Traveling overseas for the first time can be a scary experience, especially if you haven't done much travel within your own country. But, despite this being an intimidating experience, it can also be very exciting.
When Americans travel abroad, many don't understand the difference in culture right away. As Americans, we have this western-washed idea about other countries that are brought to us largely from what the media tells us, and from books that we've read. While much of this information may be somewhat accurate, it doesn't adequately reflect the cultural diversity and differences that we experience on a first time visit.
Traveling abroad requires a bit of cultural knowledge, and a willingness to adapt and adhere to local customs and policies.
Here, we'll discuss a few tips on how to navigate and experience a new place overseas on a first time visit.
The first thing that you need to understand is that people don't get around town in the same fashion overseas as one does in the United States. In fact each country has its own unique transportation norms that all the locals adhere to. Where some places are heavily traveled by foot and bicycle, others have no public transit available at all.
Most major cities will have some method of public transportation, whether this be a taxi system, public railways or buses. Regardless, these can be costly in some cities overseas. Another alternative to public transportation is to use a rideshare service. Numerous cities have rideshare services available, and all you have to do is download an app and order a ride.
For the best experience in a new place, explore as much as you can on foot. This way you'll be able to create a much more personal experience, and see the region up close.
Learn the Culture
It's a known fact that most Americans expect a visitor from another country to know a little bit about the United States upon arriving. In fact, in most countries this is also true, and it's considered rude to visit a place without at least familiarizing yourself with the dos and don'ts of a region.
Overseas you'll find customs and social norms that are completely different from what you'd expect in the United States.
For example, in places like Japan, riding on the train is a much quieter experience than what you'll find in the United States. You won't find many Japanese people talking on their cell phones when in public places. The Japanese are much quieter and reserved and have mutual respect for one another in this regard.
These types of differences can be witnessed in nearly every overseas country to varying degrees. This is why it is essential for you to familiarize yourself with the customs and norms of the place you'll be visiting.
Just to illustrate this, the V sign, commonly associated with "peace" in the United States has long been an offensive gesture in places like the UK, Ireland, Australia, India, and Pakistan. So think twice before you go throwing up the deuce.
Choose a Local Experience
No matter where you visit, overseas tourist destinations are full of traps designed to lure unsuspecting tourists in and hopefully take some of your money. If you stick to following the local's lead, you'll keep yourself safe from these tourist traps.
Keep an eye out for where locals are eating and shopping, as these are perhaps the best locations in town and offer the most direct cultural experience.
The best way to get the inside track on places the locals frequent is to talk to an experienced travel agent or check out an insider's guide. Many times expats will blog or write about their travel experience in-country, and this is information that you can use to your benefit.
Or, you could just ask the locals themselves. But, you might want to brush up on the regional language before you start an awkward conversation.