General Travel Tips

On Respecting Other Cultures While Abroad


I debated whether or not I wanted to write about that Logan Paul character that has been in the news lately for his utter shocking disrespect while visiting Japan because I didn’t want to inadvertently give that guy any more publicity or Youtube hits. I wasn’t going to write about him at all, but this video by That Japanese Man Yuta convinced me to speak up and say something. If you have no idea what any of this is about, please watch Yuta’s video and avoid watching Logan Paul’s videos directly as you’ll only be supporting him by giving him clicks. Please watch Yuta’s video even if you do know what I’m talking about because it’s an excellent commentary from a Japanese perspective.

As an American, I’m acutely aware of our oftentimes bad reputation abroad and I’m especially aware of it when I’m traveling. As Yuta stated, we are representatives of our countries, like it or not, when we travel and our actions will directly impact our national reputation. Since I’m an American and we are known as loud, obnoxious, demanding travelers who refuse to speak anything but English, I always make it a point to be more reserved, polite, and at the very least attempt to speak some of the language of the place I’m visiting when abroad. When I went to Japan last February, I made sure to research what was considered polite and rude in Japan as well as learn a few key phrases in Japanese (hello, thank you, good bye, excuse me…that sort of thing) before I even got on the plane. That’s not to say I may or may not have inadvertently done something wrong here or there (I kept forgetting to use two hands to hand over my cash when paying for things, for example), but the point was that I made an honest attempt at being a polite, respectful traveler. I had a wonderful time exploring Japan and meeting Japanese people and I learned a lot about Japanese culture. I went home with wonderful memories and a yearning to return as soon as possible.

But, of course, it’s an uphill battle for people like me who strive to make a good impression while abroad because there are people like this utterly disrespectful Youtuber out there making a bad name for all of us. For every 50 respectful American travelers out there, there is one loud, obnoxious jerk causing a scene, and of course they are the ones that stick in everybody’s minds. I do sincerely hope this guy gets the karma he deserves.

I place a high importance on being respectful to other cultures while I’m traveling and people like this guy just make me sad. His antics would be considered appalling and rude in any country, however, even here in the United States.

I guess what I’m saying is remember that the spotlight is on you when you’re abroad, even if you’re not uploading videos to Youtube like this guy, you’re still an ambassador of your country to everybody you meet. The phrase, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” is an excellent reminder to enjoy other cultures by immersing yourself in them and participating in all they have to offer. I’m pretty sure nobody who reads my blog ever goes to the extremes of this guy when they travel, but do your research before you go. Make sure you know what’s considered rude and what is polite to do. Learn a few phrases of the language, and try to go with the flow.

On that note, I would love to hear some thoughts from people of different cultures on this. What is rude/polite where you’re from? What are tourists always doing that you wish they weren’t doing? Any other comments?


4 replies »

  1. I’m American and do much the same when I travel–research important phrases in the language, try to understand what is and isn’t considered rude, and learn about the local customs. I don’t always succeed, but I make an effort and I think locals appreciate that. However, it’s always frustrating when I’m sat at a restaurant with a like-minded friend trying to order in the language and try new things when I hear loud Americans nearby complaining (loudly) about how awful the food is or how weird the people are. I wish more people gave more of an effort! But I like to think that at least some people will remember the respectful American traveler instead of the obnoxious American tourists. Who knows!

    Liked by 1 person

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