Customs & Traditions from Around the World

(Taken from Wikipedia)

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The Dos and Don'ts for CANADA

 

As in many other cultural areas, a number of Canadian faux pas (at least in English-speaking areas) are similar to American ones, with a few differences.

 

  • Canadians are extremely polite when it comes to mild physical faux pas such as stepping on feet or bumping into others. Often both parties will briefly apologize, including the person who was bumped. Use of the word "sorry" in this context is equivalent to "excuse me"; it should not be considered a submissive gesture.
  • Not waiting at the end of a queue for your turn ("cutting in line") is considered extremely rude. This applies in all areas of public interaction. On public transportation, wait until everyone has exited the door before entering. Pushing through people who are trying to get out is considered extremely rude. When merging on motorways, vehicles from each lane take turns, alternating one at a time from each lane. Pushing through behind another vehicle without allowing the vehicle in the other lane to merge in his turn is considered bad driving. When walking on sidewalks, or in grocery stores, you are expected to travel on the right. (similar to driving rules) Not doing so or blocking the path by putting a shopping cart in the middle of an aisle or walking side by side with companions without getting out of the way is considered very rude. Stand to the right on escalators.
  • It is considered polite to inquire if you are allowed to smoke before lighting a cigarette, except outdoors. This is particularly true when visiting others. Smokers should assume that it is inappropriate to smoke indoors as a guest in someone's home, unless expressly told otherwise. Due to changing laws and social values, smoking inside most public buildings, such as work places and stores, is not allowed. Most areas of Canada now prohibit smoking in restaurants as well.
  • Spitting on the ground or blowing one's nose into anything but a tissue or handkerchief is considered gross and rude. This is at odds with other regions of the world where this is acceptable.
  • Failing to hold a door open for another person is seen as very impolite, especially when doing so would require no special effort.
  • In Quebec only, for both sexes, shaking hands with a woman in a casual context introduces distance. Embracing (holding each other loosely in the arms while lightly kissing each other's cheeks, once for each side) is usually expected.
  • Not leaving an appropriate tip or gratuity at a restaurant (typically 15% of the bill for standard service and higher for better service) may make any dinner guests at your table feel extremely uncomfortable.
  • It is polite to remove your shoes when entering someone's house, or to at least ask the host if they would like you to. This practice is not as common in the United States.
  • When visiting someone's home, the serving of coffee at the end of an evening is a signal that it is time for visitors to prepare to leave.

Conversational Etiquette

  • Canadians are generally more reserved than Americans when dealing with strangers. Over-familiarity, such as is common in American customer service, is not advised as it may be interpreted as disrespectful, insincere, or gauche. Canadians tend not to share personal information with strangers. A certain amount of respectful reserve is maintained until a relationship is established.
  • Calling a Canadian "American" may offend. Canadians will generally accept the faux-pas with good humour, but are notoriously thin-skinned about the subject - similar to New Zealanders who are referred to as "Australian".
  • The common American custom of responding to a thank-you with "uh-huh" is very disconcerting for Canadians. In Canada, "uh-huh" is a colloquial way to respond to a yes or no question; in any other context it is a sarcastic response. For example, to use it in response to a thank-you implies disbelief, or that the person saying thanks is not sincere. For English-speaking Canadians, the only correct response to "thank you" is "you're welcome". [This can become annoying if you are an American server in a restaurant with Canadian customers. They (we) will thank you for every water pour; every moment of attention you give them.] Although uttering "Uh-hunh" is a regionally acceptable American substitute for "you're welcome" this is considered very rude to Canadians.
  • Canadians highly value their society's diversity and tolerance and are also eager to avoid conflict in everyday conversation. As a result, expressing a strong, negative opinion about any group of people on the basis of ethnicity, cultural customs, etc. is often considered awkward or rude. Describing someone as a "foreigner" has negative connotations in Canada. It implies that the person "does not belong" or "is not welcome here". Describing someone as an "alien" is a serious slur. Also, it is dangerous to assert that someone is or is not Canadian. Many landed immigrants born elsewhere have lived in Canada for years and feel patriotic, vote, and consider themselves to be integrated into Canadian society. Also, there have been Canadians who are ethnically Chinese, Japanese, Bulgarian, Sikh, and so on and so on, for many generations. Also, overt displays of "nationalism" make English Canadians extremely uncomfortable. English Canadians are quietly and fiercely proud of their country, but patriotic fervour is an intensely private matter and not appropriate for public display (except, of course, on Canada Day) (other than, of course, the national pasttime of making fun of Toronto. But that too represents a truly Canadian preference to mock those in power and take the side of the underdog).
  • Similarly, in most conversation between anyone but good friends and family members, asserting a strong, blunt opinion that is quite different from the opinions of the rest of the group is often seen as a socially awkward move rather than as a good way to get conversation flowing. Many Canadians are also sensitive to issues of superiority and inferiority and generally avoid conversations that highlight differences in status between conversation partners. Topics to be avoided can include pay raises, details of one's educational background, or even discourses on one's area of professional expertise, if it seems that someone in the conversation might feel intimidated by someone else's accomplishments or assets. Generally speaking, it is impolite to ask someone how much money they make, how much rent they pay, or what large possessions of theirs, ie: a car or a house, cost, except among good friends or people who are reasonably sure that there are no huge differences in income or status between conversation partners.

