Somehow, whenever I’m in a new country, I have this slight fear of disrespecting the locals. After all, I am visiting THEIR country, and the last thing I want is to disobey their rules, cultures, and norms. For example, Thailand finds it disgraceful if you touch anyone on the head, while you can go to jail for bringing gum in Singapore. These are just tiny details that can lead to unforeseen, embarrassing, and humiliating travel experiences.
Here are some of the awkward travel situations I’ve experienced and how (I think) to handle them:
1. Saying “no” to aggressive street vendors
During our trip in Milan, we went to the famous Duomo di Milano. Now I’ve been to many tourist destinations before, but it’s the first time I had to deal with a very aggressive street vendor. A man, perhaps in his mid-20s, approached me and did a little bit of small talk while offering me a bracelet for free. I didn’t know him, so my obvious remark was to decline politely, but he insisted and without a wink, took my wrist to tie the bracelet. Once the bracelet has been tied up, he was asking me to pay for it.
The situation happened so fast that I didn’t know what to do. It was so awkward because I, of course, don’t want to cause a scene and, at the same time, scared of what might happen. I know, it’s just a bracelet, but he was a big guy, and there were a lot of them in the area. I was thinking, “What if he reports me to the police? Considering I’m already wearing the product???” Luckily, my mom was there to rescue me and force him to remove the bracelet.
What to do: While I believe in the kindness of strangers, I’ve learned the hard way that this kind of practice is very common in popular tourist spots — particularly across Europe! If you’re not interested, just smile and say “No, thank you.” The vendors can be aggressive, but don’t be scared. Be stern and walk away quickly.
2. Getting on the right train, but arriving at the wrong destination or took the wrong direction
Trains abroad are so convenient, but to the different eye, their train system can look complicated. When JP, my boyfriend, and I went to Tokyo, we got lost so frequently that it became a running joke to us. Of course, it wasn’t funny on our first day when we were exhausted from a very early 4-hour flight. We wanted to get to our Airbnb so bad that we took the train on Tobu Toju line from Ikkebukuro station without checking how many stops we need to get to our destination. It was embarrassing on our end as travelers because we don’t speak any bit of Nihonggo and the person we asked, a little girl, wasn’t sure how many stops as well.
What to do: Since the little girl wasn’t sure and we were too embarrassed to bother other locals, we decided to alight at the next station and find someone, preferably a guard, for help. Furthermore, if you’re lost while traveling and can’t find assistance, the best route to take is to retrace your steps. Hopefully, you’re bound to find a familiar landmark or train station.
How much is sufficient? Who to give? When to give? Tipping varies by country and region, and if you didn’t come prepared, tourists end up being confused. I remember when we were in Italy, my mom didn’t leave any tip at the restaurant because Euros are quite expensive when converted to Philippine Pesos. I think that made the staff frown for a bit, but he didn’t force us.
What to do: With all honesty, I find this tipping culture quite ridiculous because tips are not supposed to be mandatory. But to save you from trouble, always research before going on a trip. Asian countries, like Japan and Korea, don’t accept tips while Western nations often do and range from 10-15%.
4. When you’re seated by the window and you need to go to the restroom
I consider this as one of my most awkward travel moments because I hate disturbing other passengers. Although the passengers are understanding and don’t complain, I still feel uncomfortable and embarrassed for my constant need to hit the bathroom. With the limited legroom in low-cost flights, I also find it weird when my rear bottom disrupts their personal space in their seats.
What to do: If you know you’re the type of person with a small bladder, refrain from getting a window seat, and be polite if you had to wake up your seatmate to exit/enter the row. People will understand.
5. Experiencing wetness during a trip
Vaginal discharge is a common problem among women. It’s icky and uncomfortable. The discomfort also reflects on our overall mood, appearance, and even confidence. To maximize my trips, I have a lot of activities planned throughout the day, and it’s difficult to stay fresh because of everyday wetness.
What to do: It’s highly recommended to wear panty liners every day to manage wetness. Carefree panty liners absorb everyday moisture in seconds, making you feel cleaner and fresher, longer. Include a pack in your bag so you can freshen up down there throughout the trip.
How about you? What are some of the awkward and embarrassing travel moments you’ve experienced?
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Carefree Philippines in conjunction with Nuffnang Philippines. I was compensated to write this article. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.