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New Survey Shows Majority of Americans Incorrectly Follow U.S. Customs In Other Countries

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA (May, 2008) – 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 vayama (

Vayama’s survey focused on U.S. adults’ know-how of appropriate etiquette in other countries and found that 95% of travelers say they typically learn about the places they visit outside of the U.S. However, they don’t brush up 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 very bleak picture of how Americans are behaving in other countries,” said Tony Hanseder, General Manager of vayama. “As the only online agency dedicated exclusively to international travel, vayama wants to make it easy for people to learn the correct protocol of the places they visit so we’ve added country specific do’s and don’ts to the Web site.”

Vayama’s survey found that overall travelers are not very knowledgeable about the customs of the places they visit. 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%). 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.

When it comes to table manners in other countries, travelers’ lack of knowledge rings true. 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 it may not be 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. “When traveling, people need to know that they can’t behave in Madrid the way they would in Miami.”

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.

About 4 in 5 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 a third (34%) ask the locals when they arrive.

For more information on the vayama survey and its guide to country specific cultures, customs and manners, go to

About Vayama is a first-of-its kind travel Web site that gives Americans a whole new world of choice in international air travel. 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 largest travel organizations in the world. Our extensive background in the travel industry means you are buying from a reliable and trustworthy source. Simply put – if you buy your international travel from vayama, you will save money and find more flight options. Vayama is a subsidiary of BCD Holdings NL, one of the world’s leading travel companies.

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 population.

This online survey is not based on a probability sample, and therefore no theoretical sampling error can be calculated. A full methodology is available.

Media contacts, press only:

Vayama Media Hotline
650-428-0700 x1500

Kendra Thornton

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