Anglo-Franco-Canadian relations

  • French and English Canadians can be culturally divided. Expecting an English-speaking Canadian to know how to speak French well, or vice versa, can create awkwardness. However, it is more common for francophone Canadians to be fluently bilingual than anglophone Canadians.
  • When meeting a French-speaking Canadian, do not assume that he/she is in fact a 'French Canadian', as there are various French-speaking Canadian cultures in Canada with vastly different heritage. The mostly-Maritime Acadians, for example, self-identify as a distinct people and are fiercely proud of their history, language and traditions - to call one a Quebecois would be considered ignorant and boorish and vice versa. Even if one can distinguish between the two dialects, given that there is no difference between the French spoken in western Quebec and the contiguous areas of Ontario, it is best to refer to them as simply as Francophones until they self identify.
  • Non-Canadians are not advised to initiate a discussion on Quebec/Canada politics due to the sensitivity of the subject. Avoid faux-pas by respecting it as you would a private family matter. Outsiders offering even good-natured criticisms or commentary about Quebec are just as likely to offend their English Canadian audience.

Aboriginal peoples of Canada

  • Visitors from abroad are often misinformed about the aboriginal peoples of Canada. The history of oppression and genocide of aboriginal peoples in North America makes certain topics sensitive or taboo. Several words used to refer to aboriginal people can have very negative connotations and should be avoided by everyone except aboriginal people, including the commonly used "Indian" and "Eskimo" as well as the more obviously offensive terms such as "redskin", "savage", "squaw", and "brave". The people once called "Eskimo" by Europeans are the Innu, the Inuit (one Inuk, two Inuit) and the Dene peoples, depending, and the more southern aboriginal peoples are called First Nations, aboriginal people, or Metis. (The Metis are a distinct group in Canada who have a mixed aboriginal, French, Irish and Scottish heritage.
  • Similarly, it is important to keep in mind that many faulty stereotypes persist about First Nations people. Although traditional spiritual, cultural, lifestyle and hunting/fishing/trapping practices survive or thrive in Canadian aboriginal communities, all have evolved into the modern-day and often incorporate snowmobiles, rifles, motorized fishing boats, sequins and plastics, blue jeans, etc. etc. Expecting a First Nations person to be "just like in the movies" may cause a visitor to be seen as amusing, ignorant or just plain offensive.
  • However, a healthy respect for traditional practices is greatly appreciated. For example, when visiting a pow-wow, it is extremely rude to touch a dancer's clothing (called regalia) or to take a photograph of a dancer without asking for, and RECEIVING, permission from the dancer. (Remember that it can be difficult to say no politely. When asking permission to take a photograph, watch and listen for the answer, and respect the dancer's decision, whether he or she says 'sure, thanks for asking', or 'ok', or 'i'm in the middle of getting my hair done.' The first and second answers mean yes - the third is probably a no.)
  • Also, be mindful of interrupting. An older First Nations person who is especially well-respected in the community is called an elder, and when they speak on an issue, it is not acceptable to speak until they say they have finished, or invite others to speak or ask questions. Interruptions are thus also seen as somewhat impolite as a general rule.
  • Aboriginal People, like the rest of Canadians, generally have a good sense of humour and will often tell self-disparaging anecdotes or make jokes about their particular tribal group. It is considered quite inappropriate to tell jokes about Aboriginals if you are not one, although it's perfectly fine to laugh if one is told by a First Nations person.

