Manners and Travel

My son and his girlfriend have gone to travel Europe for a year or two.  They have saved a bunch of money and have it arranged to work in the winter.  They told me they were going to visit Paris and stay for a bit about the same time that I spotted a book that interested me.  The book is called The Sweet Life in Paris.  I lived in the US for years and have always been curious about a sort of animosity between the French and the Americans.  I always thought that it was that they were BOTH so arrogant.  But I although I have been to the US and lived there, I have never been to or lived in France.  Now it may be the case that both the French and Americans are arrogant but I have also met many of both that are not.  Unless it is only the arrogant ones that travel.

David Lebovitz explains things a little better in his book mentioned above.  The problem is basically a difference in what is acceptable manners. Many people, and this is not only with Americans, do not find out what the local manners are when they travel.  Travel books really do not cover these points in a useful manner.  Even the way you greet someone – what is considered good manners – can be hugely different from one culture or country to another. 

David points out in an early chapter in his book that, for example, when you walk in to a store or any place of business in Paris that one should say hello to each person when you first arrive.  In America this is not done as a rule. In some places it is done but it would not be considered bad manners if you did not.  It would, though, if someone said hello to you and you did not return the greeting.  Asking something about a price or some such before doing this would be deemed improper.

In Paris it seems to be the responsibility of the person entering the place of business to initiate the greeting. 

I have found that in some other countries or cultures that a man does not approach a woman directly or commincate to a woman that he has not been introduced to.  He should have a relative or friend, someone that knows the woman already, introduce him before speaking to her. 

It really doesn’t help to think someone else’s customs or manners are stupid or silly.  When going to someone else’s country treat them with respect and learn what is appropriate and what is not. 

When I was in India an aquaintance of mine there expressed dismay at western women and their clothing.  It was hot there and many western women from North America and Europe would wear shorts and sometimes tank tops or sleeveless shirts.  He considered this terribly inappropriate.  It embarrassed him and made him very uncomfortable.  He was not the only one that felt this way.  I would say to people going to India to wear shirts that bear the shoulders – this for men and women. 

If it is too hot go in a cooler time of the year.  Or don’t go – go to a country that is more comfortable with this kind of attire. 

If you do not like to adapt your manners to the people you are visiting then I strongly suspect that do not like people.  You at the very least will not respect them. 

I assure you that learning the manners of an area will open doors that you never thought possible and make any traveling much more enjoyable.

Posted by Martin Jones

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