05 June 2014

Travel Tips from Becky Goes Abroad

Guess who's back? Becky! Y'all have met her before a couple of times. She's here with some travel tips for any of y'all that might be heading abroad in the near future...

Hello, Southern Twenty-Five readers!

It’s your favorite {maybe? Pretty please?} traveling blogger here from Becky Goes Abroad, freshly arrived back in the good ol’ USA.

It’s been an 8 months full of ups and downs in Paris that I couldn’t possibly begin to capture in one post, so I thought instead I’d write something a little different—a few tips for anyone planning on living abroad, or even just traveling abroad in new places! These are all just based on my own mistakes and experiences, of course, and are by no means law. Adorning this post will be some lovely photos from a surprisingly beautiful sunset outside of my window in my last peaceful days in Paris.

Got any tips for travelers of your own? Share in the comments below!

{one} Make multiple copies of every important document before leaving. If a passport is lost or stolen, for example, even a photocopy could help make the process of getting a new one go a little faster.

{two} For flight layover times, try to give yourself at least two hours when changing planes in a new country—this is especially important for coming back to the United States and continuing on to a different state. It’s never sure exactly how much time (if any) customs will take for those passing through, and you don’t want to be panicking in front of someone deciding whether or not to let you into the country!

{three} Do your research about local customs and courtesies before departing. Is it customary to tip in this new country? To kiss when meeting and greeting? Is it natural for people to seem more distanced than your typical smiley Americans? If someone asks you a deeply personal question, are they really being rude? Are public displays of affection acceptable? Although we may never come to fully adopt EVERY cultural behavior we encounter in foreign countries, it is absolutely imperative to at least be aware of them and to try to understand and employ them to avoid intercultural mishaps and insults.

{four} Be prepared to be embarrassed and confused, publicly.  It’s going to happen, I promise you.  At some point you will not know what is going on or what you’re supposed to be doing and people around you will seemingly have no tolerance for it, making you feel tiny and beet-red. (Note: chances of this happening go up about 150% if you’re in a foreign country whose language is not your own.) For me, it tends to be in grocery stores—I don’t weigh my fruit BEFORE checking out, I’m in the wrong line, they don’t want me to pay with large bills…it always happens, holds up a line, and puts me, stammering apologies, on the spot. All you can do is buck up, suck it up, and move on. It won’t be the first or the last time it happens, so just let it go.

{five} Take a deep breath and dive RIGHT in. Immerse yourself in your new home and culture. It only gets harder to assimilate yourself if you put it off and isolate yourself, so right from the beginning, just go for it. Meet new people, learn the public transport system, make mistakes (possibly get berated for that), try a new activity, try a new food, learn the slang—the sooner you take the first step, the sooner you find that you have adapted to this new world and everything becomes natural and a breeze. This goes for travelers even more so—with limited time to experience everything, take advantage of as much as you can, and don’t spend all your time with people or lifestyles from home.

{six} All that being said, know that fellow expats—even those from other countries—are going to be important contacts in your new country. You’re all going through the same thing with the same new culture, and it’s important to get that support group for when you just CAN’T take it anymore and need to vent to someone who really gets it.  Anyone I’ve known who has lived abroad—students to employees—have created their own expat family abroad, the people who you laugh with and scream in frustration with as you explore your wonderful, crazy new home together.

{seven} Again, do your research—but this time to see what your new home/destination has to offer you. Is there a particular food that is specialized there? Is there any must-see sight or must-do activity?  Where are the best restaurants?  What experiences can you have here that you won’t find anywhere else?  For this research I advise two sources—the Internet (or guidebooks), godsend for travelers and expats alike, and locals, who will be able to show you things that those Internet authors know nothing about. Both types of research can offer unforgettable experiences that you’ll regret missing if you find out about them long after you leave!

{eight} For heaven’s sake, watch your wallet/purse/pockets. Be extra cautious in touristy areas or unfamiliar territory—no matter how long you’ve lived somewhere.  Double so if you clearly DON’T look like a local—it puts a big flashing target over your head.

{nine} Learn a few simple phrases of whatever the local language is—primarily hello, goodbye, please, and thank-you. It’s been said a thousand times, but these simple gestures go a long way to creating good vibes. If you’re living there permanently, try to pick up even more.

{ten} ALWAYS remember that when you go abroad, whether you want to or not, you DO represent your country and culture. People will see you as an example, and depending on where you are you might quite possibly be one of the only ones they have to look at, so anything you do and say could be taken for common behavior. So think before you speak and act, be polite, and try to do yourself proud!

And that, friends, is the end of Paris.  But don’t be shy, I’ll be retrospectively writing at Becky Goes Abroad for a while to come—and who knows? Perhaps I’ll even be embarking on a new adventure soon!

A bientôt,

Becky

1 comment:

  1. These are great tips.We are headed to europe next week and I am beyond excited and nervous!

    ReplyDelete

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