The Dos and Don'ts for the USA

  • The United states is an extremely diverse, multicultural society. As such, all of the following rules will change depending on the location, setting, and people involved.
  • Not looking someone directly in the eye when speaking can be seen as evasive; this is in contrast to much of the rest of the world, where looking someone directly in the eye may be rude.
  • Not leaving an appropriate tip or gratuity at a restaurant (typically 1020% of the bill) will make any dinner guests at your table feel extremely uncomfortable. In the U.S., tips represent a large portion of a waiter's income and your guests may feel embarrassed if the tip was considered too small. Ten percent can be considered a rebuke to the waiter, 15% is considered an average tip, and 20% is typically given for satisfactory to excellent service. Tips higher than 20% can be considered ostentatious by dining companions (though undoubtedly appreciated by the wait staff).
  • Tipping is also customary for taxi drivers, barbers and hair stylists, for those who deliver food to your home or office, for casual handymen (neighbor teens who cut the lawn, and the like) and some others. Tipping for food deliver usually is two to five dollars (as opposed to being a percentage of the food cost).
  • It is considered impolite to ask people how much money they earn. It is not considered rude to ask someone what he or she does for a living.
  • It is considered impolite not to cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. When someone else sneezes, it is customary to say "Bless you." (The German word for health, "Gesundheit", is also generally acceptable.) If someone says "Bless you" to you, it is customary to reply with "Thank you."
  • At an initial introduction, it is considered awkward to ask someone if they are married or have a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • At an initial introduction, it is considered awkward to ask someone their political views.
  • It is considered impolite to ask a woman how old she is or inquire about her weight.
  • Strangers in America interact with one another generally in a friendly, informal way. This varies from region to region. In the South, for example, greetings such as hugging and patting on the back are considered friendly. However, in the Northeast, interaction tends to be more reserved and such greetings are seen as overbearing. Many foreigners who travel to America thus unjustly find Americans superficial. Although Americans treat one another in a very friendly way, they nevertheless understand and maintain the limits of their relationships and the distinction between acquaintances and friends. Conversely, foreigners who cannot interact with Americans in a relaxed, casual manner, may be perceived as awkward, aloof, rude, or even arrogant.
  • It is considered a rude violation of personal space to stand within an arm's length of another person, unless you are very close friends. In crowded situations it is tolerated, but makes some Americans uneasy.
  • Profane words are not allowed on broadcast television or radio, and generally are seen as lower class to use in common discussion, but many people use them regularly in familiar discussion.
  • Emitting any odor or smell, whether due to lack of hygiene, diet, or applied perfumes, is considered a violation of others' personal space. Only in close personal proximity is the detection of perfume or cologne tolerated.
  • Getting the attention of waiters, servers or store workers with gestures or by snapping fingers, is considered offensive. It is better to move toward a sales clerk and say something along the lines of "Excuse me . . ." In a restaurant, simply making eye contact with the waiter, or eye contact with a slight smile and nod should be enough to signal your need - in crowded situations, eye contact and raising the hand casually about shoulder high with index finger extended up is fine.
  • Calling a Southern person a "Yankee" will be taken as an insult. Baseball fans in the Boston area may also find the term offensive due to the intense rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees baseball teams. This rule doesn't seem to apply to the British, however, to whom all Americans are "Yanks".
  • In most business settings, physical contact should be limited to a handshake at the beginning and end of the meeting.
  • When giving a handshake, the corner of your hand between the thumb and first finger should be met firmly with the other person to avoid an uncomfortable weak handshake.
  • It is considered polite to bring something for the host or group when invited to a dinner in someone's home. A bottle of wine is very typical. Bringing a dessert is not uncommon, but only after checking with the hosts (to ensure they haven't gone through the trouble of making dessert themselves).
  • It is considered impolite to give cash as a gift, except to close family members. A few exceptions include graduations, bar mitzvahs, and bat mitzvahs. Weddings can also appropriate situations for cash gifts to people who are closer than acquaintances. Gift Certificates are generally considered appropriate in all gift giving situations.
  • It is usually impolite to refer to how someone looks at all-mentioning someone's weight is very impolite. Complimenting someone on lost weight can be acceptable if remarked upon honestly.
  • References to someone's ethnic or racial identity are inappropriate unless the subject is broached generally.
  • It is generally considered impolite to begin eating one's dinner before all seated have been served. If one's food hasn't arrived and is likely to take a long time (or already has taken a long time), it is appropriate for that person to invite the others to begin eating.
  • One must address those significantly older than them as Mr., "Sir", Mrs., "Ma'am", "Madam", Ms. or Miss. For example, it would be rude to address a friend's parent by their first name unless he has invited you to do so. Conversely, addressing someone near to your own age group by title is usually considered stand-offish unless it is in a professional setting.
  • Scatological, bodily function and sexual topics are considered off limits except to close friends. Americans have a cultural history of conservative behavior, and jokes about these subjects is uncomfortable and rude. Full or upper body nudity is forbidden for females, but males may remove shirts in instances of hard work or extreme heat. Nursing mothers are allowed in public, but it does make some men uncomfortable. Males are uncomfortable with small clothes on the lower half of the body of men, but sexually mature women are encouraged to wear revealing bathing suits in a beach or pool setting before middle age.
  • Many Americans embrace informality and would consider taking faux pas too seriously a sign of snobbery. In general one must judge the situation and respond accordingly (This is most likely true for most countries placed on this list). Giving reference to a list of this type, and to how people "should" act to an American can cause a response of mild amusement to mild offense depending on the person you are speaking with. A plain T-Shirt and jeans is acceptable dress in almost all public context.

