Once the global pandemic is finally over and you can finally resume your travels, it’s more important than ever before to be mindful of the destination you’re traveling to. When you’re planning an upcoming trip, the priorities are usually agreeing on how long you’ll be gone, booking a plane ticket, and reserving a hotel room or an Airbnb. How much planning you put into a trip depends on the type of traveler you are.

If you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants planner, you might not think much more about your trip beyond that. Maybe you prefer to throw yourself out of your comfort zone and let fate shape your experiences for you. There are some advantages to this, particularly because these travelers are more likely to look to locals to steer them in the direction of the real undiscovered gems. Or maybe your plans are so comprehensive that they can fill an entire notebook. These planners prefer to make the most out of their vacations, not leaving more than a few hours void of plans. 

Researching the best restaurants, sight-seeing spots, and local landmarks can ensure you have a good trip, but there’s one aspect of planning that many travelers overlook: travel etiquette. Just as you research the fun and informative activities you want to do, it is also your responsibility to research an area’s culture as well. This not only decreases culture shock, it also allows you to participate in the culture without misunderstandings and mishaps. 

Don’t be culturally ignorant

No one expects you to become fluent in a country’s language before you visit, but you should introduce yourself to the culture beforehand. Without fully understanding the language, being culturally-fluent can help you better connect with locals. It also ensures that you don’t offend anyone.

In Greece, for example, approaching locals with an open palm is the equivalent to giving someone in the U.S. the middle finger. In Alaska, residents can become easily frustrated by tourists who want to explore the outdoors but come visibly unprepared. And what about the universal differences in tipping? In Belgium, tipping isn’t common because bills already include a service charge, but if you do choose to tip, think of 10 percent as the maximum amount. In Alaska, however, tipping is a standard practice, and there are unwritten (but expected) amounts for different services. Locals usually tip a barista or bartender one dollar per drink for exceptional service, and a 15-20 percent tip for exceptional servers.

These may seem inconsequential, but they have a significant impact on how you are perceived by locals and can greatly influence your overall experience. 

Take on the perspective of a local

When you travel, don’t revel in the fact that you’re a tourist. The majority of tourists never really immerse themselves in a country’s culture and only really end up having a surface-level experience during their trip.

Instead, try to approach every experience with the perspective of a local. When you see things in their context, you’ll have a richer experience. The memories you make will be more substantial and as you tell stories to your family and friends, it is these memories you will remember above all else. 

The travel experience you’ll end up having is entirely up to you. But the best thing you can do for yourself and the locals you’ll encounter during your tip is to learn as much as you can about their culture before you arrive in it.