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Q:

Tips for Backpackers: Study Up

I’m going backpacking through Europe and Southeast Asia later this summer, and I have a question for you. When you hit a big city, do you fly by the seat of your pants or do you make a plan for what you’re going to see and do?

A:Show some respect for the country and people you’re visiting by studying the culture a little beforehand. I was once riding in a cab in Bangkok with a buddy of mine, when he made a joke about the King. The driver slammed on the brakes and kicked us out. My buddy didn't understand what had happened, but I did: Insulting the King in Thailand is a criminal offense. A little knowledge and sensitivity goes a long way to making foreign friends and influencing people.

Learn a couple of phrases in the local language. Even if you butcher what you're saying, the locals appreciate the effort more than you think. Asking them, Did I say that right? is a fantastic way to break the ice.

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