 

AFRICA

Ghana

  • When greeting people in a home, it is considered improper if the guest ignores any person present. Guests are expected to acknowledge and greet every person at a social occasion, including children and babies, by shaking hands. When shaking hands, it is appropriate for the guest to first greet the person on his/her right-hand side and work their way left. This ensures that the guest's palm makes contact with the palm of the person receiving the handshake - touching the back of the hand instead of the palm is considered insulting. Guests are expected to begin by greeting the most elderly person present. The same ritual is expected to be observed upon leaving as well as arriving.
  • In Ghana, asking a person to a social event (e.g. a bar or restaurant) implies that the person offering the invite will be paying for everything. Inviting a person out and then expecting them to pay for their own drinks, etc is considered extremely rude.

South Africa

  • It is the custom to look someone in the eye whenever touching glasses for a toast. Varying superstitious results can follow should you not do so.
  • Conversely, it is considered rude and inappropriate in many of South Africa's cultures to look an elder or a superior in the eye when one is being spoken to. Humility and tradition dictate that one should cast one's eyes downwards in such a situation. This can easily be misinterpreted as a sign of inattention or indifference, when it actually indicates great deference and respect.

 

ARAB COUNTRIES

  • Throughout most of the Middle East the left hand is reserved for bodily hygiene and considered unclean. Thus, the right hand should be used for eating. Shaking hands with one's left hand is considered an insult.
  • Public displays of women are frowned upon.
  • Displaying the soles of one's feet or touching somebody with one's shoes is considered rude.
  • In Iraq, the "Thumbs Up" gesture is considered an offensive insult.
  • In some Arab cultures, it is considered disrespectful to not stand when speaking to elders or when they enter a room. Similarly it is expected that elders will be the first to be greeted and served in social gatherings.
  • Entering the living room with shoes on is considered rude.
  • In some Middle Eastern countries it is considered rude for an individual to step away when another individual is stepping closer.
  • In most Arab countries, it is considered polite and a sign of friendship to hold hands when walking. This does not have the romantic connotations it does in the West.
  • Bringing all five fingers together with the fingers pointing upwards is a sign meaning - slow down, give me five minutes. It should not be mistaken for a fist and a show of threat.
  • In Morocco, after shaking hands the right hand is commonly placed against the heart - a sign of friendship. In other settings when a handshake is not possible - such as across the street, or when one's hand is dirty - the right hand placed over the heart can substitute for the absent handshake.
  • It is not uncommon to be invited to lunch or dine by somebody you are meeting for the very first time; it is best not to decline if you cannot accept the invitation, but rather postpone, adding "inch'Allah" (if God wills it) to your offer of a raincheck.
  • Hosts will often feed guests until literal exhaustion - and still offer more. Westerners, who usually see insistence after their refusal as a sign of rudeness, should leave this mentality at the doorstep, and instead refuse with good humour; perhaps see it as a game, a battle of wills. It may be adviseable to slow the pace of consumption so that when offered more, you can accept the first few times, then finally decline.

South and East Asia

  • Confusing or thoughtlessly considering groups of very distinct Asian peoples (eg: Japanese, Chinese, Koreans etc) as "all the same" is considered rude and impolite.
  • It is common in many Asian countries that the person cooking a meal will say that there was something wrong with it ("Oh, it was too salty.") You are expected to disagree ("No, no, it was incredible!")
  • Breaking commitments, especially social commitments, is a major faux pas. Asians are bound by duty to their families. Tearing an Asian away from an arranged commitment, especially with their families, is considered rude.

Bangladesh

  • While it is acceptable for men to shake hands in greetings, women are only permitted to nod.
  • Eating should be done with only the right hand.
  • The American thumbs up gesture is considered obscene.

China, Taiwan

Faux pas derived from Mandarin pronunciation

The following faux pas are derived from Mandarin pronunciations (with Hanyu Pinyin noted), so they may also apply in other Chinese-speaking areas:
  • Giving someone a timepiece, such as a clock or a watch, as a gift is a very unlucky faux pas. Traditional superstitions regard this as counting the seconds to the recipient's death. Another common interpretation of this is that the phrase "to gift a clock" (Traditional Chinese: 送鐘, Simplified Chinese: 送钟) in Chinese is pronounced "sng zhōng" in Mandarin, which is a homophone of a phrase for "terminating" or "attending a funeral" (both can be written as 送終 (traditional) or 送终 (simplified)). Cantonese people consider such a gift as a curse.
  • Giving someone a fan or an umbrella as a gift is frequently unfriendly. The words fan "shn" (扇) and umbrella "sǎn" (Traditional Chinese: , Simplified Chinese: ) sounds like the word "sn" (散), meaning scatter or to lose. "sn kāi" (Traditional Chinese: 散開, Simplified Chinese: 散开) means to split up.
  • Giving someone a knife as a gift is a faux pas, indicating that you mean them harm or you wish to kill them. Giving them even numbers of knives DOES NOT negate them.
  • As a book (Traditional Chinese: , Simplified Chinese: , pinyin: shū) is a Mandarin homophone of a loss (Traditional Chinese: , Simplified Chinese: , pinyin: shū), carrying or reading (looking at) a book (Traditional Chinese: 帶書, 看書, Simplified Chinese: 带书, 看书, pinyin: di shū, kn shū) when betting, such as gambling or investing in stocks, may be considered an unlucky faux pas while being homophones of carrying or looking at a loss (Traditional Chinese: 帶輸, 看輸, Simplified Chinese: 带输, 看输, pinyin: di shū, kn shū). This unlucky faux pas does not apply to carrying or reading newspapers (Traditional Chinese: 帶報, 看報, Simplified Chinese: 带报, 看报, pinyin: dibo, knbo) as newspapers (Traditional Chinese: 報紙, Simplified Chinese: 报纸, pinyin: bozhǐ) are not books.
  • Traditionally, the bride gives her parents a fan, symbolizing that she is leaving them for her husband. (Chinese society is traditionally patrilocal.) [16]
  • Sharing a pear with your loved ones is unlucky. "Sharing a pear" (分梨) is a homophone of "separate" (Traditional Chinese: 分離, Simplified Chinese: 分离), both pronounced "fēnl" in Mandarin. Sharing with distant friends is okay.
  • When eating at a reunion dinner on the eve of the Chinese New Year, eating fish completely is widely considered an unlucky faux pas. See Reunion dinner for the reason why partially-eaten fish is customarily stored overnight.

