One of the best things about travel is being able to immerse yourself with other cultures, and often we find real similarities that let us know that we’re all not so different after all. There are however some cases, where we’re very very different. These manners might seem super strange to you, but they’re the norm in other countries.
Asia: Slurp Up
In western nations, making noise while you eat is considered annoying and improper, but it’s the opposite in the East. In Asian countries, loudly slurping your soup or noodles is a compliment to the chef. However I beg to differ as in Pakistan we still think its bad manners to make noise while eating.
Russia: Don’t try to shake hands before you enter
Shaking hands would seem to be the polite way to greet someone, and yes, it often is. However, when in Russia, do not offer to shake hands in a doorway; always enter the room first, or have the other person come fully outside. It’s believed that the “house spirit” lives in a home’s entryway, and crossing over it for a greeting would be bad luck.
Italy: Let the man lead the way into a restaurant
Well in Pakistan we would love to see some chivalry from men because it isn’t as common as we would like but I personally believe we are a very loving nation in general.
However in Italy, while it’s still generally considered polite to allow a woman to go through a door first, that rule goes away when it comes time to enter a restaurant. By heading in first, the man can be the one to talk to the host and get a table.
Italy: Put down the Parmesan
In the United States, it’s customary for servers to offer to sprinkle Parmesan cheese on your Italian dishes. In Italy, it’s not. In fact, it’s considered downright rude to ask for it, especially if you’re eating pizza. That’s because the cheese is seen as incompatible with pizza, much the way you might think ketchup shouldn’t go on salmon. That said, if a server does offer you extra cheese on a dish, it’s perfectly fine to accept it.
India: Don’t eat with your left hand
When in India and in Pakistan it is a religious point of view too, avoid eating with your left hand because the left hand is seen as disgusting, as it’s normally used for wiping in the bathroom. The same is true for countries in the Middle East and parts of Africa.
Do not flush in any of these countries
If you’re traveling to Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, the Ukraine, Morocco, Egypt, or Beijing, please note that the plumbing may not be designed for flushed TP, and restrooms will have special waste bins to place used toilet paper instead. Failure to heed this bit of toilet etiquette could lead to clogs and even floods.
Russia: Don’t intentionally turn your back to people
When you’re squeezing past people to take your seats in a theater, you probably turn away from the people who are seated. In Russia, this is considered rude. Instead, you’re expected to show your face, meaning you’ll probably look them right in the eye as you squeeze through.
Korea: Use a two-handed show of respect
In Korea, when one of your elders offers you a drink, the proper etiquette is to receive it with both hands, and then turn your head away as you take your first sip. It’s a show of respect, and respecting one’s elders is taken seriously in Korea as it is in Pakistan.
India: Text instead of calling
It may seem surprising, but the fact is that most small businesses in India don’t even have landlines, which has led to a culture in which texting is considered appropriate, and not just for personal communications. So, if you’re in India and wish to find out, say, a particular shop’s business hours, send a text, rather than calling.
United Kingdom: Peace Signs
Although making a peace sign or asking for 2 of something is a relatively harmless gesture in America, it’s not so in the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. In these places, the V-shaped gesture is similar to the middle finger, but only if the back of your hand is facing them. The gesture isn’t offensive if your palm is facing the person.
Chile: Don’t use your hands to eat
It’s perfectly fine to eat foods with your hands in most countries in Asia, and in some countries, eating with the hands is actually encouraged. However, that’s not the case in Chile, where proper etiquette requires eating everything with a fork and knife.
France: Kiss, don’t hug
In France, hugging can be considered more intimate than kissing. Instead, when you greet someone you’re not that close to, be prepared to shake hands or kiss them (twice—once on each cheek—or in some regions, even more). Along with the no-hug rule, you also should never bring your host chrysanthemums (which are associated with funerals) or any yellow flower at all (which sends a message that the hostess’s husband has been cheating!).
Italy: Eye to eye
Feel free to stare down your Italian friends (not in a weird way, of course). Direct eye contact is greatly appreciated in Italia. If you avert your glance you might look a little shifty, so don’t be afraid to lock eyes when chatting – it shows them you’re interested in what they have to say. This is pretty much the opposite of countries like Japan and Korea who frown on direct eyeballing. Pro-tip: keep your glance under guard in the orient, but not in Europe. Italians also have a different idea of personal space and it’s not unusual for them to get all up in your business and stand very close during an exchange.
Even though being “fashionably late” has become a trend in America, Americans still recognize that the polite thing to do is to show up on time for a planned event. This isn’t the case in Argentina. Showing up on time there is seen as rude. Instead, guests are supposed to show up 30 to 60 minutes late.
In Asia, India, and the Middle East, it is considered offensive to show someone the soles of your feet. If you do walk around barefoot in these areas, you should be careful the bottoms of your feet never face another person. Actively pointing the soles of your feet at a person is considered one of the rudest gestures.
No “thumbs up” in these countries
Although giving someone a thumbs up is a sign of affirmation or approval in many places, the people of Italy, Greece, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Iran will not be so pleased to see it. In these countries, the gesture translates to “up yours,” and is seen as very offensive. A thumbs up gets a thumbs down, as it’s also the equivalent of flipping someone off.
Count the Flowers
You could wind up really offending someone in Russia or the Ukraine if you send them the wrong number of flowers. While bouquets with an odd number of flowers in them are a beautiful gift, bouquets with an even number of flowers are reserved only for funerals.