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Essential Cultural Aspects and Key Phrases To Know Before You Travel

With the numbers of travellers steadily increasing the world is getting ready for tourism again. Whether you are going to a completely new country or a new area of a country you have been to, having some cultural knowledge and key phrases will make your trip much smoother. 

What seems to be common sense and the norm in your country may be the complete opposite in another. Knowing a few key facts saves you and others possible embarrassment and offenseand will make for a more memorable trip. 

When you land in a new country for the first-time key phrases in the local language can be absolute life savers. Not only does it show respect for the country’s people, but it will also help to avoid being scammed and help you get around with more confidence. You may get a few giggles at your pronunciation, but don’t worry it’s the effort that counts!

Cultural Aspects to Research

Appropriate Dress

Wearing inappropriate clothing can be seen as a sign of ignorance and disrespect by locals. Not to mention embarrassing for the person committing the social faux pas. Something as simple as wearing beach wear or gardening clothes if you are not doing either of those activities is considered a no-no in places like Portugal. So, do your research because you just never know! 

Table Manners and Eating Etiquette

What may seem common sense to you when it comes to mealtimes may not get you very far in other cultures. Food is a central part of any culture and mealtimes usually come with a set of rules specific to that culture. This can be anything from what you say before you eat, to the cutlery you use (or lack thereof!) and who eats first. Knowing one or two things is a great way of showing respect to a country’s people.

Gestures 

Did you know that something as simple as making a circle with your thumb and index finger or pointing at someone is wildly offensive in some parts of the world? Some simple, benign gestures that you use frequently are seen very differently, depending where you are in the world. 

Tipping

This is always a big question when travelling because tipping standards vary widely around the world. To tip or not to tip? How much? And who? Are all common questions. In the US you will have a less than happy waiter if you don’t tip, but in a country like Portugal where the salary adequately covers living expenses, your server would be insulted. 

Forms of Address

In some cultures, addressing someone incorrectly could lead to offence. In countries where this is the case, you will usually address people differently depending on their age, status, role or gender.  In some situations, you will find that just by using the correct form of address, an uncomfortable situation can quickly be turned around. 

Key Phrases

Not only do key phrases and words help you to get around, but it is essential for travellers who want to be culturally sensitive. The worst thing we can do as travellers is assume that everyone speaks English. It wasn’t always used as the international language. Did you know that Portuguese used to be the lingua franca and is also one of the easiest languages to learn? If you’re interested in learning it or any of the other romance languages, an online tutor or a language tutor in your area can help.

Some key phrases and words you will find useful when travelling are:

  • Greetings
  • Asking for things 
  • Saying thank you
  • Asking for directions
  • I’m sorry I don’t speak…
  • Yes/No
  • Food and drink words

Got Your Passport?

Learning about key cultural aspects of a culture will make sure you are showing respect to the locals and learning some of the lingo goes a long way in helping you have an enjoyable and smooth trip. Just don’t forget your passport!

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