20+ Customs and Traditions From Different Countries That’ve Shocked Foreigners

Sometimes it seems to us that the differences between countries have become almost invisible due to globalization. We buy the same gadgets, use the same brands, buy products in the same-chain supermarkets, etc. Nevertheless, if we dive into the details, we will find out that the residents of each country have customs and traditions that only they can understand.

We at Bright Side decided to figure out what unusual cultural traditions and specifics of behavior exist in different countries.

France

  • On the 25th of November, single French ladies older than 25 put on special yellow-green hats and ask Saint Catherine to bestow them with a significant other. These girls are called Catherinettes. The thing is this Saint Catherine of Alexandria has been patronizing lovers and girls of marriageable age for a long time. As a rule, yellow-green hats are presented to Catherinettes by their friends. Traditionally the yellow color symbolizes hope, while the green color symbolizes wisdom. Joyful hat processions take place on this day even now.
  • You won’t be able to find a kids’ menu in cafes and restaurants. French people believe that kids can eat the same dishes as adults. They teach kids to like different products in order to expand their gustatory palette from an early age.

  • It’s known that people in France kiss each other when they meet. At the same time, it’s customary to kiss literally everyone: men, women, kids. When new people come to a company of friends, they make some kind of a circle of honor to kiss all the people present at the meeting.

  • French kids start to attend school from the age of 3. Of course, it looks more like a kindergarten but still, it’s called “school” in France.

  • Approximately 2 times a year, the parents of school kids learn that lice have been spotted in the school and they need to solve the issue. It’s absolutely normal and doesn’t shock anyone.

  • French people eat some fruits, like grapefruit, as snacks. Also, soup is not a dish for lunch but for dinner in France. And soups are considered to be winter dishes.

Italy

  • It’s absolutely normal in this country that children use a bottle with a nipple for drinking until the age of 5-6. Local mothers believe that it’s very convenient and practical. There are much fewer chances that the liquid will spill somewhere.

  • Italian kids hardly ever have breakfasts. The most they can have is eat a couple of cookies with a glass of milk or juice.

  • Italians don’t drink coffee without caffeine. Instead, they order a special drink that is called Orzo (translated from Italian as “barley”), which is a hot, nutty, roasted-barley beverage that looks like cocoa. Initially, it was invented as a substitute for coffee for kids but later got widespread as an alternative to coffee.

  • Italians like to decorate their cars with bows not only during weddings but also on other important occasions. For example, if a family has just welcomed a baby girl, they decorate the vehicle with pink bows; if it’s a baby boy, the bows are blue; if there is an anniversary in the family — the bows are red.

  • 17 is an unlucky number for local people. Perhaps this fear comes from the times of Ancient Rome because the symbol VIXI, which meant “I lived,” was often inscribed on the tombs of the Romans — it was a kind of part of the epitaph. This symbol is a type of anagram of the Roman digit 17 (XVII) and is associated with death.

  • In many countries, it’s customary to knock on wood to not jinx the situation. Italians have a special expression for such cases — it sounds like “tocca ferro” and means “touch iron.”

Spain

  • It’s absolutely normal for the residents of this country to start eating dinner at 10 PM. However, as a rule, such suppers are pretty light because Spanish people prefer heavy lunches.

  • Each Spanish person has 2 surnames — one from their father and the second one — from their mother. Women here retain their maiden surnames when they get married.

  • Many Spanish homes lack window handles. It means they can’t be opened outward or inward. In order to open a window, one needs to press a special button and move the window frame either to the left or to the right side.

  • Spanish people love to buy lottery tickets. Many of them buy several tickets every day.

  • Local kids can be walking outside until late at night. They can safely run in parks, play in playgrounds, and even spend time in pubs that their parents often visit.

  • Spanish people bathe every time they go outside. Men can take shower 3 times a day.

Great Britain and Ireland

  • If you’ve dropped by a friend of yours in Ireland and your friend’s mother invites you to the table to have a meal, you need to refuse several times even if you are very hungry. You can agree and start eating when she starts to insist.

