When travelling overseas, excitement and wonder are the two feelings that overcome you. Everything is new and you become very eager to see the sights once you’ve landed. Most tourist destinations have a warm and welcoming attitude towards visitors and often residents overlook some cultural mistakes. Still, it is important not to leave your manners at home when you visit another country. The best way to do that is to learn a few things about the country so you will not commit things that are embarrassing.
The City of London is one of the many major destinations travellers around the world plan to visit at least once in their lifetime, just like many people dream of visiting Paris. There are just so many things to see and experience in London, many of these might be due from the Bond, James Bond series, with super sleuth and dashing debonair 007. While Australians share some common bonds with the UK, things are still different over there. Be sure not to call people in London as British. They prefer to be called English. Avoid talking about politics and religion with people you’ve just met. When you’ve wandered into the rural areas, be sure fox hunting does not come into the conversation. They also take manners very seriously, so do not forget to say thank you, please and sorry.
If you are travelling by bus, be sure to watch your manners and offer your seat to a pregnant woman, the elderly or someone that is burdened by a lot of stuff and maybe children. In London, you might encounter long queues, which is a norm, so if you find yourself queuing, be sure that you do so silently and just have the patience to wait for your turn. There’s no way around it.
What’s some of the good things? Jaywalking is not illegal! However, make sure that you stand on the right when you are on any escalator, especially when you are on the London Underground. Say “excuse me” when you want to catch a waiter’s attention or signal with your hand (politely, of course). Tipping is accepted but do not be a show-off, and there is no need to tip movie and theatre ushers, bar staff and elevator operators. By the way, there is a difference between pubs and bars. Pubs in London are gathering places and may even operate as a restaurant. It is a place where conversation is encouraged, so it is usual to find people ordering coffee, tea, juice, soda, rather than beer. You can always order beer and other alcoholic drinks in a bar.
Milan is a magnificent city, and the center of the arts: fashion, entertainment, photography, art and design. The glamourous city has so many things to offer its multitude of visitors, from its modern installations to its quaint architectural wonders. Marvel at the beauty of Milan’s cathedral, the Santa Maria delle Grazie and see Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” in its Refectory. Of course you should not forget that Milan is a fashion capital, so find plenty of time to visit the high-end and avant-garde shops in the city. While you might struggle with the language, it is still important to mind your manners.
Do remember to eat when Italians eat. Lunch is from one to two in the afternoon while dinner is around eight or eight-thirty in the evening. Remember these times otherwise you will find the restaurants and other food joints already closed. Most shops in Milan will be closed in the afternoon. This does not mean that they are closed for some “siesta” time like they do in Spain. There are certain times of the week when shops are closed, a time for the shops owners to have a day of rest or ’giorno di riposo’
When you go to a bar, observe what the other customers do first, because more often than not, you should pay first and get a receipt before you order. Never order coffee with your meal other than breakfast and use the plastic gloves provided by the shops before touching fruits and vegetables. Moreover, do not forget to say “grazie” (thank you) and “prego” the Italian for “you’re welcome.” It is not the “prego” (pregnant) slang word that most Australians know.
Barcelona is a dream vacation destination. It has fine weather, miles of beaches, exotic architecture, cosmopolitan atmosphere, great food and a Mediterranean lifestyle. It is a wonderful place to see the smooth blending of the old and the new; ancient history and modernity. Some of the most interesting places to visit in Barcelona are La Casa Batlló, Parc Güell, La Pedrera/Casa Milà and Sagrada Família. All of this are examples of the work of renowned architect Antoni Gaudi.
When in a different country, the best thing to do is to try to blend in with the locals. It might be difficult but there are some things that you can avoid doing. When in Barcelona, remember that their language is Catalan, not Spanish. Its other official language is Castilian Spanish. Sangria is basically known better in other parts of Spain than in Barcelona. Here, the sangria they sell is more like champagne rather than a concoction made from chopped fruits, wine, sweetener and brandy.
Do not ask about bullfighting because it is not done in Barcelona. Likewise do not insult them by wearing a T-shirt printed with a bull design. They’ll love you when you wear a shirt with a donkey print, which is the people’s emblem. They also do not like visitors wearing those oversized Mexican hats. Likewise, Barcelona has their own dance, sardana, so do not expect to see Flamenco dancing in the city but you can watch them do their Catalan moves every Sunday morning at the cathedral square. Oh, by the way, be careful when discussing your age when in Barcelona. Be sure to practice saying “año” with a tilde over the letter n. The correct pronunciation is “a-nyo” rather than “ano.” Do you know why? “Ano” in Catalan means “anus.”
Frankfurt is a futuristic city that blends well with its ancient history. It is a German city where millions descend upon every year. A very diverse city, you are likely to see hordes of foreigners in Frankfurt. However, this does not mean that anything goes in the ultra-modern city, since its residents also like to maintain their age-old traditions, which is in contrast to its very modern look. Let’s take a look at some do’s and don’ts while in this German city.
Wine and beer are normally consumed during meals in Frankfurt, but still there are many Germans who shun the tradition and do not want to drink. When you’ve met new friends and would like to share a drink, do not be offended when one refuses. It is not a matter of being polite or shy. Take it at its face value – he or she does not want to drink. And speaking of being polite, it is better to use “Sie” (you) instead of “du” when addressing people you’ve just met. “Du” is very informal and usually used among family and close friends.
When eating in a restaurant, be sure to cross your knife and fork on your plate if you are not yet finished so the waiter does not take your plate away. Indicate that you are done by placing your knife and fork in a parallel line on the right side of the plate. In the company of others, wait until you are invited to sit or when everyone else had been seated. Do not request for tap water when eating. You are expected to buy bottled water. Avoid being labelled as a rude person. In Frankfurt, you should always keep your hands on the table while eating.Before leaving for Frankfurt, be sure to practice saying “Guten Tag,” which is just like “G’day, mate!” as well as “Auf Wiedersehen” or “goodbye.”
Although Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, it is not its capital. So remember that Switzerland’s capital is Berne. Zurich is a mega city with over 80 clubs that are open on weekends, over 1,500 restaurants, more than 500 bars, 100+ galleries, 59 movie theaters and over 50 museums. Despite it being a hub for international conglomerates, media agencies and international communities, do not expect Zurich to fully embrace modernity and informality, as it is very easy to make a mistake in this city of contrasts.
Greet individual people you meet with “Grüezi” and add “mitenand” when you are meeting several people like in waiting rooms and elevators. Kissing people on both their cheeks is reserved for close friends, acquaintances and family members. In a formal setting, a firm handshake is the norm. Although it can be quite confusing and difficult, you’ll be thought of highly when you remember the names of the people you are introduced to and say them in greeting. A smile is not enough when greeting someone you do not know. They expect you to say “Grüezi” or hello. The pronunciation is quite difficult: it sounds like “goy-tzi” said in a very smooth way. And just like in Frankfurt, keep to the more formal “Sie.” Also practice saying “adieu” or goodbye, “bitte” (please) and “danke” or “merci” (thank you) as well.
When in Zurich, be sure to talk in a moderate voice. The do not like loud voices and frown upon boisterous conversations in public. The Swiss are notoriously private and do not like to talk about personal matters, either. The Swiss do not believe in queuing though, so you can exercise your right and state that it’s your turn when needed. With plenty of people walking around or crammed into shops, it is normal to bump onto a person or be bumped. Don’t feel irritated but just say “scho guet” or it’s okay and ” äxgüsi” (excuse me) or sorry if you were the one who did the bumping.