Last Updated on December 13, 2019
One of the best things about traveling is being able to immerse oneself in a different culture full of peculiarities and nuances that contribute to make us a much wiser person by the end of our trip. It is a learning process that contributes to our personal growth, and that is considered to be a source of lasting happiness.
Whether you are a backpack traveler or a traveler who appreciates luxury and relaxation the most, it is possible to get to know the culture of the country that you are visiting in any type of trip. Even during business trips: business culture is an essential part of a country and can reveal fascinating things about the local people.
But sometimes dealing with people from a different culture or knowing how to act in a certain country can be really sketchy.
In many ways, many confrontations and misunderstandings happen because people from a completely different culture may have an opposite view related to something you consider being absolutely normal. By accelerating the process of globalization, the Internet has contributed to mitigating this clash between opposing realities.
#1 – Bull horns
A bull horn sign is a hand gesture formed by extending both the index and little fingers while maintaining the other fingers closed. In the United States, this gesture is widely used by rock artists and music fans with a “Rock On!” meaning.
However, it is probably not a good idea to this gesture in the Mediterranean and Latin countries like Brazil, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Mexico, for example (except if you are attending a live concert and really feeling the rock and roll vibe).
In these countries, the bull horns gesture is considered offensive: when displayed towards a man, it is used to suggest that his wife is cheating on him.
#2 – Wearing shoes indoors
Many countries’ culture dictates removing shoes before entering a person’s house to be good manners. It is a question of both respect and hygiene. With the rise in popularity of services like Airbnb, knowing how to behave in a house owned by a person with different habits became extremely important.
You should absolutely remove your shoes before entering your host’s house in countries like Poland, Japan, Turkey, Austria, Germany, Ukraine, and many others in the Middle East and Asia.
#3 – Tipping waitresses
We all know that tipping is mandatory in the United States to allow waitresses to collect a living wage, but in some cultures where this practice is unusual, people might consider it offensive.
Due to the working culture in countries like Korea and Japan, for example, it may be perceived as a sign that you think workers need the incentive to perform their job. Unlike what happens in the United States, in most countries, servers are paid a standard wage.
Nonetheless, besides some specific cultures like the ones we have mentioned, waitresses really appreciate your tipping.
#4 – Hands in your pockets
While we are on the subject of Korea and Japan particularities, it is worth mentioning that in both these countries keeping your hands inside your pocket may be perceived as a sign of arrogance and superiority. Especially if you are doing it in an important event.
#5 – “I am from America”
If you are a US tourist visiting a country in South America, you might want to think twice before telling locals that you are from “America”. South Americans find offensive when US citizens mention their country by the name of the entire continent.
If you think about it, it actually is kind of rude because that implies that other American countries don’t really matter. It is perceived as American arrogance at its best.
#6 – Step on money and other weird laws
In Thailand, it is illegal to step on the countries’ currency since their coins and bills have portraits of Thai respected figures engraved on them. It’s like you are stepping on an entire country’s history.
China is also famous for some weird laws and restrictions. If you are visiting the country, be aware that watching “adult content’’ could get you in serious trouble.
As you know, the Chinese government controls a great part of the online activity of its citizens, and explicit content is strictly forbidden. You can use a VPN, but make sure it’s a good one!
Up until 2013, Kinder was prohibited from selling its famous egg chocolate in the United States of America due to the FDA’s concerns about the safety of the product – the administration feared that the toy inside the egg could present a risk to the children’s health. You could enter Walmart to buy a gun, but not a Kinder egg. Talking about double standards…
#7 – Kiss your loved one at a train station
Did you know that in France it is illegal to kiss your loved one at a train station? It may sound a little bizarre, but this old law was instituted to prevent passionate couples who didn’t want to part ways from delaying trains and is still in effect.
#8 – Opening a gift
Most Asian countries consider opening a gift immediately and right in front of the gift giver poor manners. The cultural difference is fascinating. In the west, the exact opposite is the best way to show your appreciation.
#9 – Sitting in the back of a taxi
When you call, a cab your instinct is probably to get in the back seat. And that’s usually acceptable (some drivers actually hate when you pick the front seat).
But if you’re soon traveling to Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, or the Netherlands, bear in mind that some taxi drivers consider rude if you decide to sit in the back.
If you find yourself in an awkward situation due to any of these aforementioned cultural differences (or others), the best way to deal with it is by explaining yourself to the local person that was offended by your behavior.
Try to educate them about your culture, but first apologize and tell them that you understand and accept his opposite perspective. Tolerance and respect are essential when communicating with someone that perceives the world in an entirely different manner.