Watch and listen more than you talk. Ask respectful questions; don’t be afraid to acknowledge what you do not know.
Learn basic phrases in the local language and use them for greetings always. When introduced to someone, two kisses on the cheek are customary in Spain; three in France.
Observe local dress practices and follow suit. Be aware of the level of your voice and don’t speak more loudly than locals.
Don’t be afraid to get lost. Wander, explore, observe. Always have enough change in your pocket should you need to take a taxi back home.
Take photos from a different angle. Take close ups of every day pieces of the environment—signs, flowers, arrangements in shop windows, details of building design. Put your camera away sometimes, and just be present in the moment.
One of the most beautiful and unique aspects of European culture is the time they take over their food. Follow suit and spend meal times really talking to the people around you. Sip your drink, take small bites, and chew slowly. Eat something you’ve never eaten before. Laugh and talk and know that far from being time away from the experience, it’s an essential piece of being here.
Be respectful of holy sites like churches. Photos may not be appropriate. You may need to cover up if you’re wearing short shorts or sleeveless shirts. Speak in lowered voices.
If a local person invites you to do something (and you feel safe), always do it. If you don’t feel safe, reach out to others around you. Other locals are almost always willing to help if you need it, but don’t assume they speak your language, and remember to apologize if you don’t speak theirs.
Be mindful of the garbage you create. Recycle when you can. Use less packaging when you can. Reuse shopping bags and combine purchases. Be aware of water usage when you shower, as many parts of Spain have limited water resources.
Support local businesses and locally made products. Read labels and be aware of who owns the shops where you purchase. Spain has been in a recession for years and the unemployment rate is still at 25%. Your U.S. dollars are deeply appreciated when you spend them to support ethical businesses and local people.
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