So you are going abroad for the first time and you aren't really sure what to expect. Traveling to another country can be extremely intimidating and confusing. What will the people be like? What should I wear? How can I avoid unwanted attention?
There are plenty of lists out there about what to do abroad, but there aren't many about what you shouldn't do. No matter what country you are traveling to, you need to be aware of their customs and culture. You don't want to offend locals or make yourself stand out in a bad way.
Wear Touristy/Inappropriate Clothing
When you are visiting a new country, it is important to keep in mind that you are just that: a visitor. This means you need to research what kind of clothing is appropriate as to not offend anyone or stand out. Most countries don't dress as revealing as we do in the United States. Avoid wearing short shorts, mini skirts, bare shoulders, or anything else you might think will be revealing. A couple other types of American clothing to avoid include: Greek/fraternity/sorority letters, and anything with American flags or things that scream USA. While it's awesome to rep your country's colors, it's also dangerous. Displaying your American pride is asking to be pick-pocketed or targeted. And wearing your Greek letters lets everyone in the world know you are from America.
Not many people consider tipping as something to think about. You may then find yourself paying a bill and wondering, "do they tip here?" Some countries tip while others pay waiters/waitresses enough to not rely on tips. It is very important to research individual countries to see what their tipping customs are. If you assume they don't tip, you will leave someone without their pay and make them mad. The same will happen if you tip where they normally don't, this can come off as offensive as well.
This one comes from personal experience. Before a trip to Paris, I was warned by a friend about people who ask you to sign petitions near major landmarks that then turn around and demand you pay for it. I didn't believe her at the time but she was right. While walking to the Eiffel Tower I had a couple people with clipboards approach me and first ask if I spoke English. After I said yes they asked me to sign a petition for handicapped individuals. Since I was warned against this, I said no. If you say yes, they will then heckle you to pay for your own signature. And yes, they target people who speak English since they may not know better. Keep an eye out for this scam or others like it.
Avoid Talking to Locals
Locals know where all the best restaurants, bars, museums, and activities are. They are your best tool to use when traveling in a new country. If you find yourself in a café surrounded by friendly looking locals who speak your language, spark up a conversation. Avoiding locals and acting like they aren't there is not a good idea. They know this country better then any thing you can look up on the internet.
Refuse to Speak the Local Language
This goes hand in hand with talking to locals. Locals might find it rude if you just assume they speak English without trying to speak their language first. It's always best to at least know how to say hello in their language. Start out by saying bonjour, hola, etc. and then ask if they speak English. This way it looks as though you are respecting where you are and their language. They may even tell you some easy sayings you can use.