Other faux pas

  • It is considered polite to decline a gift when it is first offered and the giver is expected to offer it multiple times. Also the gifts are generally not opened in the giver's presence.
  • Giving a married man green-colored head wear as a gift is unfriendly. The Chinese saying "wearing a green hat" (Traditional Chinese: 戴綠帽, Simplified Chinese: 戴绿帽, Pinyin: di lǜmo) means that someone's wife is unfaithful. The gift would be an insult to the couple.
  • At a dinner table, always serve the oldest person at the table first. If you do not know their age, serve the guest first. It is very important to show respect to the elders.
  • Sticking your chopsticks into your rice and leave them standing there is a very unlucky faux pas. This looks like sticks of incense in a bowl used to honor dead ancestors, and such a symbol of death is extremely offensive at the dinner table. In Cantonese funeral tradition, a pair of chopsticks is used to stick a salt-preserved duck egg into a bowl of rice on the altar as an offering to the deceased.
  • Attending a Cantonese wedding while you are still in mourning for a death in the family is unlucky. It is believed to bring bad luck to the marrying couple.
  • Tapping ones chopsticks against the side of a bowl imitates the gesture of beggars on the street, and is considered a sign of extreme hunger or impatience, similar to banging fork and knife on the table.
  • Giving white flowers is considered unlucky, as they evoke the ritual of white flowers at a funeral.
  • It is considered impolite for a person to pour their own drink. Generally an individual will offer to pour a companion's drink and the companion, in return will pour the individual's drink.
  • It is considered bad luck for a pregnant woman to attend a funeral.

India

  • It is advisable for men and women to avoid wearing revealing clothes in public. For women, bikinis, short skirts, and dresses with exposed shoulders are frowned upon. Shorts should be avoided by both genders, if possible. A plain white sari / dress should be avoided by women as it is the traditional wear of a widow in mourning.
  • Entering the "pooja" room of a house (where the altar of the gods is placed) with shoes on is considered impolite in Hindu culture.
  • In most Hindu homes, shoes are not permitted beyond the foyer. Keeping with Hindu norms of hospitality, the hosts will never object if you do walk in with shoes (especially foreigners). Though it is appreciated if the guests do take their shoes off before entering. If it is a traditional floor-sit-down dinner, then the shoes most definitely must come off.
  • If you accidentally touch someone with your feet or if the feet come in contact with some objects of respect like coins, currency, books, paper etc, you are expected to apologize. The accepted norm of apologizing for this is touching the object / person with your right hand and placing the hand on one's forehead. The body is considered sacred and touching with the feet is considered an act of disrespect.
  • While dining in an Hindu household, food will be offered multiple times. These are generally second and third "rounds" and it is fine to decline them.
  • Guests are generally offered food or drink depending on the season and the time of visit. Meal times will usually result in an invitation to the meal. It is acceptable to decline the offer if you are not staying for a long time. Otherwise, you might be delaying the host's meal.
  • Other than meal times, it is perfectly acceptable to decline or accept what is being offered. Like in many other countries, asking for coffee (especially in south India) or tea will be polite. If the day is too hot, you could ask for water.
  • It is considered immature and hoggish to open a gift in front of the person who has given it. This is in stark contrast to many Western cultures. Gifts are opened in private.
  • As in many other countries, India with all its varied languages has three versions of you (polite, friendly and informal forms, see T-V distinction) in every language - not using them appropriately can be a cause of lot of disapproving frowns.
  • Accepting goods or making payments with the left hand (the left hand is considered unfit and dirty) is considered impolite. The right hand should always be used. However, using both hands together is a sign of respect.
  • While giving someone a gift, it is polite to remove the price tag. It is considered inappropriate to indicate the value of your gifts.
  • Often, calling someone older than you by their first name can be offensive. Either avoid using the name during conversation or use Mr./Ms./Mrs. <Last name>. You can also address them generically as 'Uncle' (for men) or 'Aunty' (for women).
  • It is considered condescending or patronizing to place the hands on the shoulders of an older person, especially someone from an older generation, unless the latter is a close friend.
  • It is customary to stand up when an older person enters the room. It is also impolite to sit on a chair / sofa if the elder person is sitting on the floor / carpet. This does not happen nowadays since most places you visit will have sofas or chairs.
  • Many men / women in South Asia avoid shaking hands with individuals of the opposite gender. When meeting a person of the opposite gender, it is prudent to verbally greet and then wait to see if the other person extends the hand first.
  • India has had a complicated history with its neighbors (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka), and confusing an Indian with any of these is seriously offensive. This rule extends especially to Westerners.
  • For a man to comment to another person about the appearance of the latter's adult female relative (wife, sister, daughter, etc) is considered inappropriate behavior. However, it is acceptable for a woman to do so.
  • Eating should be done with only the right hand.
  • In India, asking a person to a social event (e.g. a bar or restaurant) implies that the person offering the invite will be paying for everything. Inviting a person out and then expecting them to pay for their own drinks, etc is considered extremely rude.
  • In India, birthdays are celebrated by the host giving a party. People who attend the party are not required to spend money on the host.

