Posts tagged ‘travel’

Japanese Etiquette



Photo Credit:  Oyvid Solstad

American travelers are sometimes at a loss when they visit other cultures.  Our informal society means that it is not easy to offend people you don’t know; but in other parts of the world, there is protocol for almost every activity.  Failure to comport yourself in the right manner can show disrespect–something you want to avoid regardless of whether you are traveling for business or pleasure.

If you’re planning a trip to Japan,  there are many customs you  will want to observe in order to show appreciation and respect for Japanese hospitality:

1.  Great attention is paid to shoes and keeping floors clean.  When entering a Japanese house, your shoes are removed outside and a pair of indoor slippers are used.  Once inside the house, if you are going to step on a Tatami mat, you must also remove the slippers.  Also, if you use the restroom, there are another pair of slippers you must change into before you enter.  You should never step on both the bathroom floor and the rest of the house with the same slippers.

2.  When eating a meal, it is customary to say “itadakimasu” at the beginning, and “gochisosama” when the meal is completed.

3.  If eating a meal with shared dishes, use the opposite end of your chopsticks than the ones you feed yourself with to scoop a small amount of the food onto your own plate.  Hold your rice bowl with one hand and use the chopsticks to move rice in to your mouth.  Eat every bit of food you have taken, down to the last grain of rice.  

4.  Belching, toilet humor, blowing your nose, or talking obnoxiously loud during a meal is absolutely unacceptable.

5.  Whether at a meal or a business meeting, seating is arranged in a strict heirarchal manner.  Do not pick your own seat, but wait until the host has showed you where you should be seated.

6.  Gifts are highly appreciated in Japanese culture.  Any small token given to a business partner or host shows a great deal of thoughtfulness.

7.  The Japanese are superstitious about the number “four” since it is pronounced the same way as the word “death” in that language.  Avoid the number four whenever possible, including giving gifts that come in four pieces.

These are just a few of the things your want to consider when visiting this amazing country.  For more information on Japanese cultural etiquette, visit:

Customs and Etiquette of Japan – Wikipedia

New to Japan – Japan Zone

Japan Reference – JREF

Japanese Etiquette – Asia Rooms


February 25, 2009 at 4:56 pm 2 comments

Customer Complaint of the Year

It takes a brave, brave soul to come through a bad experience with a company and still be able to have a sense of humor.  This is a letter sent by a customer of Continental Airlines detailing his terrible experience on one of their flights.  He even drew illustrations to help him make his point!  Next time you’re on a flight, stuck behind a crying baby consider that it could be oh, so much worse:


February 10, 2009 at 1:43 am Leave a comment

Medical Tourism

With insane medical expenses and lack of health insurance many U.S. citizens have to live with, the medical tourism industry is growing exponentially each year.  Overseas doctors who have fewer liabilities and expenses, and who live in countries with a much lower standard of living, are able to provide medical care at a mere fraction of the cost they would pay at home.  For many, necessary surgeries that carry low risk can be performed in these other countries.  The cost of travel included in the cost of the medical procedure is often still far less than the same U.S.-based service.

My question to readers is:  Would you consider medical tourism as a viable option to receiving health care in the U.S. if it could save you potentially thousands of dollars?

Online Surveys & Market Research

January 27, 2009 at 4:41 pm 1 comment

Bavarian Dancing

This is a video of some traditional Bavarian dancing–looks like fun!


