhere, so as soon as your feet begin to tire, you can journey on home.
- Pizza’s been largely co-opted by American tables. Nothing wrong with a pepperoni pie, but when you’re in the motherland you should consider getting it topped with figs and ham.
- As with much of southern Europe, dinner is served on the later side. And not an American “7:00” late— expect to get your evening grub closest to 8pm, when the night is just getting started.
- In many cities of Europe, Rome included, automobiles have the right of way. Just because you have the crosswalk does not mean you should expect cars to stop or slow down for you. Just be mindful of your spatial relationship with motorists, and you should be fine.
- Much like midtown Manhattan, hailing a cab in Italy can seem to take a lifetime, defeating the time-saving qualities of a cab in the first place. Instead there are designated cab areas that you can go to in order to save yourself the headache.