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How to mellow out on an international trip

Foreign travel can be both thrilling and nerve-wracking, all at the same time. On the one hand, you are traveling to someplace new, where everything is different. On the other hand, you are traveling to someplace new, where everything is different. Depending on your outlook, these differences can be exciting and educational, or they can be stress-producing and unpleasant.

Start any journey by expecting things to be unlike how they are at home, and you are on your way to enjoying the new experiences you’ll have. These are just some of the most common differences you may encounter.

Expect customer service to be different 

The world does not operate by American rules, and efficiency is often not the goal. In some countries, for instance, a waiter will never approach your table unless you signal. This is considered good service so you aren’t rushed or interrupted during your meal. You aren’t being ignored. In fact, the waiter is very attentive, waiting for you to ask.

Similarly, cultural norms for waiting in line vary around the world. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself in a long line at the cellphone store. The line never moves and the sole employee never makes eye contact past the person he or she is helping. Be patient and take two deep breaths. You’ll be helped eventually.

Adjust to a different personal space

In crowded cities, jostling and pushing may be par for the course. Don’t be surprised if a family of six cuts in front of you in line. In some countries, that’s just how it’s done. Also, it’s not unusual to feel the person behind you in line actually touching you. They are most likely trying to prevent someone else from cutting in between the two of you. Watch what everyone else is doing, and do that. (And, of course, make sure you aren’t carrying anything valuable in your back pocket.)

Get going early in the day

In countries as far-flung as Greece, The Philippines, Italy, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Nigeria, the midday nap is still common. This means stores close, restaurants disappear, and you can find yourself wandering around during what you consider to be peak daytime, with nothing to eat or do. By heading out early, you are at your freshest, the food in the markets is the best it will be, and most everything will be open.

Don’t overstuff your itinerary

Having one major destination in a day is often enough, and gives you time both to enjoy what you are doing, and to relax on either end. Cramming four or five attractions into a single day can make you feel rushed and panicky.

Buy it the first time you see it

Most people like to bring home gifts or mementos from an international trip. But comparison shopping doesn’t really work like it does at home when you are abroad. In a certain city or village, you may see a type of local item you admire in nearly every shop. Don’t assume you’ll see that same item in the next province at a better price. Items like pottery or textiles can be very location-specific, and you may be disappointed once you move on.

Bring earplugs and an eye mask

When you check in to that charming rental at 4 p.m., you may not realize that the street light shines right into your bedroom and that the locals party all night at the tavern on the corner. Be prepared with the right equipment to help you sleep well and wake up in a sunny mood.

Buy travel medical insurance

A SafeTrip Travel Protection plan from UnitedHealthcare Global includes both medical insurance and travel assistance services. Not having to wonder how to get medical care if you need it in another country can elminate one of the items on your “things to worry about” list. And if you run into unexpected problems, our Emergency Response Center is here to help 24/7 around the world.

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