Categories
Behaviour Travel

5 tips that will help you fly economy class like a gentleman

I take about 20-30 flights per year. Most of them are shorter leasure trips within Europe. I always fly economy, both for the sake of the climate and for my wallet.

A lot of things can be said about economy, but very few things are pleasant. You sit in a tiny seet, cramped next to a stranger. Some of your fellow passangers are not used to flying, and are unaware of basic aviation etiquette.

But don’t despair, there are still a lot of things you can do in order to make life easier and the journey more tolerable for yourself and those around you.

1. Relax in the airport lounge before your flight

While flying is annoying, waiting for a flight can be even worse, but we’ve all seen them. While we’re tired and annoyed from camping out near the gate for an hour or more, with crying babies, loud talkers and commotion, just when boarding starts, they arrive.

Refreshed, relaxed and with an effortless stroll.

The lounge people. These ellusive people, who have been hiding out behind doors, clearly marked with signs saying “By invitation only”, until boarding.

The benefits of airport lounges

Airport lounges are basically calm, all-inclusive waiting areas for those who are willing to pay a little more extra for a lot more comfort. Actually, you don’t have to be willing to pay extra. You just need a basic understanding of the economics of airports (which is based on the fact that most people will spend a significant amount of money just from a couple of beers, a sandwitch and some bored shopping).

They usually have different seating arrangements; couches, arm chairs, cafe tables and workspaces, so that you can comfortably relax, have a meal or work.

They are usually equipped with a buffet ranging from light snacks to full, warm meals, a bar with alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments, a private bathroom, often with showers.

All this – sometimes except for premium drinks – free of charge once you’re in.

How do you behave in an airport lounge?

Most airport lounges have dresscodes, but they are usually informal. As long as you don’t look like a bum, you’re good to go.

Behaviour is more important, though. Since the purpose of airport lounges are to create a calm environment for people to relax, don’t be loud and obnoxious.

Be courteous to everyone, be calm, talk quietly, turn the sound off on your devices, and go to the side if you’re on the phone, so basically, how any gentleman would behave anywhere.

So, how do you get in to the lounges?

While having a Business or First Class ticket is often the easiest way, it’s also the most expensive, and usually not necessary.

Believe it or not, even though almost all of them have signs saying by invitation only (or similar wordings), a lot of them do accept payment at the door without an invitation, especially during off hours.

A lot of airlines will also sell access to economy travellers as an up-sell item. Look in their app or website.

The cost of a single entrance ranges from $35-$50, and while this might seem expensive, a couple of beers and a sandwich will not cost much less.

If you travel more than once or twice per year, a lounge access card, such as Priority Pass, is the way to go. They range in price from $100 and up depending on if the number of visits are fixed or unlimited.

The best way to get them, however, is by getting a premium credit card. Personally, I have a Mastercard Black, that cost me roughly €200/year, and apart from the usual premium credit card benefits such as excellent travel insurance and conciërge service, it also includes an unlimited Priority Pass, that also allow me to bring guests for an extra fee of €25 or so.

2. Be prepared

Be prepared before check-in, security, passport checks and boarding.

Always keep your travel documents in the same place, easily accessible. Personally, I always keep my passport and (when applicable) paper boarding passes in my right inside pocket, but find the place that suits you.

Before security, look over the signs. Wether you need to take belt and shoes off, or if you need to take laptops and liquids out differ from airport to airport, but they always have signs or screens with the information.

On boarding, make sure you have everything you need during the flight in a small bag, so that you can quickly put your main carry-on in the overhead compartment without having to dig through it, toss the small bag by your feet and be seeted within a few seconds, so you don’t create a traffic jam.

And, which shouldn’t have to be said – ensure that you have your documents ready for inspection on boarding and in passport controls.

3. Obey the armrest etiquette

The armrest etiquette can be tricky, but the rules are simple.

On a 3-chair configuration, the middle seat has priority for both armrests. This is because both the isle- and window seats are more comfortable, and you have the possibility to stretch out towards the isle or window.

In all other configurations, you have priority to your right armrest, while the neighbour to your left has priority to the armrest by your left arm.

Easy, right?

4. Dress appropriately

It’s not comfortable to fly on a long haul-flight in a business suit. It’s also not very good for the suit. If you have a meeting where a suit is required after a long flight, take the suit in the carry on and switch in to it before descent.

While comfortable, also don’t wear your home pants, that you throw on for lazy Sunday mornings.

Instead, opt for loose (but well) fitting pants, jeans or chinos. Stretch can be your friend here, to retain comfort while not looking like you’re wearing a tent. Pair this with a polo shirt and make sure you have a sweater to put on if it gets cold, and you’re good to go.

Unless you have an odor problem, it is OK to remove your shoes.

Also, make sure you are newly showered and that your clothes are clean before you get on that 10 hour flight, and that you wear deo but take it easy on the cologne before boarding. Take advantage of the shower in the lounge if you have a layover and enough time.

5. Be courteous but also understanding

While it’s not pleasant to be stuck for hours within inches of strangers, common courtesy goes along way. Greet them, assist them if they need something. Chat if you want, but be mindful of their body language and stop if it seems like they want to be left alone.

