Behave in a Foreign Country

Thursday, July 17, 2008

If you've ever been to a foreign country, you will know that fitting in isn't easy. Chances are, they will have a different language, set of customs, monitary unit, and way of life. Here are some things you can do to adjust in a different country.

Learn about the country. Get a base of knowledge. Where is the country located? What are their traditional foods? These and other questions should be answered. If you know someone who has lived in/been to the country in question, ask them to tell you a bit about the country.

Attempt basic phrases. If you do not know how to speak their language, it will be hard to master the entire language in a short amount of time. If you have previously taken the language, brush up on it. If you have never spoken the language, buy a dictionary (i.e. an English to French dictionary, not a French to English dictionary). You may want to invest in a computer language program, or a tutor to help you learn key phrases. Remember that you will not have time to learn the entire language so focus on things like; asking for directions, ordering in restaurants, asking and telling time, and money transactions. Learn these phrases along with the basic please, thank you, hello, and goodbye. Remember that with a polite attitude and a smile, your basic language skills will be forgiven.

Try to meet someone who knows about or has been to the country. If it is a country like France or Spain, you may want to ask a French or Spanish teacher from a local high school. Chances are they will not only know the language very well, but will have spent time there. If it is a less known country, you may be out of luck. In this case, search the Internet and the library. You will be better able to learn from a person, but books can be just as resourceful!

Have a basic understanding of customs. If you are being tutored in the language, ask your tutor to teach you some of their customs. However, when all else fails, don't point, don't shout, and always say please and thank you. If you do end up in a tangle because of your lack of customs, calmly explain that you are foreign and that it was an accident. Basic English customs are not the same around the world (especially as you get into Asia and Africa) but will provide as a base for most European countries.

Handle your money well. Money can be confusing, but cover all your bases. Understand the name of the monetary unit (i.e. dollars) and know the names of the coins/bills within the unit (i.e ten-dollar bill, quarters). Do this in your own country before heading off. Exchange your bills a couple of weeks before you go and practice recognizing them. Know the basic conversion (i.e. one pound is about two dollars). Recognize fair prices and know how to make basic money transactions.

* Be polite and pay attention. As you pick up clues from residents of the country, use them.

* Never leave your luggage alone.

* Don't be afraid to ask questions about anything.


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