Updated: Oct 2, 2020
Social Etiquette and Kindness Abroad
You’d be kidding yourself if you said social etiquette doesn’t matter. Even more so, you’d be doing yourself a disservice.
Have you ever heard the saying “nice guys finish last?” Rest assured, this is the farthest from the truth. On a large scale like traveling the world, being polite to others results in respect and kindness amongst the human race.
Being well mannered goes far beyond the common “please” and “thank you.” We can’t truthfully admit that manners are instilled in every one or that we’re polite at all times. We can however agree that social etiquette allows society to live and work together simply. Manners are infectious, and the more society chooses to respect one another the more enjoyable our world will become.
Social Etiquette Around the World
Growing rapidly is the idea that we should present ourselves in public with a different identity—learn to be someone else essentially. Sometimes we aren’t sure what’s acceptable and what’s not, but there’s certainly no “identity” to portray. Quite frankly, social etiquette is basically common sense mixed with being pleasant and sincere. There are no “rules” per se, but rather good manners are nothing more than the notion of courteous behavior—sensible living if you will. Manners can be as simple as welcoming body language.
Like pictogram signage in airports, manners are universal. Unwritten rules of social etiquette beyond “please” and “thank you” can include:
• Offer up your seat if someone else is clearly in need. Do it. You’ll change their world. Too often people (especially fatigued travelers) will become greedy and they’ll put being tired from long days over someone else’s condition. See someone who’s pregnant or walking with a cane? They probably regularly get the short end of the stick when it comes to public seating.
• Know your audience when engaging in conversation. This can save you heaps of apologies and potentially dangerous situations in the long run. Especially when traveling outside of places you’re familiar with, it’s best to avoid topics like politics and religion. You may not know who you’re engaging with and you also may not realize how your audience may perceive what’s being said.
• Always tip. If someone provides a service for you such as waiting on you in a restaurant or providing a hair cut, make sure to show your gratitude. Employees that work in customer service experience large amounts of unpleasant customers and they often work for low wages—unfortunately, it’s the nature of the industry, so they’ll rely on tips for income. Set yourself apart and show your gratitude no matter what. Appreciation goes a long way for others who are simply trying to make a living.
• Look at the person speaking to you. Actions like this move mountains, especially when greeting people and saying goodbye. More specifically, this particular action makes people feel like they matter. Making eye contact also helps to build relationships by allowing us to connect more personally with others. People deserve your meaningful attention. Ever heard of “talking with the eyes?”
Traveling the world may be a hobby for you, but for some of the people, you engage with along the way it may not be. Some people are working. Others may be battling diseases. Maybe that person you offered to take your spot in line at the dreadful airport security is flying home from a funeral—you’d never know by looking at them. In any event, manners encourage togetherness within society.
Encouraging Social Etiquette in Today’s Digital World
While traveling abroad is becoming increasingly popular, social etiquette is diminishing.
You don’t necessarily have to be a teacher or a leader of any sort to engrain kindness into humanity. It’s as simple as living and breathing manners every day and setting examples. Our youth will grasp the unwritten concept of respect and its contagious attributes will naturally spread throughout society. However, this is only possible if we capitalize on opportunities to interact within society detached from our screens.
As our world transitions into a digitally dominant world, it’s even more crucial to encourage social etiquette. Now more than ever, etiquette like eye contact is vital to first impressions and communication amongst humans. In our lifetime this will become a dying art if we (society) don’t engage like humans were meant to: physically interacting. The younger generation isn’t forgetting how to be courteous. In fact, they may have very little exposure to generosity to begin with due to being raised with screens in their hands. Smartphones are communicating and translating for us.
From the book iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of Us, Jean M. Twenge writes,
“The allure of independence, so powerful to previous generations, holds less sway over today’s teens.”
“We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”
Nowadays, our phones are likely the first thing we check in the morning and the last thing we check before going to sleep. Do you think this has anything to do with today’s social mannerisms? Of course, it does, and probably more than you think. The average person spends at least 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phones per day or 50 days a year. Think about how much this impacts the amount of positive etiquette you would otherwise develop while interacting with your peer's face to face.
Back to Basics
Start by saying “please” and “thank you.” Learn pleasant common phrases like “may I?” or “how are you?” in languages that you may encounter around the world. International cultures appreciate efforts taken to learn their languages, but do yourself and society a favor by going the extra mile and offering goodness. You don’t have to go out to the left field for people, but you’ll certainly stand out if you smile through a crowd of straight faces. Put your phone down and offer your seat or lend a simple hand. Who knows, you may even land a free place to sleep or a free meal simply by being kind.
Don’t miss out on your opportunity to be the impact society needs to see worldwide. Otherwise, we all finish last. Your tenderness is essential to continuing the legacy that the human race set out to achieve eons ago.