20+ Things We Shouldn’t Say in Different Countries If We Want to Be Polite
For many tourists, communication with the local people is an important part of their trip. It allows them to really feel the atmosphere of the country or the city they are visiting. When talking to people around us, we make new friends, dive into the local culture, learn about the local traditions, and get more useful information than any guidebook can give us.
But sometimes, despite our sincere interest and kindness, the conversation just doesn’t work out. We are sure we didn’t talk about religion or politics and we know we didn’t laugh about the local traditions. But we made a mistake somewhere. Today, Bright Side is going to give you the wrong advice on how to repel the local people in the most popular countries to visit.
- Asking where the nearest Starbucks is. The only coffee they respect in Italy is espresso that they drink while standing, usually, in a small coffee shop.
- Telling an Italian about your experiment with Italian foods. Maybe like when you added ketchup to your pasta, instead of a classic Italian tomato sauce.
- Complaining about them not following the driving rules. It is completely pointless to try and explain to an Italian that driving under the speed limit and following other driving rules is important.
- Refusing to kiss when you meet someone. Italians always kiss twice when they meet each other. It is just as necessary as a handshake in other countries.
- Asking for gluten-free food. Or a vegan menu. Or something like that. You got it. The Greeks think that their cuisine is perfectly balanced and suitable for anyone. And they have their reasons. If you ask a Greek taverna owner about gluten-free, vegan options, that’s probably the first time he’s heard those words.
- Talking about the economic crisis, for example, asking someone how it influenced their family. They won’t be happy to remember how they lost their store or their cafe.
- Laughing at the long Greek names. For example, “Papaspirodopolopoulos or whatever.” Asking Greeks, “How can you even say it?!”
- Asking if they like frog legs or clams. This is the most popular stereotype about France, and the French people that see a lot of tourists are really tired of these questions.
- Reminding them about the Nazi occupation. The occupation of France is a huge hit on their pride and something that the French prefer not to talk about to foreign people.
- Saying it was the British that invented champagne. This might be true, but it was the French that perfected the drink and made it as we know it today.
- Saying that Argentina is great or that you are a fan of Lionel Messi. Brazil and Argentina are long-time rivals and they both think that they are the best team in South America, and not just in soccer.
- Talking about Brazilian buttocks. Many modern Brazilian women are irritated by the sexist words “Brazilian butt.”
- Mentioning Brazilian TV series. Many people blame them for creating the wrong image of Brazil and Brazilians hate the fact that the movie industry of the country is represented by such a low quality series.
- Asking how long someone has been divorced. The Japanese, especially the elderly, think that divorce is a great shame.
- Talking about adoption. Adoption is a very intimate process in Japan and it is one of the topics that is not discussed outside of the family.
- Boasting about your salary and asking how much someone makes. This is a very rude question in many countries, but in Japan, it is considered taboo to talk about finances.
- Talking about yakuza. For us, it is something exotic, but for a regular Japanese person, they are criminals that cause a lot of trouble in society.
- Coughing and sneezing without a special medical mask, and also blowing your nose in public. The Japanese are very scared of viral infections.
- Tipping someone. In Japan, it is not appropriate and may offend someone.
- Asking what caste someone is from. The caste question is far more intimate than the question about how much money someone makes and it puts people in very awkward situations.
- Criticizing arranged marriages.
- Asking why India is so terribly dirty. Throwing away trash everywhere is part of the Indian mentality. And you can be sure that they have been asked this question at least 1,000 times before.
- Taking photos of the dirt, especially if there are children playing in it, or of a cow chewing trash.
- Punishing your children and being amazed at why other children don’t behave. The Turkish people really love children, they allow them to do anything they want.
- Telling someone that they don’t look like a Turk if they, for example, are a blonde guy with blue eyes. Just try to imagine yourself in this situation: some foreign guy, who has no idea about how many different types of people there are in your nationality, tells you don’t look like the other people. And you need to kind of explain yourself. No, this is not a good conversation starter.
- Complimenting a little baby or touching their heads. The Vietnamese are scared of being jinxed and the head, in South-East Asia, is the place where spirits live.
- Doubting Vietnamese superstitions. Even the best-educated people believe in them. Don’t try to remind them that they may be not true.
- Talking about the war with the US, if you don’t know the subject well enough. It would be better to visit the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh, and other memorable places, and ask all the questions you have to the guides there.
