Things to Know Before You Go to Japan

July 22,2011

Harmony is intricately woven into Japanese society and something that is important to have an understanding of when visiting Japan. While Japanese people are understandably forgiving when visitors to Japan are not fully aware of all Japanese social norms, it is still appreciated when you make an effort to act respectfully and appropriately. As part of our Know Before You Go series, we have compiled a list of tips on cultural norms and etiquette on Japan tours.


Meeting and Greeting

  • Older generations generally greet with bows, rather than a handshake, though in some cases younger people may use handshakes as is done in many western countries.
  • The common way to address people is by their last name, followed by the suffix “-san,” which is a more flexible version of Ms./Mr./Mrs. In non-formal situations, Japanese people may address you by your first name followed by “-san,” though it’s considered casual.
  • When entering a Japanese house or a ryokan, remove your shoes at the doorway. Slippers are usually provided by the host. When entering a room with tatami floor, slippers are also removed. Wear only socks or bare feet on tatami floor.
  • When in public, eye contact is generally avoided with strangers.
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Know Before You Go: Egypt

July 06,2011

Egypt tourism has experienced a major lull in the recent months following the country’s turmoil. However, as we recently wrote about on our blog, Egypt is Back and Even Better. Now is a great time to visit the unique country. As mentioned in our previous Know Before You Go blogs, researching cultural norms and practices of your host country is an essential part of trip planning. Whether you are already planning your Egypt custom tour or just hoping to someday visit the Pyramids of Giza here are a few tips for being culturally responsible in Egypt.


Egyptian Society and Culture

Muslim is the dominant religion in Egypt and it plays a major role in the society’s values and practices. Muslims pray five times a day, at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening. Also, Friday is the Muslim holy day, and therefore everything is closed. In contemporary Egypt the two-day weekend is often Friday and Saturday. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and work shorter days. During Ramadan, each night at sunset, family and friends celebrate the breaking of the fast. The family is of major importance in Egyptian society, and the individual is usually considered subordinate to the family or group. Younger generations are expected to show respect to their seniors, they will not raise their voice to elders and should not remain seated while an older person is standing. Additionally, an individual’s honor and esteem is directly tied to the reputation of the family.

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Know Before You Go: Cultural Norms in Colombia

June 17,2011

When preparing for your next ecotourism vacation it’s good to consider the country’s cultural norms and social etiquette. This is important so we can maintain a good, positive and sustainable tourist-host relationship. As we have mentioned in our previous Know Before You Go blogs, a great way to do this is by taking just a little time before your travels to read up on your host country’s culture, social norms, and codes of conduct. A little effort goes a long way! Locals will recognize your efforts, because that shows them respect and tells them that you care to learn about their country and culture.

Colombia Flag

The cultural norms of Colombia are bits of info and social tips for visitors from all over the world that will help you further enjoy the vacation.

Language in Colombia

The official language is Spanish, spoken by around 43 million people. In addition there are approximately 500,000 speakers of different American Indian languages. Colombians are very polite and are proud to speak in proper Castilian (Spanish). Even though Spanish is spoken all over South America, each country has its own set of local Spanish slang terms.

“A LA ORDEN” : This is probably the single most heard and used phrase in Colombia. It literally means “at your order”. You will encounter numerous different situations where they use the phrase.

  • You can use it to substitute “thank you” (gracias)
  • It is used to ask “may I help you?” (a la orden?)
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Know Before You Go: Cultural Norms in India

May 24,2011

One aspect of trip preparation that many people often skip is researching the cultural and social norms of the country you plan to visit. Being prepared by knowing the appropriate dress, gestures, and phrases will go a long way in making your trip more enjoyable. Making an effort to learn the cultural practices will be very appreciated by the locals and will give them a positive image of travelers. We have created guides with a few tips on the cultural norms of China, customs of Tanzania, and cultural traditions of Cambodia. Here we’ll discuss responsible travel in India.

Golden Temple of Amritsar

Plan Your Perfect Trip

Hindi is the official language of India, as decided by the central government. However, the different states of India have many different languages. For example, Bihar in east India has three official languages which are Hindi, Urdu and Bengali.

Here are a few phrases in Hindi you might find helpful when traveling to India:

  • Hello/Goodbye: namaste
  • Excuse me: maaf kijiyeh
  • Please: meharbani she
  • Thank you: shukriya
  • Yes: haan
  • No: nahin
  • How are you?: aap kiaseh hain?

English is also widely used in India. Indian English differs as you travel to different parts of the country. You can find more Hindi phrases here.


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Cambodian Culture: Facts to Know

April 13,2011

As mentioned in my previous blog on Tanzania Cultural Norms, knowing some facts about the country you are planning on traveling to can be extremely useful and demonstrates your respect for the culture.

Cambodia is sometimes described as a less developed country in South East Asia. Despite the rough and the tough lifestyle they have gone through, including brutal wars and everyday hardships, Cambodians are extremely warm welcoming people and go out of their way for people visiting their country. Around 95% of Cambodians are Buddhist, which is reflected a lot in their daily lives. Cambodia is a collective culture that emphasizes a hierarchy within society. They live with a common hierarchy where you are taught to respect your elders and almost everything is based on your age. Common hierarchy guidelines are that the parents are superior to children, managers to assistants, and teachers to students. Monks will even walk in rank order, with the oldest in front and most junior at the end. As a foreigner you will notice that certain people will ask you more personal questions to identify your “rank” in their hierarchy. They may change the way they converse with you depending on what they think your status is.

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