Japan

  • Business cards should be accepted with both hands as a sign of deference.
  • In Japanese culture it is considered polite to decline a gift when it is first offered and the giver is expected to offer it multiple times. Also the gifts are generally not opened in the giver's presence.
  • In greeting or thanking another person, it may be a little insulting if someone does not bow lower than the other person when the other person is older or has a higher social status.
  • Guests entering a Japanese home are expected to remove their shoes in the foyer and have socks or stockings in good condition.
  • Holding anything with chopsticks by two people at the same time, or passing an item from chopsticks to chopsticks is considered very impolite, as it will remind bystanders of the Japanese funeral ritual. Sticking them into food (and especially rice) so that they stand straight up has similar connotations.
  • It is considered impolite for a person to pour their own drink. Generally an individual will offer to pour a companion's drink and the companion, in return will pour the individual's drink.
  • Blowing the nose in public (also, the Japanese do not use their handkerchief for hanakuso, literally 'nose shit') (However, if you find that you must, you must.)
  • Not using polite language and honorifics when speaking with someone having a higher social status. (Though most Japanese are very lenient with Westerners in this regard.)
  • Expressing outward anger, annoyance and losing one's temper causes them to lose face in Japanese culture. (Much like Western culture--what is your opinion of the man screaming at the customer service desk?)
  • Not sending a New Year's postcard to someone who sent you one.
  • Sending a New Year's postcard to someone who suffered a death in the family during the past year.
  • Tipping is considered rude and is never done in Japan. However, gifts of cash at holidays (for example, otoshidama for New Year's Day) are considered acceptable, unlike in many Western countries.

Philippines

  • It is impolite to refuse an offer of hospitality if you are a guest in someone's home. Take it as a great compliment if they offer a room from one of the members of the household.
  • When you are attending a funeral, avoid wearing any loud color, especially red. It is considered rude if you wear a red shirt at a funeral. Black, white, greys, muted and earth tones are proper colors for funeral attire. Money, flowers or prayer cards are acceptable gifts.
  • Cupping your chin with your hands at the dinner table is considered rude.
  • It is usually the birthday celebrant who treats everyone for his/her birthday. If you know that you are invited by the celebrant to a birthday celebration at a restaurant, do not assume that you are buying the celebrant dinner (unless you are offering to pay for everyone's meal, as a gift), unless specified. Bring a gift instead.
  • Gift giving is important to an occasion. Coming to a party empty handed is considered rude. If you can't get a gift on short notice, buy something for the party instead (and that is why you will often see 3 birthday cakes at a birthday party).
  • Most Filipinos are fluent in English, and most insults and gestures translate pretty well, even the snide, sarcastic insults. The language is also Spanish-based, so do not try to pass off Spanish insults as well.
  • Traditionally, it is rude to try to ask someone out on a date at a public place. Women usually don't ask men out on dates.
  • Gentlemen rules: you always give your seat to the handicap, pregnant women, elderly, and women in general. If you are a woman, don't bother getting up to give up your seat, someone else will offer you their seat eventually.
  • As for introductions, introduce the senior to the junior first. Introduce the man to the woman. Introduce the group to an individual (because the individual is not expected to remember all the names at first introduction).
  • Always acknowledge the presence of the elder in the room first, by shaking their hand or if you are many years younger, ask for their hand ("Mano") and bring it to your forehead. (Not to be confused with the custom of hand/ring kissing. There are no kisses involved with this gesture.) There are no rules for "clean" "unclean" hands.
  • In restaurants, condiment use is acceptable. The waiter usually only comes several times to take your order, refill your drink and bring your check. Most will not ask you if you need anything else, you will have to "summon" the waiter if you do. It is rude to yell "Waiter!". Your waiter will be watching your table from the service area. Make eye contact if you want something. You may ask for your check without asking for the waiter by drawing a small box in the air after making eye contact with the waiter.
  • If someone is buying you a meal, the invitee orders first. The invited should order items equal to or below the cost of the invitee's meal.
  • Hide if you want some alone time. Refusing to socialize with anyone, especially if invited, could be considered offensive.
  • Children under your care are expected to avoid interjecting or "butting in" adult conversations. You are expected to apologize for any distraction or unruly behavior on your child's behalf and take appropriate measures. Usually, this means you will have to extract yourself from the conversation and bring your child outside for a talking to.
  • As much as Filipinos like to bash their own country, it is considered rude if you join in to criticize the surroundings, especially if you are a foreigner. You are a guest, and it is offensive if you are not happy.