- Admiring Spanish machos. The word macho is associated with the discrimination of women and family violence that they got rid of not very long ago.
- Being surprised at why bullfighting hasn’t been prohibited yet.
- Talking about the Franco dictatorship and the Civil War. After the dictator died, the people adopted the “oblivion pact.” The opposing political forces agreed to leave everything that happened during the Franco times behind them.
- Asking an adult person why they are still living with their parents. First, it’s not against the Spanish tradition. And second, after the financial crisis, it has become very expensive for many young Spanish people to pay a mortgage or rent an apartment, so many of them have had to come back home to live with their parents.
- Starting a conversation about the Royal Family. The British just don’t like talking about it. They all have different reasons.
- Giving a detailed answer to “How are you?.” You don’t even have to answer this question.
- Talking about their British accent. There is no such thing as a “British accent.” If you want to talk about the accent, be more specific — cockney, Scottish, northern, southern, and so on.
- Calling all British people English. There are Scottish people, the Welsh, the Irish, and they don’t like to be confused with the English.
- Using a lot of smart words. A person that loves talking about science and someone who talks about their degrees is thought of as an arrogant and boring person.
- Asking someone about their health. If you ask someone this question, they might think that they don’t look so good.
- Talking about the negative consequences of Mao’s reign. For many people, he still remains a national hero.
- Trying to add someone on Facebook. As you probably know, free internet access is blocked in China with the Golden Shield and the internal internet they have is not very convenient. Most people are pretty happy with what they have, and some even tell the police about the people that break the laws and truly go online. Other people just don’t like talking about their isolation from the internet.
- Bowing when saying hello. People in China don’t do this: this is from Buddhism and it spread in many Asian countries, for example, Thailand. Don’t get confused!
- Asking them what their grandfather did in 1941. Talking about the Nazi regime is only going to irritate or bore a German person.
- Talking about all of Germany as if you are talking about Bavaria. Some tourists think that all Germans eat sausages, drink beer, and have short leather pants in their wardrobes. These are typical stereotypes about Bavaria, which is only one of the 16 regions in Germany. Other regions also have their own traditions and the inhabitants are really irritated that nobody knows anything about them.
- Interrupting. You have to let Germans finish what they want to say or they will never talk to you again.
- Talking about the private life of the king and other members of the royal family. Asking something about these things (about the bad marriages of the king or his official mistress) is a huge mistake — you could even be arrested for this.
- Being amazed at how they eat insects. Ironically, the insects are sold to tourists at higher prices. Thai people don’t eat cockroaches that often and some of them think that insects are disgusting.
- Calling someone a Hollander or calling the Netherlands, Holland. Just don’t do this.
- Asking about Zwarte Piet. He is a folklore character, a black assistant to Santa Claus. In the 21st century, people have very mixed feelings about Piet. Some people think it is just a tradition and others say it’s racism. Anyway, it is better to not discuss this character at all, because there are a lot of protests for and against Piet.
- Comparing the Netherlands to Belgium. Despite the fact that they speak almost the same language and they used to be a single country, now they are different countries and different people.
- Saying that their king looks like a young Donald Trump and the Queen is not even Dutch.
- Saying that Santa Claus lives in the North Pole. The Finns are very careful about the fact that Santa lives in Finland.
- Speaking loudly and emotionally. Finns are very cautious with people who behave like this.
- Pouring some alcohol from someone else’s bottle. The Finns are a generous nationality, they are happy to share their food or something else, but not their alcohol.
- Calling a book or a cartoon about Mumintrolls, silly.
- Saying that hummus and falafel weren’t invented in Israel.
- Don’t disrespect the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) and the people serving in it. For the young people in Israel, serving in the army is an honor.
- Having a business conversation during the Sabbath or asking why there is no public transport during the Sabbath.
- Being childfree. In Israel, it is better to keep these views to yourself: they will most likely not understand you. In a traditional Jewish family, people believe: the more children, the better.
- When meeting someone of the opposite sex who’s wearing a headcover (a kippah or a headscarf), offering your hand for a handshake. They are religious Jews and cannot touch anyone of the opposite sex other than their spouses and kids.
Which topic for conversation could become super awkward in the place where you live?
Illustrated by Leonid Khan for BrightSide.me