Cultural differences can be huge when traveling anywhere abroad. The sad fact remains that most American tourists tend to think everywhere in the world is just like the United States. They, however, find themselves in the middle of a rude awakening once they get where they are going. Here are just a few peculiar, for Americans, cultural taboos that you will need to know about:
Hong Kong is one of the most exciting places in the whole world. There are certain political realities you need to be aware of. The people there call themselves Hong Kongers and will not be happy if you call them Chinese. Also, in nearby Indonesia, you never use your left hand for anything you are doing in public. If you are a natural lefty, you need to practice with your right hand before heading off to Indonesia.
Americans tend to be rather direct and will often times enter talking. In France, however, you can’t do that. You must properly greet someone before launching into your conversation. On the flip side, like Americans, the Dutch are very direct. They won’t soft coat anything to spare your feelings. They will tell it like it is and are not all that worried about your “feelings”.
Most foreign visitors to America are simply astounded that American service people, especially waiters, waitresses and bartenders, have to rely on tips to earn a decent living. So, in America, 15% of the bill is standard. Heading to Russia and want to give someone some flowers? Give them an odd number in the bouquet because even numbered flower bouquets are reserved for funeral ceremonies.
If you are in Singapore and see some tissues in a bag at a restaurant table, or anywhere else, it means that the space is reserved. If in Thailand, don’t use your feet for anything. There, feet are not well thought of so don’t point with them and definitely don’t put them up on a table.
People don’t shake hands in Nepal or India. You simply put your hands together in greeting. Bowing is not necessary like in certain Asian countries. In Malaysia, avoid using your fist for anything and don’t pound a fist into your open hand. There, it is the same as if you were flipping someone the middle finger in the United States.
PHOTO CREDIT: Flickr / Reuters