South Korea

  • Wiping or blowing your nose in a restaurant, even if the food is spicy, is considered mildly offensive. It is expected that you should take a trip to the toilet if you need to do this.
  • In Korean cultures, it is considered disrespectful to not stand when speaking to your elders or when they enter a room. Similarly it is expected that elders will be the first to be greeted and served in social gatherings.
  • When entering a restaurant you are expected to take off your shoes and leave them by the door. Some modern, western style, restaurants are an exception. These can be identified as they have higher tables with chairs. This also includes walking into any homes in Korea.
  • In restaurants and bars, pouring your own drink is considered rude. You should keep an eye on your neighbors' glasses and fill them if they are empty. In return, they will fill your glass when it's empty. If you do not want to get drunk, try to leave your glass half full.
  • When pouring drinks, hold bottle in right hand, lightly place left hand on forearm near elbow, as a sign of respect. Also when drinking your drink, turn head and look away and drink.
  • Never show the bottom of your foot. This is a sign of disrespect.
  • Patting the head of an elder or a superior is extremely insubordinate. It is not acceptable to call elders by their first name, this includes parents.
  • Leaving tip/gratuity is usually or almost always not accepted or expected.

Thailand

  • Touching somebody on the foot (in Buddhism the foot is the most impure region of the body). Strictly speaking this also applies to children.
  • Touching somebody on the head. Thais regard the head as the highest part of the body, literally and figuratively. If you accidentally touch someones head, offer an apology immediately. This doesn't apply to touching the head of a child or people who are younger than you.
  • Stepping over or standing on bills or coins (money is another symbol of good fortune and prosperity) signifies disrespect. Currency usually depicts the King, and it is a sign of utmost disrespect to place your foot above the head of the King. Similarly, licking the back of a postage stamp - which also features the King's image - is also considered disrespectful.
  • Pointing your sole or foot at somebody. Following the logic that the head is the most sacred part of the body, the foot is the least sacred. In Buddhist temples particularly, it is important to sit with the soles of your feet not pointing at the Buddha.
  • Kissing in the streets and any public display of affection are considered rude.

Malaysia

Major Faux Pas:
  • When entering Malaysian homes, shoes must be left outside. Wearing shoes into the house is extremely rude.
  • As well, never enter a Muslim mosque or Indian temple without removing your shoes. For other Chinese (Buddhist, Taoist, etc) temples, observe the local customs carefully with regard to footwear (some allow, some don't).
  • Though handholding (and other minor acts of affection) is tolerated among the Chinese community, public affection with a Malay woman is more than a faux pas: it is considered a "Khalwat" (close proximity) offence which could lead to an arrest (typically punished with fines).
  • In some States with a more Islamic majority (e.g. Kelantan, Terrenganu), a woman should not wear revealing clothes in public (it is considered vulgar). This includes shorts (or mini-skirts), halter tops, sleeveless garments, anything that shows belly or cleavage, etc.
  • Nudity (as is toplessness with regard to women) is absolutely prohibited on the many tropical beaches.
  • Placing/slapping an open palm on the top of a sideways held fist of the other hand is a rude gesture.
  • As well, inserting the thumb between the fore and middle fingers of a closed fist is a rude gesture.
Minor Faux Pas:
  • Pointing with your forefinger is considered impolite (especially when pointing at people). Instead, a closed fist held sideways (thumb at the top) with the thumb pointing the direction is used.
  • Many Indians and Malays (esp. in rural communities) eat with their hands - if you are in that circumstance, it is customary to follow their lead, using only your right hand to eat. Using the left hand to handle food is impolite, as it is considered unclean.
  • Shaking hands should only be done with the right hand. Among Malays, it is customary to lightly hold the right forearm with the left hand when shaking hands (as well as when giving/receiving money). As well, it is customary to touch your heart/chest with the right hand immediately after ending the handshake. It is only very minor faux pas if these customs are not observed (esp. with Westerners).
  • Touching anyone's head. Some Malaysians, like Thais, also regard the head as the most important part of the human body. If you touch anyone's head, offer an apology.
  • Crossing your legs in the presence of elderly people is sometimes considered impolite.
  • Addressing strangers in formal situations by their names (even if they have nametags) is rude. Instead, use the honorific "Encik" (pronounced "in-check") for a man, or "Cik" ("check") for a woman - you may append their name after the honorific. "Mister" and "Miss" are also acceptable (esp. for Westerners).

