If you're going overseas this summer William Ecenbarger has some tips to avoid offending your foreign hosts. He says you should never show the soles of your feet in Muslim countries or reach for the bread in India with your left hand because your claws and the soles of your feet are considered dirty. Besides your hands, your fingers could get you in real trouble too. Don't give the okay sign in Brazil or the thumbs-up sign in Nigeria. I guess that rules out hitchhiking in Nigeria this summer. Darn!
Why go overseas this summer to offend people when there are plenty of people right here at home to insult? Besides, who can afford to travel abroad? With the low value of the dollar and the high price of fuel, I have a feeling Americans are going to be staying a little closer to home this summer. If so, here are a few of my own travel tips to avoid offending your fellow Americans.
If you are traveling to New York City, Detroit or South Central Los Angeles it's wise not to give the okay sign or thumbs up signal either. In fact, if you insist on going to places like these, where even brief eye contact is considered an act of aggression, keep your hands in your pockets. Or, just shoot yourself and save the gas money.
Be careful of your accent and how you pronounce words. While traveling in the Land of Lincoln do not pronounce it “Ill-a-noise”. And don't make any corn jokes while traveling in I-oh-way. They've heard them all and they take their corn very seriously. Ditto for Idaho and the potato and wheat in Kansas.
Wisconsin is one of our more beautiful states but if you go there don't ask, “What's that smell?” It's either the cheese or the cows and residents of the badger State don't appreciate uppity foreigners (anyone not from Wisconsin), making jokes about their brie or their bovines.
The Four Corners area is great because it's the only place I know of where you can place your hands and feet in four different states at the same time. Just don't put your foot in your mouth by saying things like, “If these people can't speak English why don't they go back to where they came from?” They are already there and their relatives were here a long time before yours were. While in New Mexico please be advised that at every meal you will be asked, “Do you want red or green chilies with that?” Even if all you are eating is corn flakes you should respond that you'd like heaping helpings of both red and green. Even though you'll see $250 worth or fireworks going off inside your head at least you will not have offended your hosts who get a real kick out of watching non-natives in absolute agony drinking copious amounts of ice water.
In Texas don't honk your horn at a big-hatted cowboy in a Cadillac who is driving like he owns the place. He does. And he's the judge too. Don't order snobbish foreign beer or raspberry iced tea in Texas or they'll know you're from California. In Colorado be advised that ponytailed men on expensive racing bikes always have the right of way.
Don't ask where the nearest Catholic Church is in Utah or where you can get a cup of coffee. Nor should you ask what time it is in Arizona. (They don't go on daylight savings time.) If you try to pump your own gas in Oregon you might go to jail. They have to have some jobs for the minimally-skilled Californians who are moving there.
While in Seattle don't take a cup of McDonalds coffee into a Starbucks and open your Macintosh computer. Do not wear a “Save the Wolves” sweatshirt in Wyoming or ask someone in Kansas City when they are going to get a professional baseball team. Above all, do not ask a Floridian who they are voting for in the upcoming presidential election. They are sensitive about it and as we discovered, it doesn't matter anyway.
Finally, if you are going to Las Vegas this summer have fun knowing that you can really can do anything you want there. You just have to pay for it.