January 26, 2009 at 4:02 pm Leave a comment

The Essential Travel First Aid Kit


Whether you are going on a jungle expedition or to a highly populated city in a foreign country, there may be problems getting medicines or first aid items that you need immediately in case of an emergency. Even if you do have access to a pharmacy, language differences and different international brands can make it hard to figure out exactly what you need.   It is a good idea to pack a kit of products that you are familiar with and tuck it away in your suitcase.  As my dad always said, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

The essential “Must Haves” in your first aid kit should include:

  • All your personal prescription medication in their original containers, as well as photocopies of your handwritten prescriptions from your doctor’s office.  Make sure to ask you doctor if you should take other applicable prescription medications or vaccinations to your specific destination, including an anti-malarial medicine.
  • Anti-diarrheal medicine
  • Antihistamine and Decongestant
  • Anti-motion sickness medicine
  • Antacid
  • Laxative
  • Cough drops
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Pain medication of choice (aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen)
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen and Aloe gel for sunburns
  • Digital thermometer
  • Rehydration solution
  • Bandaids, gauze, or other bandaging material
  • Antibacterial hand cleaner
  • Eye drops
  • Water purification tablets
  • Latex condoms

You should also make sure that you keep a written list of local doctors, hospitals and pharmacies handy, and locate them within a day or two of your arrival just in case you need to get there quickly.

Most of the health problems that occur when traveling are small, treatable issues; but if they are not taken care of properly, they can develop into serious conditions.  When you’re in a foreign environment, make sure you take care of yourself by eating, sleeping, and drinking regularly and sufficiently.

January 25, 2009 at 4:24 pm Leave a comment

Travel Predictions for 2009


Last week I wrote about the price of airfare falling, but airlines are not the only ones who will be making major changes to their pricing and terms of service when it comes to the travel industry.  Obviously, the poor economy coupled with falling fuel prices is making ticket sales lower; but both domestic and international airlines are going to be pulling back and canceling new flights and routes.  Instead, they’ll be focusing on running leaner and meaner with fewer flights to Europe, China, and South America.

Other differences you may encounter when traveling in 2009 include car rentals and hotel reservations.  Car rental companies will be less likely to replace their old cars which means you may find yourself in a less-than-perfect rental car with higher mileage than you’re used to seeing.  Advantage Rental Cars has already filed for bankruptcy, and Dollar seems to be close behind according to business news reports.  You’ll find that there will be fewer on-hand employees to help you when you go to rent a car, too.  These companies are cutting back on everything.  

The hotel industry is suffering after several years of rapid, unchecked over-development.  There are simply not enough people to fill the rooms and some real estate experts claim that many hotels are feeling the mortgage crisis worse than residential home owners.  All this means that some hotels will be closing down, and the survivors will be cutting back on staff, services, and perks.  That being said, customers will see the benefit of this downturn with highly competitive rates.

If you’re planning to travel in 2009, try to make your reservations and buy your tickets in advance.  Don’t be shy about comparing rates, and asking for discounts, vouchers, and other value-added perks that can get you a better deal on your trip.  Just be aware that there are going to be some attempts to sneak extra fees by you, so be sure to ask for full disclosure when you’re speaking to an agent, read the fine print, and double check your bills.

January 18, 2009 at 3:35 pm 2 comments

The Silver Lining…


We’re in a recession and no one is immune to the economic troubles, BUT the good news for consumers is that they can take advantage of some amazing discounts that large companies–including travel agencies, airlines, and hotels–are now offering to help boost their sales.  Combined with the weak economy, fuel prices have drastically become lowered, which means that airlines can cut fares even more.  According to this AP news article:

It’s not unusual for airlines to announce fare sales in January — there were 17 or 18 announced in January 2008 — but what’s different for several carriers this year is that the discounts are for travel extending as late as April, May or June, Seaney said. The sales last January were typically for travel through March…

Obviously, airlines and other travel-related companies can’t afford to give tickets away, but it would be well worth your while to start comparing fares now and buy tickets for later on in the year if you are planning to travel overseas or domestically.  Before you buy your tickets, compare prices with at least two other airlines, and ask them all if they match prices with other carriers.  Also, be sure you ask the agent to disclose all fees and additional costs associated with booking your flight.  These small expenses can add up and make the difference whether a ticket ends up being a good deal or not.

January 11, 2009 at 3:26 pm Leave a comment

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