Whatever the case may be, you can't disrespect anyone intentionally or unintentionally while travelling. This is where we come in. To prevent this from happening with you on your next trip, here's a guide on respecting the culture and religion of your destination place.
1. Engage In Some Fact-Finding
The best way to avoid disrespecting a culture is to simply research about it and know what's considered right and wrong, how it is different from your country's culture and make a list of things you should avoid to not disrespect the local population. This can in terms of things not to say, not to do, things to be on a lookout for, taboos, and so on. You can do it either the good old fashioned way and gather a bunch of travel books to learn from them or you could fire up your laptop, get online and read a bunch of blogs written about it. You can also talk to people (friends, family, colleagues) who have already been there and could provide you with a first-hand guide.
2. Hit The Breaks On Your Tongue
Loquacious as people are, they tend to speak about things they think are okay to say but are actually not. So before blurting out a joke which may seem hilarious to you, make sure it doesn't offend the local of the place. You need to think twice before speaking. What may seem a funny joke to you might leave you in an impaired state. In this case, it would be better to stay away from topics related to politics and religion, which are few of the many things that upset people with different opinions on the same issue.
3. Silence Your Inner Shutterbug
Clicking hundreds of pictures is something that we all love and have done on some trip or the other. Many times in doing so, we don't pay heed to our surroundings and what they symbolize for the local population. A sacred place of worship or ceremony might be a tourist attraction for you but might hold special significance for the locals who visit there daily. Hence, many cultures disallow clicking pictures at holy places. Likewise, flash photography is disallowed in museums and places housing valuable artefacts. You must respect that.
4. Don't Be Shy, Communicate.
Locals at several places don't appreciate tourists invading their space, which is natural. This gap between tourists and locals can be bridged by simply talking to them and taking part in communal activities. There are several community-based cooperatives where you can volunteer as a tourist to know more about the local community and its people. This simple culture exchange brings people together and builds trust. Language a barrier? Fret not. You can hire a tour guide to translate speech between you and the host.
5. Be At Your Best Behaviour
In the end, it all comes down to this - be at your best behaviour. Think of yourself as a representative of your country. What is traveling if not experiencing different cultures? Simply put: your actions and behaviour will make the locals judge about your country. So no inappropriate behaviour. You need to respect other people's boundaries and space. if there are rules like no public display of affection (Arab countries, India, Buddhist countries), No drinking in public (India, Australia, Canada, Norway, and more have such laws), eating specific foods and no smoking during Ramadan (all Arab countries), no photography near military area (India, China, Russia, USA), no political views (some places in Saudi Arabia and Korea).
6. Dress Accordingly
Every country has a different norm for apparel. The easiest way to solve this problem is to blend in and dress casually. If you feel like it, dress up as the locals do. You must make sure that your clothes are modest. This doesn't mean you need to compulsorily wear tank tops as they do in Miami or a hijab in UAE. Clothes that are too tacky, vibrant, printed with inappropriate graphics or texts are straight no if you want to play on the safer side. Some tips on clothing (general guideline depending on specific places):
1. Avoid wearing clothes that reveal a lot of skin (tank tops, bikinis, shorts, etc)
2. Always dress conservatively at religious sites. Many temples and mosques don't allow people to enter unless they are fully covered in clothing. In this case, carry a big shawl, full sleeve shirts, cardigans, overcoats, jackets, etc.
3. Some sites do not allow sticky/ tight clothes. Make sure your clothes fit you correctly.
4. Avoid clothing that has strong political or cultural statements or abusive/ inappropriate language printed on them. This can get you in a lot of trouble.
So, you're all set. The rule is simple. When in doubt, just be humble and respectful.