If you opt for an alcoholic refreshment at the lounge before the flight, do it in moderation.

Also, be patient, understanding and helpful to people who are not aware of proper etiquette, who have disibilities, are overweight or are travelling with children.

Remember, as bad annoying as that crying baby might be for you, it’s ten times worse for the parents…

Bonus tip: Compensate

Yes, flying is bad for the climate. But flying also has a lot of benefits. It brings people and cultures together in a way that would be impossible without flying.

It helps you grow as a person, meet new people and explore the world. I am also an expat, so flying makes it possible for me to maintain the relationships with my family and friends back home.

I am not willing to fly less. But I am willing to pay for my “climate sins”, so I always compensate.

Compensating for flights are not expensive. It adds a couple of dollars or euros to intracontinental flights and perhaps ten dollars or euros for intercontinental flights. It might not be as good for the environment as staying home, but it’s a lot better than doing nothing. You should do it.

Enjoy your flight

Follow these simple rules, and your flight will be much more tolerable, both for you and those around you.

Enjoy your flight!

Categories
Culture Travel

A gentleman’s guide to behaving abroad

In a globalized world, where more and more people get access to travel, cultural crashes happen. Most of us have probably witnessed tourists doing strangem disrespectful and rude things.

We may have laughed, got upset or just shrugged it off, but no matter how you react in these situations, keep in mind that they most likely didn’t realize that they did something wrong.

They were simply behaving the way they would do at home.

And be certain, if you travel (if you don’t you should), then you have probably been that person too, that locals either laugh at, get upset by, or just shrugging it off.

Cultures differ widely between regions, countries and continents, and what is seen as normal in one place is often seen as deeply rude by people from different cultures.

Sh how do you avoid being “that guy”?

Assume that anything you do could be deemed as rude

Talking too loudly or two quietly? Slurping or not when eating soup? Accepting or recieving a gift? Tipping, not tipping, tipping too much or too little? Greeting a woman with a handshake, or without a handshake?
Wearing shoes indoor or no shoes? Haggling or not haggling at a market?

These are a few examples of opposite everyday behaviour that are deemd as curtious in some cultures and rude in others.

With this, I want to illustrate that any behaviour – as innocent as it might seem to you – might be regarded as deeply rude when you are a guest in a different country.

Read up on the culture

Before any trip you make, read up on the basic culture. Learn a little bit about the country, the people and their habits. This does not only help you understand the social convetions, but also the context and origins of their customs.

Also, read up on specific topics, such as:

  • Tipping – when, how and where should you tip? How much?
  • Haggling – should you haggle or not, and if so, how and how much?
  • Eating and drinking etiquette – is it acceptable to drink alcohol, and if so, how much? Should you finish your food or leave a bit on the plate? How do you use the silverware?
  • How and when to greet others
  • How to behave at someon’s home. Do you bring a gift? Which type? Do you bring a bottle of wine for the meal or not? Do you wear your shoes inside? Should you be on time or late, and if so, how much?
  • Learn some simple phrases in the local language. Hi, yes, no, please, thank you and I’m sorry will get you a long way and will get people on your side.

By reading up on these basic topics before you leave for your trip helps you be prepared, and minimize the risk of commiting a faux pas.

Observe the locals

Observe how the locals behave and imitate them.

Ask

If you are put in a situation where you are not sure how to act, simply ask. While asking will reveal that you don’t know, it will also show that you care and that you want to avoid offending anyone.

While language can be an issue, ask the hotel staff, your guide or anyone else who speaks English or your language.

Apologize

Be seneitive, and if people seem to react negatively to something that you do, ask what it was and promptly apologize, preferably in the native language.

Don’t be afraid

While it might seem scary to have to behave differently or not knowing how to behave, most people in most cultures will understand, especially if you show that you try and apologize when you fail.

The worst thing that can happen is that you get told off, but this happens rarely. In most cases, a slight faux pas can lead to a shared laugh, a chat and perhaps even friendship for life. It’s not the end of the world as long as you show that you try.

Categories
Travel

A gentleman’s travel guide to Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a small (~850 million people), but vibrant city in the heart of Europe. While perhaps most known for it’s cannabis bars (called coffee shops) and the Red Light District,
Amsterdam is cultural and picturesque, with it’s tall, narrow, crooked houses lining the many canals. It also has a very rich and – sometimes controversial – history.

The people

Amsterdammers are known for being open and direct. Don’t be alarmed if a complete stranger walks up to you and comments on your clothes, no matter if it’s a compliment or telling you that they don’t think that color looks good on you.

They don’t consider this rude, they consider it being frank and honest, no matter if they are asked for their opinion or not.

In general, the Dutch people have a live and let live attitude, which means that they tolerate many things that would be deeply offending elsewhere – such as drug use and sex. Don’t think that this means that they cannot be offended, though. Even though they are tolerant in general, there are taboos and things you shouldn’t do when in Amsterdam.

English is never a problem. Dutch people are the best non-native English speakers in the world.

