There are plenty of travel stories about “ugly Americans.” Usually, these travelers aren’t aware they are doing anything wrong while on vacation. But if you aren’t aware of local customs and etiquette, offending those around you may be inevitable. Though you will find that the uniquely Caribbean hospitality and slower pace of Aruba tourism are markedly different than anything in the U.S., adjusting isn’t nearly as difficult as it seems. As you enjoy all of your activities in Aruba, here are some tips to make sure you and everyone else remain happy and comfortable.
As you are traveling to escape the often hectic nature of American life, try to enjoy the more relaxed pace of Aruba. Instead of being pushy and trying to speed up your meals and activities, simply be patient and friendly. Don’t wait until returning home to realize how much you relished these opportunities to relax.
Regardless of where you plan on traveling, engage in some research on local greetings and customs. If you are greeted with a hug or a kiss on the cheek, return the favor graciously. When addressing the staff of any establishment you enter, try to be friendly and always introduce yourself with a “hello” or “good day.” The respect you show towards others will be returned to you whenever you need assistance.
It also isn’t too difficult to be a classy tourist. When traveling to Aruba, pack some business attire along with the swimsuit and sandals. As you wouldn’t wear beach gear to a restaurant at home, you should try to look your best when out on the town abroad. Take your courtesy one step further and try to understand the dining traditions of your destination. It is a good idea to pay close attention to others’ behaviors in formal situations. If you find yourself confronted with unknown foods, try your best to expand your palette. When attending events, be an attentive and appreciative audience member regardless of how much you enjoy a performance.
When traveling to a country that speaks any language other than English, make an effort to learn important phrases. You should be able to understand and return greetings and ask simple questions. When you use English, speak clearly and without slang, paying close attention to other people’s reactions to determine if you are being understood. But do not expect to be accommodated with English translation everywhere you go. Traveling to foreign places always involves a compromise.
If you find yourself staying in someone else’s home or any individual goes out of their way for your vacation, a small gift is always a nice touch. If you are invited to dinner, bring flowers or a bottle of wine. Tokens like these can greatly assist common interactions and even earn you some friends. Obviously, gifts don’t have to be expensive; your good intentions will certainly be recognized on their own.
Be generous with your tips, but don’t overdo it. Most people in the service industry rely heavily on gratuities, yet a tip far above the accepted amount could be perceived as an arrogant flaunting of wealth. The following is a list of generally expected gratuities, but you can always ask your concierge about local guidelines: A doorman should receive $1 to $2 for carrying your luggage and up to $4 for securing a taxi. If a bellhop assists you getting to your room, $1 to $2 per bag is customary with an additional $2 to $3 for bringing a requested item. The concierge, always a valuable resource when traveling, deserves $5 to $10 when performing any special service and probably more when securing tickets to a sold-out event or a difficult dinner reservation. When dining, waiters and bartenders should always receive 15-20% of your total bill amount. It is also a good idea to offer tips of $2-3 to housekeepers and valets whenever they come to your assistance.
Most importantly, enjoy your vacation. As long as you keep in mind that you aren’t at home and need to practice moderation and respect, you will always look like a smart traveler, not an “ugly American.”