A few years ago when I was studying to get my M.B.A. in Global Management, I was very intrigued by expats (expatriates are individuals who work in another country other than their home country; typically it’s referred to Americans who live and work abroad). I thought it must be the coolest thing in the world to work for a company and be able to work abroad in another country.
While that is partially correct, there are issues that expats must deal with that turn this enviable position into one that is chock full of its own landmines that must be navigated and taken into consideration when traveling and living abroad for any length of time. I liken it to the honeymoon phase of a relationship. It’s all roses and tulips at the beginning because each person is on their best behavior; however, when the thin veneer of that honeymoon phase goes away, you are left with the vestiges of a “real “ relationship, and as we all know, that’s not always a pretty picture.
When considering any travel abroad – even to lovely locales like Paris, London and Prague, there are significant cultural differences that the American traveler should be aware of prior to departure. We’ve all heard the tales of the “Ugly American” or we’ve witnessed these people, or in some cases, we were the “Ugly American.” It’s essential to do some preliminary research prior to traveling to another country, even if it’s visiting our Canadian neighbors to the North of us.
Working with a travel professional can help you prepare for your international trip by ensuring you know the important aspects of visiting that country, like, whether or not you will go to jail if you throw gum on the sidewalk. Also, you can strategize on polite comebacks as to why you can’t eat the mystery meat that is so popular in that country.
- What to Eat - Where are all the top chefs at your destination? Travel specialists give great advice on the best restaurants to hit on your trip and not to be missed restaurants.
- What Not to Eat - Leaving your home country and not familiar with the new language?
Travel agents can help give you some forewarnings so you don’t accidently order the local delicacy (which may or not be specially prepared bugs) without meaning to.
- Local Traditions - Travel specialists can update you on all local traditions and customs of places you are visiting, so you make a good impression. For example, in Japan many people expect their visitors to take their shoes off before entering their homes.
- Local Laws - Many countries have laws that are very different from your own, especially when traveling abroad. Travel agents can help give you a quick rundown of what you need to be aware of before you go.
- Busiest Travel Times to Avoid - If you want a quiet trip, travel experts know what dates you should avoid and can help you plan your trip accordingly.
*Source: American Society of Travel Agents