  • It’s extremely important to be polite in Great Britain. There can’t be too much politeness here. That’s why you should start each sentence with “Please” and “Kindly.”

  • The residents of England can be seen wearing light clothing in the winter, making it seem as if the people adore the cold. You can easily see a person wearing summer shoes, without a hat in London. Of course, the temperature on the island is not as cold as in the northern countries but still, it’s quite chilly here in the fall and winter.

  • Many tourists are surprised by the high noise level in cafes and restaurants. The thing is, for some reason, the British like to talk quite loudly, so it sometimes becomes difficult to hear the person you’re with.

  • The culture of pubs is generally quite widespread in this country. For any resident, a pub is a place nearby where any British person can come to relax and get distracted from their everyday routine. By the way, most pubs only accept cash. And there is one more nuance: one ring made by the bartender means that the last order has been accepted, 2 rings mean the bar is closed.

  • The next day after Christmas, the 26th of December, British people celebrate Boxing Day. It’s an official day off. Initially, this tradition was made so that people could give presents to those who were not as lucky in life, like poorer people. However, nowadays it’s another reason to get together.

Germany

  • People in Germany are loyal to their pets. Many of them take their pets to malls, shops, and even to work.

  • Compliance with traffic rules is taken very seriously in Germany. In the event of a violation, the driver will be asked to undergo a medical and psychological test, which is also called the idiot test among people. It contains tricky questions like, “How many times a year does an average person celebrate their birthday?”

  • German people have quite an unusual pre-wedding tradition — one day prior to the wedding the bride’s and the groom’s friends break ceramic and porcelain dishes, while the future newlyweds sweep the pieces up together. In Northern Germany, it’s also customary to burn the groom’s trousers and the bride’s bra at the end of this day — it symbolizes the end of the bachelor’s life.

  • German people hang lost items on trees. So if you happen to lose a glove, you’ll likely find it hanging on a tree branch when you go back looking for it.

  • Many residents of this county go hiking in order to have lunch in nature. Oftentimes, the final destination of the route is not a mountain peak or an observation deck with a wonderful view, but a cozy tavern where one can have a meal.

  • It’s important to be able to formulate questions in Germany. German people like preciseness. That’s why if you ask a question that implies the “yes” or “no” answer, it’s likely that you’ll get one of those answers. For example, the question, “Is this the right way to the railway station?” is improper — it’s better to ask, “How can I get to the railway station?”

Mexico

  • A special celebration for any Mexican girl is her Quinceañera or the day she becomes an adult. It might seem from the outside that it’s a wedding, if you didn’t know that the “bride” is only 15 years old. This is how the people in Mexico celebrate the transition from teenagerhood to adulthood. The celebration resembles a wedding, because the birthday girl is normally dressed in a posh dress, while the solemn part of the celebration takes place in a church where the girl is escorted by her parents.

  • Mexican people are very friendly, even with strangers. Don’t get surprised to hear “Bon appetite” from unknown people passing by you in a cafe.

  • Local people adore limes and add them almost to every dish starting with soups and ending with desserts. Also, these fruits are considered medicinal and are used to treat insomnia, respiratory diseases, and some other illnesses.

  • Alebrijes is an important part of local culture. These are painted Mexican folk toys depicting fantastic animals. Alebrijes first appeared at the beginning of the 20th century thanks to the artist Pedro Linares. Once, he came down with a fever and being in this condition, he had several vivid dreams that inspired him to create these unique bright sculptures.

  • The dentistry services in Mexico are very well developed. Many foreigners go to this country to get a beautiful smile. The services of dentists here are not only very good quality, but they are also affordable.

  • Some Mexicans put bottles with water around trees near their houses or in the garden so that dogs don’t pee on them when they pass by.

  • Mexican people often give each other cute nicknames that can be connected with the physical characteristics of a person — their height, type of hair, etc. Sometimes a person is better known by their nickname than by their real name.

Can you recall any customs and traditions that surprised you in other countries?

Preview photo credit EAST NEWS, EAST NEWS
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