The prospect of foreign travel evokes a sense of nervous excitement even in the most seasoned travellers. The excitement of exploring a new place and nervousness about finding your feet in an absolutely unfamiliar land. If you intend to socialise and interact with the locals on your foreign getaway, being informed about their ways can give you a much needed head start. So that’s one more thing to add to your preparation list apart from learning to drive on the ‘wrong side’ of the road and spending in foreign currency.

Knowing what’s considered polite and what’s not in an unfamiliar culture can also save you the embarrassment of courting offence. This rundown on things considered rude in different cultures around the globe may come in handy:

Tipping in Japan

No-Tips-JapanHow Not to Be Rude When Travelling the World
Image Source: The Real Deal

Tipping your servers as a token of gratitude for a job well done is the standard norm in hospitality industries across the world. In fact, in some place such as the US, tipping your waiters at least 10 percent of your bill amount is the unsaid rule. However, in Japan, tipping is considered rude and degrading.

Finishing Everything on Your Plate in China

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Image Source: Blogaholicnetwork

In India, we take polishing off the last morsel on our plates very seriously. Things roll a tad differently in China, where finishing off everything you are served is taken as a sign that the food was inadequate for your appetite. You must leave a little on your plate and follow it up with a burp, if you really want to compliment the chef.

Polite Smiles in Russia

how-not-to-be-rude_RussiaHow Not to Be Rude When Travelling the World
Image Source: Dicas de Mulher

Well, it isn’t exactly considered rude, but it may land you in trouble, as smiling at strangers in Russia is taken as a gesture to initiate intimacy. Unless you really want to hook up with a perfect stranger, it is best to keep a straight face.

Paying for Just Your Portion of the Meal in France

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Image Source: Whites Legal

This is a very American concept that is fast catching up in different parts of the world, including India. It is perfectly normal these days for a group of people hanging out to split the bill. In France, the practice is frowned upon. You either pay the entire bill or let someone else take care of it and owe them a meal in return.

Being Late in the US

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Image Source: Window of Heaven Acupuncture & Yoga

Our tendency to run late for just about everything, be it work or social commitments, is legendary. If you are travelling to the US, you may need to work on your punctuality skills, as not being on time is taken rather seriously here. You simply cannot show up 45 minutes late for dinner there and expect to be greeted by a ‘chalta hai’ smile.

Honking in Norway

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Image Source: Northeast Today

Yeah, it is possible to drive and get to your destination without honking persistently. While unnecessary honking is dealt with seriously in a lot of Western countries, it is particularly advisable to resist the urge if you are driving in Norway as horns are used only in case of an emergency. You may trigger panic in the moving traffic as everyone scoots to give way to your vehicle.

Keeping Hands in the Pocket While Making a Conversation in Germany

how-not-to-be-rude_GermanyHow Not to Be Rude When Travelling the World
Image Source: HuffPost UK

To keep your hands in the pockets while talking to someone is considered rude in Germany. As opposed to the elbows and hands off the table rule, in Germany, it is also customary to place your hands on the table while eating instead of resting them on your lap between bites.

Sitting in the Backseat of a Cab in Scotland and Ireland

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Image Source: NY Times

Sliding into the backseat is the most natural instinct when you hail a cab, because that’s the universally accepted riders’ spot. Except in Scotland and Ireland, where it is taken as a mark of elitist behaviour.

Making the V Sign in the UK, Australia

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Image Source: Fotolia

As opposed to an indication of victory or peace elsewhere in the world, in these two countries the V sign is equivalent of showing the middle finger. Just don’t do it.

Friendly Hugs and Touches in Sweden

how-not-to-be-rude_ScotlandHow Not to Be Rude When Travelling the World
Image Source: Stuff

Unless you are friends with a person, it is considered rude to touch someone casually while talking to them or give them a friendly hug before you part. Maintain you distance, use your words instead.

Have you ever landed yourself in an embarrassing situation on account of not knowing better? Or got any more such dos and don’ts to add to the list? Tell us in the comments section below.


A journalist by profession, a freelance writer by choice. When not writing, she likes to spend her time in company of books and food or hitting the road to explore new places, besides juggling roles as an army wife and mommy.

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