An especially important question in the middle of holiday season – were you aware that gestures and customs from one country do not necessarily transfer well from one country to another? Or one Culture to another?
There are a number of customs and gestures that we in the UK use without a second thought. But please be aware that these could be disapproved of in other countries, and really you should make yourself aware of what is acceptable in the countries you plan to visit.
The following information originated in a Quora thread – it’s easy to see how we can cause offence to others without meaning to do so.
This is difficult, because both over- and under-tipping can quickly make you the least popular person around. But in Japan and South Korea tipping is seen as an insult. In those countries, workers feel they are getting paid to do their job, and take pride in doing it well; they don’t need an added incentive.
2) Signing a “thumbs up”
In a lot of countries, especially in the Middle East, Latin America, Western Africa, Russia and Greece, a thumbs up basically has the same meaning as holding up a middle finger does for Americans.
3) Laughing with your mouth open
In Japan, laughter that exposes your teeth is considered horse-like and impolite – like noisy, open-mouthed eating is considered rude to Americans.
4) Having one hand in your pocket
This is considered arrogant in Turkey, as well as some Asian countries, like South Korea.
5) Using your left hand for anything
Not all cultures have or use toilet paper, and tend to use their left hand in lieu of it.
6) Opening a present immediately
Accepting gifts, eating or doing pretty much anything with your left hand in much of Africa, India, Sri Lanka and the Middle East is like a (disgusting) slap in the face.
In most Asian countries, most notably China and India, tearing into a gift in front of the gift giver is poor form. It looks greedy.
7) Wearing sweatpants, flip flops, wrinkly clothing, or baseball caps in public
While wearing stylish sportswear outside of the gym is a fashionable trend in the UK and the States, in Japan and some of Europe, this sort of casual appearance is considered disrespectful.
8) Altering your meal
In foodie cultures like France, Italy, Spain and Japan, asking for ketchup, hot sauce, soy sauce or salt to alter your meal may raise some eyebrows. Before you ask for a condiment, see if there are any on the tables – if not, you should probably refrain.
9) Showing the soles of your feet
In many Arab, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist countries, showing the soles of your feet is a sign of disrespect, as they’re considered the lowest, and dirtiest part of the body, since they touch the dirty ground. Men should cross their legs with caution.
10.) Keeping your shoes on
While you probably think you’re doing the world a favour by keeping your socks under wraps, in most Asian and Caribbean cultures it is expected that you take your shoes off when entering someone’s home.
11.) Eating anywhere that doesn’t serve food
In some cultures it is considered rude to eat anywhere that isn’t a restaurant, bar or hotel. Eating a banana on the bus? Ice cream outside? All no-nos. And remember that Singapore bans chewing gum altogether.
Some of us are very “touchy feely” by nature, but hugging and touching others, even if only on the arm, is offensive in places like China, Thailand, Korea, and the Middle East. Respect that personal space varies from country to country. Think of the Queen and royal family protocol!
13) Asking certain questions
Asking “what do you do” is a common American icebreaker, but is often considered insulting, especially in socialist countries, where people feel that it’s a way of pigeonholing them, and of being classist. You might as well just ask someone you just met what their salary is.
14) Polishing off your meal
To Americans, finishing a meal shows the host how much they enjoyed the meal. In other countries, like China, the Philippines, Thailand and Russia, it signifies that you’re still hungry, and that you have not been provided with sufficient food.
15) Blowing Your Nose
In countries like China, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia and even Turkey, blowing your nose in public is not only rude, but considered repulsive.
I hope that you have found this blog informative and interesting.
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