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Travel Tips

Our Guide to Selfie Etiquette Abroad

We're laying down some hard ground rules, people.

See recent posts by Siobhan Reid

Your Life > Insta Bragging Rights

Going bungee jumping or rock climbing? Put your damn iPhone away. We don’t care how many likes you’ll get or how jelly the photo will make your ex-girlfriend. You’ll look effing crazy dangling off the side of a cliff and flexing your pecs for the camera. Same goes for extreme water sports like surfing and white-water rafting. If you’re willing to lose a $700 smartphone—much less, YOUR LIFE—to a high-impact aquatic selfie, we won’t be able to help but invoke Darwin’s Law when it all goes awry.

Don’t Hog the View

Obstruct a Renoir or Picasso with a duck face and a “smize” and not only will you irk other museum-goers—you’ll also risk being kicked out. Yup, really. Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts are among the institutions to have imposed a selfie ban. And, frankly, we’re all for it. Don’t have the attention-span to take the art seriously? We hear the McDonald’s down the street has a jungle gym.

Pay Your Respects

There’s rude and then there’s downright offensive. And selfie-taking in places of remembrance and quiet reflection (Ground Zero, Auschwitz, Pearl Harbor, to name a few) fall into the latter category. Remember that for many, these visits are part of personal journeys of deep meaning. Go ahead and snap a pic; just skip the pouty lip selfie.

Leave the (Wild) Animals Out of It

A golden retriever is one thing. A grizzly bear is altogether different. Use one of those as your selfie prop, and you’re seriously asking for a mauling, Leo-style. One only needs to refer to tragic news headlines (see: The Swan that Died for a Photograph or Peacocks Die in China Zoo After Visitors Grabbed Them for Selfies) to see how much harm humans inflict on animals when they senselessly encroach on their territory. It’s called a zoom lens, people—get one!

Don’t stop traffic (in a bad way)

Stopping in the middle of a crowded city sidewalk to take a selfie is the 21st century version of stopping to pull out an oversized map. The times have changed, but the moral of the story hasn’t: You’ll be elbowed, stomped on, stolen from, or at the very least, photobombed by a disgruntled pedestrian. If you’re really dying to snap a pic, move to one side of the street, get your shot and be done with it.

Don’t Snap and Drive

We’ll risk insulting your intelligence and say it anyway: Do not under any circumstances take photos of yourself (or anything else) while operating a motorized vehicle. Not at a red light. Not ever. The cardinal rule of selfie-taking is to practice common sense, and when you unsafely snap, you’re putting the health and safety of yourself and others at risk.

Keep it Classy

There’s no question that churches, mosques and temples are among some of the most photogenic places in the world. So we totally understand wanting to snap a few pics (sans flash and shutter sound, of course) while you’re there. But selfie-taking? In our opinion, it’s crossing the line. Holy sites are more than just photo ops, and you don’t want to upset the people who are there for reflection and prayer.

Stick to One (If You Absolutely Must)

You may think you’re making art or demonstrating what a versatile photographic subject you make when you post some 15 selfies over a 24-hour period. But, in reality, the fine print of your stream of selfies reads, “I’ve got terrible self-esteem and wayyyy too much time on my hands." Just a thought, but next time you go somewhere cool, turn the camera on the scenery you traveled all the way from home to see.

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