Travel Fun Facts! Volume 4: Cultural Etiquette


One of the best things about traveling is experiencing new cultures. Of course, what may be culturally acceptable in one country may be offensive in another. Gestures, in particular, have multiple meanings throughout the world. It’s important to know how to behave or you risk offending your host!

Here are some interesting examples of proper cultural etiquette. Can you think of any others? Feel free to add them in the comments section below!

The North American “OK” sign made by curling the thumb and forefinger together is an obscene gesture in Turkey, Brazil and Germany, and can be seen as a threatening gesture in parts of the Middle East.
Curling your finger toward yourself with an outstretched palm (in a beckoning gesture) is offensive in the Philippines and is only used for dogs.
Making a “V” sign with the index and middle finger, but facing your palm towards your body, is very rude to people in Great Britain or Australia. They call it the “Vicky V” and it’s the equivalent of giving the middle finger to someone from North America.
In Muslim countries, West Africa, and Russia the “thumbs up” gesture is offensive.
In European countries, when counting on one’s hand, the thumb is 1, index finger 2, etc. In the United States, the index finger is 1, middle finger is 2, etc. and the thumb usually means 5.
In Japan, it’s common for businesses to set out a small tray near a cash register so that customers can place their money on the tray rather than handing it directly to the cashier. It’s rude to do otherwise.
It’s only customary in North America to be served ice water with a meal. Most other countries think this is strange.
In Muslim countries and Thailand, to show the soles of one’s shoes or feet while seated is very rude.
In Australia, it’s customary to ride in the front seat of a cab.
In Muslim countries and India, people do not eat with their left hand. That hand is reserved for cleaning oneself.
In Switzerland, asking for salt and pepper while dining is an insult to the chef.
Making a fist with your thumb poking out between your forefinger and middle finger is offensive in some Asian countries as well as in Italy, Turkey and India.
In parts of Tibet, sticking one’s tongue out at someone is a greeting.
In France and some other parts of Europe, the salad is served after the main course, not before. This is to aid in digestion.
In Japan, one should accept a gift with two hands.

 

Can you think of any other interesting customs or examples of cultural etiquette? Feel free to add them in the comments section below!

 

 

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