We’re all familiar with the old adage “never talk about religion and politics.” From the time we are young it is usually a rule of etiquette that gets drilled into us ad-naseum and the older we get, the more genius we realize that it is.
I have no clue who first wrote this rule of etiquette nor do I care. It could have been an English explorer, a French philosopher, a Spanish priest or Lao Tzu for all I care. One thing I do know about him though, is that it is obvious that he must have traveled.
Let’s step into the time machine for a bit and so I can elucidate this point.
As I talked about in my podcast episode entitled Tacos, Tequila, Fatima and Trump, my wife and I took a trip to Mexico in April to see her family after having not seen them for close to two years. The trip was amazing and it was great to catch up with her/my giant family and as well as meet relatives of hers that I had never met before. We also got a chance to catch up on old times, discuss how our families are doing and shoot the breeze about a number of topics ranging from sports to karaoke (two of my many vices).
But being from the U.S.A. and being in Mexico post 2016 election, this also meant that they wanted to speak their mind about something else.
Okay, no “El”. . .that’s terrible grammar and if you say that in Mexico, they will reply “uff. . .hablas como naco!” (uff. . .you speak like a redneck), but you get what I mean.
It was a near impossibility for me to escape the conversation, but the entire time I was in Mexico everyone wanted to ask me about Trump. I tried to avoid political conversation like the plague while I was there, but sure enough every new relative that I met had the same questions; “What do you think about Trump?”, “Why is Trump the way he is?” and “Did you vote for Trump.”
As readers of this site know, the latter was a yes, though I didn’t announce it to anyone that I met and usually tried to avoid the conservation as this was not a political trip but a vacation. My wife however was more than happy to interject with a “Sí, votó por Trump” (“Yes, he voted for Trump”) and the conversation would usually become more interesting, but not in the way you would expect.
The feedback I received ranged from “Why?” followed by an unexpected bit of understanding after I had explained my priorities in the election (immigration really not being one of them) to “I would have voted for him too if I was American”, which I always found to be the most surprising answer.
While the conversations would get a bit animated, they never heated. Sometimes my wife got in on the action and interjected to support me and in a few ways, Trump (though she didn’t like either candidate). Having these conversations actually was a good experience as I was able to share my views and hear the views of other people, not to mention the fact that conversation never got tense and that my relationship with my wife’s family is actually stronger than ever despite my political views.
I don’t just mention this though for sentiment, there’s rhyme to the reason. Having these conversations taught me a few lessons about the whens, whys, hows, and wheres to talk politics when traveling and I will now pass those on to you.
Only when necessary. Try NOT to have political conversation when you travel unless you know the person really well and they rational enough to listen and/or understand your views (preferably with someone you’ve had prior political conversation with). Do not do it while drinking as tempting as it sounds unless you’re in a country that speaks your native language. Even then err to the side of caution and try not to talk about it.
To clarify what your beliefs are, defend your positions when you have to or share vital thoughts. If you’re on vacation, why ruin it by initiating conversation that could potentially be fruitless? If you do, however, find the opportunity to be something meaningful, then by all means indulge yourself – just not for ego reasons.
With extreme caution. If you are unfamiliar with the culture of the country or the topic, try not interject too much. One exception is if there is no language barrier, because if you are an American in a country like England for example, they are pretty knowledgeable of our politics, capable doing further research if you present doubts and speak the same language. If you don’t speak the language, say the bare minimum (I didn’t have this problem in Mexico as I am advanced/fluent in Spanish). Do not to sound smarter than you really are or use word’s you are unsure of. Likewise, keep etiquette in mind when speaking and never express your opinions in a hostile or snooty way.
Try not to get to passionate either. If conversation DOES get heated, try to keep as cool of a head as possible. I know it is hard to if you feel insulted but trust me, you have nothing to gain from it.
Not in public. For the love of God if you ignore all the other rules don’t ignore this one. The last thing you want is a misunderstanding when you are thousands of miles from home and/or cannot even pronounce hospital in the language of the country you are in.
“I kid, I kid”
Other considerations – the Do’s and Dont’s
- Listen more than speak.
- Monitor the body language of the person you are speaking with and adjust accordingly.
- Use “in my opinion” often.
- Be very careful with making declarative statements.
- Talk politics while drunk, especially if you don’t know the language (possible exception in an English speaking country if you are American).
- Chomp at the bit to bring up politics again. I almost made this mistake once!
- Be insulting of the beliefs of the people you are speaking to.
- Keep bringing up the same stuff over and over again, especially when no one else wants to talk about it.
Do you have anything else to add? Let me know! Comment below and be sure to like and share!
Thanks and God bless,
– The D*mn Messenger