Read up about the history and culture of the country you intend to visit before you go. It may help you to avoid putting your foot in it. Oooo, I have a story about this!
When I was visiting Belfast I witnessed these guys having a full blown hissy fit because they couldn't check their luggage at the train station. In Belfast. They kept demanding to know why, and finally the very frustrated employee said "Because people put bombs in them". These guys kept arguing the point, and demanding to check their luggage. A quick peak at Ireland's very recent history would would make it obvious as to why no one checks luggage, anywhere. Especially, Belfast!
The part that flabbers my gast is that he kept being a pill about this after
he was told why he couldn't check his luggage. People put bombs in luggage, that should be the end of it right? Bombs. In. The. Luggage. Bombs.
If you overhear 2 people speaking together in English, or if an English-speaking tourist attempts to speak to you in the language of your country, do not respond in English. If you do, and the person continues to speak in German, French, or whatever the local language is, accept that they did NOT visit your country to give free English lessons to strangers, and may very well be there to learn YOUR language. Please respect this. I am an American who used to live in Germany. It was amazing how many complete strangers expected me to help them practise their English, even when I spoke only German in response. Eventually, I learned not to say anything except"excuse me?' (in German) over and over, until they realized I was not their English instructor and it was German or nothing if they expected to converse with me. This should not be necessary.
Redblues, the same thing happened to my friend who lived in Japan for a year. She studied Japanese in high school and university, but didn't have a lot of chance to really practice. She would have liked to chat with some locals in Japanese. She was able to do this sometimes, but not as much as she would have liked.
Meanwhile, people who were studying English thought, great, someone I can practice with, but they didn't want to help her practice Japanese. She wouldn't have minded helping people (her job was to teach English after all) but it was just so imbalanced.
My brother went to Germany when he was in high school. If someone, upon hearing is obviously non-German accent, answered him in English, he would say, "I'm sorry, I'm from the French part of Canada" in German. He actually did speak French, so he could have carried on in French. His German wasn't so bad that conversing with him would be painful, he just had an accent.
I went to Sweden and this is the best country IMO for people who are willing to let you
speak their mother tongue. I studied Swedish while I was there and by the end of the exchange, I could actually have a conversation with someone (especially if it was about food). People were so nice helping me practice, even total strangers (e.g. I bought a bicycle entirely in Swedish). Also my Swedish friends taught me all the local cool slang.
By the end of my exchange, people who didn't know me thought that I was actually Swedish. Of course, they thought I was from Skåne
, a province (county?) who's accent is so different from the province where I lived it is like unto another language.