How To Be A Worldly American

In his post on How To Be A Less Ugly American, Paul Holmes refers to Business for Diplomatic Action, Inc.’s guidelines for Americans outside the United States.

In the abridged version of its World Citizens Guide, BDA offers these suggestions (see the PDF for elaborations on the suggestions) for making a favorable impression when traveling abroad:

  1. Look. Listen. Learn.
  2. Smile. Genuinely.
  3. Think big. Act Small. be Humble.
  4. Live, eat and play local.
  5. Be patient.
  6. Celebrate our diversity.
  7. Become a student again.
  8. Try the language.
  9. Refrain from lecturing.
  10. Dialog instead of monologue.
  11. Use your hands. Watch your feet.
  12. Leave the cliches at home.
  13. Be proud, not arrogant.
  14. Keep religion private.
  15. Be quiet.
  16. Check the atlas.
  17. Agree to disagree respectfully.
  18. Talk about something besides politics.
  19. Be safety conscious, not fearful.
  20. Dress for respect.
  21. Know some global sports trivia.
  22. Keep your word.
  23. Show your best side.
  24. Be a traveler, not a tourist.

Paul offers his own suggestion as well:

“Personally, though, the best way to connect with overseas audiences is to explain that you didn’t vote for the current U.S. administration and that you agree that it current policies are, to be as diplomatic as possible about it, misguided.”

Meanwhile, Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm and the new A Death in Belmont, gives these impressions in the article Welcome Stranger in this month’s National Geographic Adventure (print edition):

“An old friend of mine once observed that the arrival of a stranger in a rough town often presents locals with two options: Feed him or kill him. He was referring to some ancient time when the dilemma was literally that stark, but his larger point was that all societies must choose whom they let in and whom they keep out, and letting someone in entails more than just opening the city gates. Once you do that you become to some degree responsible for the stranger’s welfare. Travel, then, at its crudest, is the art of convincing people to take care of you rather than spurn you — or worse. It’s a knife-edge that makes a life spent at home feel not fully lived….

You had to be wary when you traveled, I realized, but you also had to be open. You had to protect yourself, but you couldn’t be so suspicious that you’d lie to avoid giving food to a stranger. These were lessons from the harsher parts of the world, but I started to think that maybe they were applicable anywhere. The starting point was respect; if you didn’t lead with that, even with street-corner thugs, nothing was going to turn out well. So you start with respect and see where that goes; if it doesn’t work, you switch to something else…. things pretty much come down to how you treat one another. There’s a certain liberty in that; there’s a certain justice.”

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