International Travel Site Helps Travelers Avoid Common 'Faux Pas' When Abroad

New Survey Shows Majority of Americans Incorrectly Follow U.S. Customs When

Visiting Other Countries

May 13, 2008, 01:00 ET from

    MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., May 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Even though Americans
 enjoy traveling abroad, many neglect the local customs of other countries
 and make common faux pas that can lead to confusion and embarrassment,
 according to a new survey conducted by international travel site To help travelers avoid cultural misunderstandings on future
 voyages, vayama has added country specific etiquette guides that cover
 everything from dining practices to appropriate attire, available at
     Vayama's survey focused on U.S. adults' know-how of appropriate
 etiquette in other countries and found that 95% of travelers(1) say they
 typically learn about the places they visit outside of the U.S. However,
 they don't educate themselves on local customs as much as they could. In
 fact, over half of travelers (54%) said they typically stick to U.S.
 customs when traveling abroad, and nearly half (47%) said they did
 something when traveling outside the U.S. that they later learned was
 inappropriate behavior in that country.
     "The results of this survey paint a bleak picture of how Americans are
 behaving in other countries," said Tony Hanseder, General Manager of
 vayama. "To help travelers overcome some of the common obstacles outlined
 in the survey, we added country specific do's and don'ts to to
 help people brush-up on correct protocol before they travel."
     Launched today, vayama's etiquette guides provide a quick and easy
 snapshot of a country's culture and customs, including tipping practices,
 dining etiquette, appropriate attire, how to greet someone, gift-giving,
 cultural taboos and more. Vayama currently has guides for more than a dozen
 of its most popular destinations and expects to have more than 50 guides
 available in the next couple months.
     Vayama's survey revealed that, overall, travelers are not very
 knowledgeable about the customs of the places they visit. With Europe, over
 half of travelers (56%) say they have no or limited knowledge of European
 customs even though the same number of travelers (56%) have been to that
 region of the world. Nine out of 10 travelers (91%) are somewhat to not at
 all knowledgeable about the culture of Africa, and over three-fourths admit
 the same lack of knowledge for South America (83%) and Asia (82%).
     Vayama's survey found that travelers' lack of knowledge is most
 apparent when it comes to table manners in other countries. For example,
 about half (48%) think it's appropriate to tip when they travel outside the
 U.S. regardless of the local customs, and a quarter of travelers (26%)
 learned afterward that it was inappropriate that they tipped a
 waiter/waitress. One in five travelers (19%) found out it was inappropriate
 that they waited for a waiter/waitress to bring them a check, and one in
 four think that forks and knives are used around the world so there's no
 need to learn other forms of dining.
     Americans are oftentimes misunderstood as disrespectful in other
 countries when it comes to greeting locals and other nonverbal
 communication. Two in five of travelers (42%) typically shake hands with
 someone they meet outside of the U.S. even if it's not that country's
 custom to do so, and about one in five travelers (17%) incorrectly think it
 is a generally accepted practice outside the U.S. to gesture to someone
 with a "thumbs up" sign or the "OK" sign.
     "Unfortunately, certain stigmas of Americans abroad ring true. We are
 typically too informal in our interactions so we end up being perceived as
 rude or uncivilized," said Syndi Seid, etiquette expert to
 "When traveling, people need to know that they can't behave in Madrid the
 way they would in Miami so vayama has included this type of helpful
 information in its etiquette guides."
     The survey also compared the habits of those who travel abroad for
 business to those who travel for leisure and uncovered that business
 travelers surprisingly make more mistakes than their leisure traveling
 counterparts. For example, almost a quarter of business travelers (22%)
 kept their shoes on in someone's home without knowing it was inappropriate
 to do so, compared to just 13% of leisure travelers, and 13% of business
 travelers incorrectly addressed someone as Mr./Mrs./Ms. versus just 8% of
 leisure travelers.
     When it comes to learning about the places they visit, about four out
 of five travelers (84%) learn about the country they visit by reading about
 it on the Internet (75%) or in books/magazines (66%), and about two-thirds
 (62%) ask someone such as a friend, relative or business associate who has
 been there before. Only one third (34%) ask the locals when they arrive.
     For more information on the vayama survey and its country etiquette
 guides, go to
     About Vayama
     Vayama ( is a first-of-its kind travel website
 that provides North Americans a whole new world of choice for booking
 international flights. Using the latest in web technologies, vayama offers
 a massive selection of airlines, flights and fares, many never previously
 available online, so you can find the lowest prices and best schedule
 options for all your international travel. Even though vayama is new, the
 company was founded by travel experts with decades of experience, and is
 backed by one of the world's largest travel organizations. Vayama is a
 subsidiary of BCD Holdings NV, one of the global leaders in the travel
     About Harris Interactive
     Harris Interactive is a global leader in custom market research. With a
 long and rich history in multimodal research that is powered by our science
 and technology, we assist clients in achieving business results. Harris
 Interactive serves clients globally through our North American, European
 and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms. For
 more information, please visit
     About the Survey
     This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris
 Interactive on behalf of Airtrade International between March 13 and March
 17, 2008, among 2,552 adults (age 18 and older) of whom, 834 travel outside
 of the United States at least once per year. Figures for region, age within
 gender, education, household income and race/ethnicity were weighted where
 necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the
     This online survey is not based on a probability sample, and therefore
 no theoretical sampling error can be calculated. A full methodology is
     (1) For the purposes of this study, we have defined the term
     "travelers" to mean U.S. adults ages 18+ who travel outside the
     U.S. at least once per year.