The Importance of Respectful Travel
In January 2018, an American Youtube creator by the name of Logan Paul made headlines for his video showcasing the body of a Japanese suicide victim. The existence of the video was insensitive in every sense of the word. Its use of tragedy as click bait was more than reprehensible. However, it came to light shortly after that this video was only a part of Logan’s profane escapades during his time in Japan. His actions on the street and even in places of worship were annoying at best, and blatantly disrespectful at worst. Nightborn felt for every Japanese person that he harassed, embarrassed, and annoyed. We also hate to think of what people like him do to the reputation of other travelers or tourists from their country. Its time to start talking about respectful travel and how to do it.
“Tourist” has become kind of an unwanted label, hasn’t it? It usually slips off the tongues of locals with bitterness and a roll of the eyes. But why? Sometimes it’s the Logan Pauls of the world – who seem to think that other cultures are a joke. But mostly, it’s everyday folks who just don’t take the time to do a little learning before they travel.
So here’s our challenge to you: take the time. Be informed. Be BETTER.
Be a good steward of your nationality and change the locals opinions of what a “tourist” can be.
We’ll even help you get started! For the benefit of anyone thinking of visiting the US, we wanted to share a quick and dirty guide to respectful behavior for travelers to the United States.
We Love Our Lines
In some places, a line is more of a suggestion than a rule, but this is absolutely not true in the United States. If people are waiting in line, it is considered extremely rude to cut your way to the front… or really anywhere that isn’t the back. Even if someone from your party is waiting further up, people will give you dirty looks for cutting ahead. Being pushy in line is even worse. The best line etiquette is to patiently join at the back of the line, and avoid touching anyone around you that you don’t know.
We like our personal space. Unless you are on a crowded train or elevator, it is not appropriate to bump shoulders with people you don’t know. When speaking with Americans, it is also good to keep at least a couple feet between you. When it comes to greetings and goodbyes, we also aren’t big on kissing or hugging unless you are already good friends. Handshakes are probably the safest way to go if you feel that you must give a physical greeting to a stranger.
We grew up in Arizona, and it is pretty traditional to be friendly to people you meet on the street, particularly in residential areas and while hiking. If there aren’t tons of people around, it’s polite to say good morning or hello. You don’t need to attempt a conversation (especially if they’re in a rush), but acknowledging the other person goes a long way. This also goes when you are at the cash register. It’s polite to ask the person working how they are and maybe engage in small talk as long as you don’t hold up the line. As far as I know, this is common throughout the south and midwest, and probably rural areas of the Northern US as well. But you might not find this in a BIG city like New York.
Time Is Money!
Lots of Americans, particularly urban ones, are very focused on being efficient with their time. So, if you are ordering food somewhere, or otherwise selecting a service, but have no idea what you want, it is polite to let the person behind you order first, if they know what they want. Likewise, if you are in line at the grocery store and have a cart full of food for your road trip, while the person behind you has a loaf of bread and some peanut butter, they would be extremely grateful if you let them go in front of you. Although, if you don’t do these things, you won’t be seen as impolite, as long as you respected the line.
Roadtrips are one of our favorites, and respectful travel is just as important on the road as anywhere else. Just like the line situation, driving rules in the US are not suggestions. If there is a stop sign, you must come to a complete stop. If there is a red arrow for a turn, you may not go until a green arrow is on. Red lights cannot be run, even though there’s no one there and it’s the middle of the night. A few rogues will break these rules, but Americans expect you to respect the laws of the road.
We Aren’t All Loud and You Don’t Have to Be Either
I know I could fill a book with these things, but this will be my last point. I want to cover this because the “loud American” is such a stereotype elsewhere. As with probably anywhere, you should really gauge your volume based on the people around you. If you are in a bar, and everyone is loud, feel free to be loud. But if you are at a nice restaurant, hiking, shopping, at the movies (!!!!), it’s really more polite to keep your volume down. No one anywhere likes it when other people ruin their peaceful day by being obnoxious.
These guidelines are not asking you to stop being yourself, we’re just asking you to be respectful. And that goes for wherever you travel, not just the U.S. Respectful travel can help us all build a better reputation for our favorite pastime.
If you’d like to learn more about travel in the US, be sure to visit our Guide to the United States.