The city

While the city is home to less than a million people, it is still much more crowded than most western cities.

This is partly due to the city itself being small – the area inside the city ring is much smaller than the neighbouring Schiphol Airport.

But it is also due to the blocks being small, streets and sidewalks narrow and a lot of space is taken up by canals.

Due to it’s diminutive size, small streets and flat topography, bicyxle is the default mode of transport in Amsterdam. Driving is confusing and often slow, and while the public transport network is excellent, biking is often the fastest alternative. In fact, you can get to anywhere in the city within 20-30 minutes, and to most in 10-15.

Areas to visit

Even though Amsterdam is small – or maybe because it is – it contains many different neighbourhoods with very different character. This is something that many tourists who mostly stay in the De Wallen / Redlight District and surrounding areas.

De Wallen, Redlight District and Chinatown

The areas surrounding the central station is by many tourists believed to be the center of Amsterdam. The truth is that most Amsterdammers rarely set foot in this area, and while the buildings and architecture is very much traditional Amsterdam, you won’t get the geniune Amsterdam experience here.

The entire area is overran by bachelor partties and other groups of young, drunk, obnoxious tourists. Amsterdammers are happy that they stay there, but any tourist with basic respect for other people is warmly welcome were we Amsterdammers go and hang out with us.

While it is definitely worth visiting the Red Light District, a couple of hours is enough. Use the rest of your time in Amsterdam to explore the areas of Amsterdam that are better suited for gentlemen.

De Pijp

De Pijp is one of the main bar and restaurant areas for locals to hang out. This fairly recently gentrified area is home to the largest outdoor market in Amsterdam, Albert Cuypmarkt, as well as plenty of hip bars and restaurants.

Jordaan & Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets)

If you prefer to explore local brands and smaller boutiques over the large international chains (and you absolutely should), then head to the Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets) for your shopping.

You find them in the canal district just east of Jordaan, and you’ll find everything from second hand stores to the coolest, hippest Amsterdam brands.

When you need a break, head for one of the traditional Brown Bars in Jordaan to keep your thirst at bay.

Museum District, Leidseplein and Vondelpark

Rijksmuseum and The van Gogh Museum might be the most famous of the Amsterdam museums. That unfortunately also means that they are some of the most crowded, and you need to book way in advance.

The can Gogh Museum is open until 10PM on Fridays once a month. If you’re in town, I recommend it, as it’s calmer. The bars and music they play also helps.

If not, I recommend going to the Stedelijk Museum, filled with modern and contemporary art or the private Mocum Museum, specializing in Banksy instead.

While in Amsterdam, Please

Smoke responsibly

If you want to visit one of the cannabis bars, called coffe shops, keep in mind that the products are much stronger than in many other places, so take it easy.

Technically, smoking weed outside of coffee shops or private homes is not allowed. In practice, however, noone will mind if you rather want to sit on the edge of a canal or in a park as long as you behave and show some common
courtesy. Pick a spot that is a bit to the side, so that you don’t bother anyone with your smoke.

Drink responsibly

Amsterdammers are not strangers to alcohol, and we don’t mind having a few drinks ourselves on occation. As long as you behave, it’s all good.

Keep in mind that it’s not allowed to drink in public in some areas in central Amsterdam. However, if you want to have a picnic with a bottle of wine in a park, it’s not a problem as long as you behave.

Rent a bicycle

The best way to get around Amsterdam is by bike, so if you want to explore the city like a local, do rent a “Granny Bike”, as the dutch people call their traditional bikes.

Don’t, however, think that you can bike like an Amsterdammer. The bike traffic is crowded and might seem chaotic to an outsider. There is a system, but until you get used to it – be prepared to yield at all times.

Respect the sex workers

Prostitution is allowed in Amsterdam, and is generally seen as any job. The prostitutes even pay taxes and enjoy social security. While not seen as a high status job, prostitutes are generally respected, as most people here acknowledge that they are providing an important service to some people.

Wether you agree with that or not, respect the sex workers. Don’t stop and stare or ask for the price unless you intend to shop, and don’t take photos.

While in Amsterdam, Please Don’t

Urinate in public

No further explanation is needed. There are public urinals everywhere. Use them, or ask to use the restrooms in one of the bars.

Buy hard drugs on the street

Hard drugs (basically all drugs except for cannabis, mushrooms and peyote) are illegal, and street pushers cannot be trusted. If you want to experiment with hard drugs, it’s better to befriend some locals.

Walk on bike paths

Bike riders own Amsterdam. They are everywhere. Always look both ways when crossing a street or bike path unless you want to learn all the Dutch curse words.

Common gotcha’s

  • Cash is often not accepted.
  • Credit cards are often not accepted.
  • PIN Cards, a local version of Maestro Debit cards, are the most common form of payment. Some places with PIN signs will also accept international Maestro cards, but not all.
  • Beware of bikes. Always.
  • Dog owners are not always good at picking up after their dogs.
  • Be prepared for the Dutch Directness
  • Don’t be offended if you try to speak Dutch, and they answer in English. They are not offended by your crooked Dutch, they simply think it’s more efficient with English.