How do you act if you get invited into someone’s home?
The host might tell you to “make yourself at home,” but do you really? I certainly do not. If I am visiting someone for the very first time, I am on my best behavior, observing the owners of the house to make sure that I follow their lead. I usually offer my help in cleaning up, but it is most often rejected. (Both sides play their parts right.) My goal is to leave their place in the same state that I found it in upon entering. That does not always happen because dishes need to be washed. Hopefully, everything else is left in order.
It is natural to feel more comfortable at someone’s place if you have been there plenty of times before, and you know the host quite well. In those instances, you do not have to be on alert 100% of the time. You can relax a little and maybe even put your feet up if appropriate. I would like to think that you are still doing your best to be an ideal guest and not to offend your host. Put yourself in their shoes. What would you think if someone did this or that at YOUR home?
From a young age, I was told to look after my own possessions but to be even more careful with those that belong to others. It is easier to forget it or replace something that you break from your personal collection than to handle the guilt and embarrassment from destroying something that is not yours.
To me, those seem like common courtesies that translate well into bigger things in life. When I go abroad, I do not act as if I was in my home country. I keep in mind that I am merely a guest. First of all, I start preparing BEFORE I actually leave. Aside from reading about tourist attractions, I also read about the culture and customs. If you insist on staying inside your resort, you might think that no research is necessary. Please, check the hotel’s regulations, though. Depending on the population mix, you might be fine doing whatever you normally do at home. In such an instance, remember not to go outside the resort, though. If you do, be prepared to learn and adapt.
Once you arrive at your destination, try to keep the things you had learned in mind. Refresh your knowledge if necessary. I have a soft spot for pocketbooks that include all sorts of helpful information about the region I am visiting. (Do they still make those?) Keep your eyes and ears open. Observe and adapt. It might be alright to relax in some instances, but in others, you might have to straighten up your tie and get serious.
A woman from the UK was arrested in the Maldives for refusing to cover up while on a public beach. She wore a bikini. A video shows a couple of officers trying to restrain the woman while another one tries to put a towel around her to cover her up. Throughout the whole time, the woman fights back and screams that she is being sexually assaulted. In the end, the men succeed in throwing a piece of cloth around her shoulders and take her away.
Maldives Police Service Commissioner Mohamed Hameed issued a statement in which he apologized to the woman and the public for the situation being handled poorly, and vowed to investigate the incident further. It was later reported that the Police had been alerted of the inappropriately dressed woman being inebriated by a call from a member of the public. In a memo the Police later issued, they wrote that: “Tourists on local islands are requested to respect the community’s cultural sensitivities and local regulations by restricting the wearing of swimwear to certain areas of the island.” They did apologize again for handling the situation incorrectly, though.
The Maldives is an Islamic nation. You should know better than to walk around half-naked in such a place. A website for the island the woman was visiting explicitly says: “The dress code is modest outside of tourist resorts as a sign of respect to the community. Maafushi has made special arrangements with the lsland Council for tourists to sunbathe in bikinis on the private tourist beach (available to all tourists on the island). This is discreetly tucked away behind some palm-leaf screens. This is very fortunate as the Maldivian law does not permit bikinis on most inhabited beaches.” Just because it is normal to wear a bikini where you are from, does not mean that it is allowed somewhere else.
As a kid, I always found it fun to learn a few basic words in the native language of the country to which I was traveling. Do you notice the smile of the locals when you say “Hello,” or “Thank you” in their language? I know I do. Yes, they know I am a tourist and that I do not speak their language fluently, but at least I tried. I have made great connections with people that way. Do not expect them to cater to you. Reach out to them first if you are on their turf.
Enjoy the places you visit, but remember that you are a guest in someone else’s home. Respect the people and the house.
Have you ever broken something that was not yours? How did it feel? What did you do?
Do you conduct any research before you travel abroad?
How do you prepare before traveling internationally?
Do you feel “at home” anywhere you go?
How would you react if someone asked you to “cover up” (or anything else) when on vacation abroad?
How do you think the Police officers should have reacted?
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