Avoid Offending Locals Abroad

Avoid Offending Locals Abroad

Chicago : IL : USA | Jul 12, 2012 at 4:25 PM PDT
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Many travelers are much more aware of how to find cheap fares, including cheap airplane tickets and discount hotel rooms and cheap vacation packages than they are with local customs of foreign countries they will be visiting, particularly when it is the first time they are visiting that country.

Simple hand gestures and how you drink can offend locals overseas. The following are tips on how to avoid demonstrating offensive behavior:

  • In Japan when you are drinking alcohol with others it is considered polite for people to serve each other and uncouth to refill your own glass. If your glass is empty and you want more, your best bet is to refill someone else’s glass at the table and hope he reciprocates.
  • In Australia and New Zealand taxi drivers think that you are stuck up if you sit in the back seat. Solo passengers are expected to sit in the front of the taxi with the driver.
  • In Afghanistan, Greece, Iran, Italy, and Nigeria a thumbs up gesture conveys “Up yours!”
  • In the Middle East, India and parts of Africa the left hand is supposed to exclusively be used in the bathroom. Thus no one wants you to dig into communal food with that hand or be touched with a left hand.
  • In South America you should never say that you are from “America.” It is considered politically correct to say instead that you are from the United States.
  • In Ukraine remember that if you send someone flowers even numbers of flowers are reserved for funeral bouquets. Odd numbers of flowers should be sent to someone if you want to convey romance or a get well message.
  • In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland raising two fingers to order a drink or as a sign of victory is interpreted as flicking someone off. Two fingers with the palm faced inward is considered insulting.
  • In Asia, India and the Middle East avoid playing footsie or pointing the bottom of your feet at anyone. In many Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist countries feet are viewed as the lowest and most unclean part of the body and pointing your feet at someone is viewed as disrespectful.
  • In Britain or Australia make a point to know the rules of buying rounds of drinks. It is important not to buy too many or not enough rounds. Not buying enough drinks make you look stingy and rude, while buying too many makes you a showoff. Never buy the most expensive drink when someone else is buying and then water for yourself when you are paying.
  • In Japan and South Korea you will offend people if you tip.


Sdrobinson is based in Omaha, Nebraska, United States of America, and is a Reporter on Allvoices.
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