Here is some advice based on our personal experiences about what not to do when living or traveling abroad. Please feel free to share your own comments at the bottom of the page!
1. Don’t assume the wait staff will bring your restaurant bill to your table. In many countries, you have to ask for the check so don’t wait for the bill to be brought to you! It may take moseying up to the counter to pay it because you can’t get anyone’s attention.
2. Don’t dress inappropriately. If you must go to a government office, check the dress code first! If you are going to conduct business, they expect you to dress with respect which means no open toed shoes, no sleeveless shirts and no shorts. The guards at the door will turn you away!
3. Don’t assume you can get by speaking only English. Be prepared to speak whatever their native language is, especially when going to a bus station or local markets. Be polite and show respect by at least trying to communicate in something other than English. Just a few words go a long way, so make it a point to learn Please, Thank You, Excuse Me, How Much and so on before you go.
4. Don’t lose your temper. This is a huge no-no. It’s easy to get frustrated abroad, but keeping your composure and your voice down will help you in the long run.
5. Don’t be a Stranger. If you are living in one place for a while, be kind and meet your neighbors. Sometimes offering something you baked or a good store bought loaf of bread is a nice gesture. Say hello to people on the street or at the very least, smile as you pass by. Keep in mind that you are an ambassador from your country of origin.
6. Don’t Ignore Your Instinct. Always, ALWAYS go with your gut feeling, it’s usually right!
7. Don’t be ignorant of local customs. Do an internet search of dress codes, greetings and safety warnings. Who knew you weren’t allowed to bring more than one pack of gum into Singapore?
8. Don’t bribe an officer. You could find yourself in more trouble than it’s worth. Last thing you need is to be locked up abroad!
9. Don’t leave your accommodation without a COLOR copy of your passport (front cover and photo page). It’s also best to have a color copy of the entry stamp for the country you are in as proof that you are there legally.
10. Don’t assume all transportation runs late. I was surprised to find buses were often EARLY to the stop. I also found that the later down the line you got on, there’d be no seats left. So, DON’T assume you’ll get a seat either!