The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land. –G.K. Chesterton
Be kind and gracious to local waiters, hotel employees, clerks, etc. We are in their nation to show the love of God. If you are not pleased with a service or situation, be calm and constructive with your words. It is never appropriate to make demands or show dissatisfaction. In most cases, it is better to seek help from the trip leader before getting too frustrated. Honor and respect the local missionaries and nationals. They are taking time from their responsibilities to host you. You may not be aware of what they are going through or facing. We never want to add more stress or make their burdens heavier.
Developing relationships is valued above time commitments. Therefore, it is acceptable for locals to take a more relaxed approach to a daily routine and spend more time engaging with friends or strangers. Embrace this cultural adjustment, but be responsible to maintain the group’s schedule. Be flexible to changes in the daily schedule. Business arrangements are often more informal than what you are used to at home.
Jewelry and Appropriate Attire
- For church/project visits, men are requested to wear slacks or nice blue jeans and a collared shirt. Women are requested to wear long skirts, capris, blue jeans, or slacks.
- For days with vigorous activity/construction, feel free to dress casually and comfortably. Work clothes can consist of jeans, t-shirts, and shoes that can be left in country if stained.
- Shorts and sleeveless tops are not allowed, unless it is during free time or on your excursion.
- When picking clothes to bring, choose items that are very modest and that do not exude wealth. Your expensive clothes and jewelry could invite a rush to judgement that you did not intend to create. It is best to wear things that are plain and provide full coverage.
Requests for Help from Nationals
Occasionally host country nationals will give an emotional plea for assistance for their struggling family. While their need is valid and you may have the means to help, do not feel pressured to meet these needs. Listening and empathizing with their troubles is the best solution, do not make commitments to help. If you do feel called to help further, talk to your trip leader. The trip leader, in turn, can speak with the in-country staff to see if it is appropriate to help.
In many places, you will see locals, including children, begging for money or food. In general, avoid giving to people that are begging. Giving money may attract unwanted attention and can create difficult or dangerous situations for the team. If you see children begging, they are usually sent by their parents or another adult. The money the child acquires will most likely not remain with them, but go to someone else.
In many foreign countries, bartering is a way of life. It’s a great way to break the ice and can be a lot of fun—do negotiate in the markets. However, please keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Once you have made an offer, you are committed. It can be offensive to back out, so be sure you want the item before making an offer.
- Always be polite, but firm.
- Under no circumstance should you question the validity of any price. A small amount to you could be extremely important to the seller.
- Some items available in local markets cannot be exported back to your home. Make sure you do not purchase something that is forbidden. Examples include, but are not limited to, wildlife and reptile skins or shells.
Tipping is generally not necessary while in-country. When you think it may be prudent to tip for a particular service, consult first with your trip leader or in-country staff. Often times, the in-country staff has funds that he or she will use to tip on behalf of the entire team. The exception is tipping your room attendant for cleaning, room service, or laundry services. If you wish, leave a small amount of local currency or a dollar on a side table with a thank you note.
Children in foreign countries are just like children in America. They have lots of energy, are full of joy, and simply want to play. To bridge the cultural and language barrier, it can be helpful to prepare activities or games to engage the child in. The following are suggestions for items to bring with you to make the interaction with children more enjoyable and easy.
- Candy (hard, wrapped, no chocolate)
- Chalk for Drawing or Hopscotch
- Bubbles & Balloons
- Foam Toys (i.e. Footballs)
- Soccer Ball (deflated)
- Deck of Cards
- Jump Rope
- Be sensitive to where you are using camera and video equipment.
- Avoid drawing attention to yourself and the group.
- Respect the dignity of others. Not all people appreciate being photographed or filmed. If in doubt, ask permission or ask the opinion of the trip leader.
- Avoid filming or taking pictures of or near any government officials or government sites.