17 Foreign Habits That Can Make Locals Feel Embarrassed for You
The golden rule for any polite tourist is to learn as much about the customs and etiquette of the country they’re visiting as possible. This precious information will protect them from getting into awkward situations and accidentally offending the locals.
We at Bright Side don’t want to look like impolite, bad-mannered people in foreigners’ eyes, which is why we’ve decided to give you a refresher course on the most unusual traditions and behavior rules around the globe.
- Left-handed people might find it hard to be in Egypt. That’s because here, just like in many Muslim countries, the left hand is used for “dirty” tasks such as putting on shoes. Locals believe it’s unhygienic to eat with the left hand. You won’t offend anyone if you hold some bread in your left hand, but putting it into your mouth is only to be done with the right hand.
- A burp is not considered a sign of bad manners in Indonesia. However, people of a different culture might not know about it. An Indonesian local explained, “Once in college, we had students from Belgium or some other European country. They were not my faculty’s guests but, as fate would have it, they ate in the same canteen as my friends and I did. I burped because I felt like it and continued eating. The foreigners were wide-eyed. They were more surprised when no one in the canteen called me out. They started asking the people they were with and an awkward laugh came from their table. That’s when I realized we had foreigners in the canteen and I apologized to them. They were really surprised that it wasn’t considered rude and by their explanation, I felt like it was the equivalent of getting slapped in the face. ”
- If you drop a piece of bread in Afghanistan, don’t throw it away. Locals here do the following: they pick up the fallen piece of bread, kiss it, and put it back on the plate again. They expect the same to be done by others.
- Don’t leave chopsticks vertically on a plate with rice if you’re having a meal anywhere in Japan. This is done only at funerals.
- It’s customary to eat burritos without cutlery in Mexico — so no forks or knives should be there.
- It’s considered impolite to salt your food in Portugal. It’s a sign of disrespect to the cook that signifies that you’re not satisfied with their dish. That’s why if there’s no salt shaker on your table, you’d better not ask the server to bring one.
- It’s impolite to chew gum in public in Luxemburg, France, and Switzerland.
- If strangers offer you fruit or something tasty in Japan, take it as a treat. This is how the Japanese show their famous hospitality — your refusal can upset them greatly.
- When you accept a gift, make sure to take it with both hands. This will show that you are completely immersed in the process and that you’re grateful to the person for their attention. If you stretch only one arm, you’ll insult the person. This rule applies in Japan, China, South Korea, Vietnam, and India.
- If you’re invited to visit someone’s home in Iran, you’re expected to consume seconds and thirds only if they’re offered. That said, it’s considered rude to put second and third helpings on your own plate.
- There is an unspoken rule in the capital of Argentina that people shouldn’t do anything and cancel all their plans when it’s raining. That’s why if you befriend local residents, you shouldn’t call them to go anywhere on a rainy day.
- If you’re traveling across China, don’t touch the statues’ heads. The head is considered a holy part in the Buddhist culture and even a slight stroke is considered a big insult by the locals.
- Australian taxi drivers will get extremely surprised if a single male tourist sits in the backseat. In this country, men are used to taking the seat next to the driver, not behind him. This rule doesn’t apply to women.
Make sure to greet sellers in Parisian stores and pharmacies. Only after doing so should you ask them to show you the goods that you need. It’s not customary to ask, “Um, where’s the aspirin?” without prior formalities.
If you’re shopping in Germany, don’t dig into the piles of clothes, searching for the right size. Here is what a Quora user says: “Shop assistants know their inventory, and in shoe stores, they’ve actually been trained to fit shoes properly. They’ll be upset if you just start rifling through the inventory. Just take the sample model, sit down and wait to be helped. They’ll fit you properly and you’ll be much happier, and their store won’t look like a disaster zone when you leave.”
People in Great Britain highly appreciate personal space. They will look at you with surprised eyes if you come too close to a person while standing in a line, for example. In order not to annoy anyone, follow this hack from a local resident: “In a supermarket queue, I keep an arm’s length distance from the shopper in front of me and expect the shopper behind to do the same. On very crowded days, I will relent and require at least half an arm’s length.”
You can’t get by without leaving tips in the US. Here is what a tourist from Asia who didn’t leave a tip for their server in the US shared, “As we were leaving, the waitress came out to the parking lot and asked in a very polite, sincerely concerned way: ’Was there anything wrong with the service?’ This was in Koreatown, Los Angeles, and our group completely forgot to add a tip when calculating the bill. We apologized and went back into the restaurant to add the tip.”
Of course, all people are different, and not all locals will pay attention to such “failures” performed by tourists. But still, it’s better to behave appropriately according to the norms of the region you’re visiting. What everyday etiquette rules have you encountered while traveling?