Vietnam

  • When going out to eat with other people, it is considered very polite to pay for the meal. It is therefore also rude to prevent someone who has offered to pay from doing so (don't argue). If you want to pay for a meal, then, simply make sure you offer to do so before the other person. This will often occur before you even arrive at the restaurant. Offer as early as you can.
 

OCEANIA

Australia

  • Requesting items like a fanny pack in Australia can be considered obscene due to the usage of "fanny" as referring to a woman's vulva. Bumbag is an acceptable local variation.
  • When riding alone in a taxi, it is considered polite to sit in the front passenger seat next to the driver.
  • When using public transport, always let passengers leave the bus/train before attempting to board.
  • When paying a cashier, always place the money in their hand. Placing the money on the table/bench is considered rude.
  • When paying at a restaurant, it is, however, acceptable to leave the money on the table.
  • While giving someone a gift, it is polite to remove the price tag. It is considered inappropriate to indicate the value of your gifts.
  • You should shake hands when leaving the company of a person you have just met or someone you have not seen for a long time.
  • Queuing is expected when there is any demand for an item. The only exception to this is a pub or bar, where finding a space at the bar displays your intention. However it is still considered rude to allow a barperson to serve you before someone who has been waiting longer than you
  • When asked to "bring a plate" to an event such as a party, bring a plate of food and not just a plate.
  • Tipping is not expected in Australia in any situation. Tipping someone personally can be unexpected or awkward; some employees are forbidden from accepting tips. However, if you have received particularly good service in a cafe or restaurant, it is polite to add a few coins to the 'tip jar' on the counter, which is usually shared among staff. It's also acceptable to suggest that taxi drivers or waiters 'keep the change', especially if the difference is small.

New Zealand

  • Requesting items like a fanny pack in New Zealand can be considered obscene due to the usage of "fanny" as referring to a woman's vulva. Bumbag is an acceptable local variation.
  • When riding alone in a taxi, it is considered polite to sit in the front passenger seat next to the driver.
  • In New Zealand, bus fares should never be handed directly to the driver, but should be placed on the small tray used for that purpose.
  • Confusing Australians with New Zealanders. The mistake will generally be taken in good humor, provided an apology is given; it would, however, be considered ignorant and boorish to dismiss the difference.
  • In the Māori community of New Zealand, it is a faux pas not to remove one's shoes when entering a Māori sacred building, such as a marae. In the dominant European community not removing shoes when entering a building is not a faux pas, therefore Europeans can sometimes forget to observe this tradition. This can offend Maori and sometimes cause tension.
  • Sitting on or resting one's backside against a table or desk can also offend Māori. The desk-top is where one focuses one's mind, so should not be touched by the 'dirty' nether regions.
  • You should shake hands when leaving the company of a person you have just met or someone you have not seen for a long time.
  • Queuing is expected when there is any demand for an item. The only exception to this is a pub or bar, where finding a space at the bar displays your intention. However it is still considered rude to allow a barperson to serve you before someone who has been waiting longer than you
  • When asked to "bring a plate" to an event such as a party, bring a plate of food and not just a plate.
  • Tipping is not expected in New Zealand in any situation. Tipping someone personally can be unexpected or awkward; some employees are forbidden from accepting tips. However, if you have received particularly good service in a cafe or restaurant, it is polite to add a few coins to the 'tip jar' on the counter, which is usually shared among staff. It's also acceptable to suggest that taxi drivers or waiters 'keep the change', especially if the difference is small.
  • Avoid using the term "mainland" for specifically either the North or South Islands of New Zealand as this is a sensitive issue.
  • It is considered rude not to greet someone when passing in the street.
  • Correct pronunciation of Māori place-names, and the word 'Māori' itself, is important. Careless mispronunciation or Anglicization can be offensive to both Maori and non-Maori NZers - it implies a lack of respect for the land and people.

 

Europe

 

Balkans

Serbia

  • Giving somebody an even number of flowers. Even numbers of flowers are used at funerals.
  • When saying 'cheers' and clinking your glass with someone, always look at the person in the eyes.
  • Pointing at something and especially someone with your index finger is common and regarded as ordinary behavior.
  • Serving yourself an alcoholic drink. One must ask other people if they want some, serving them, and serving himself afterward.

Greece

  • Signifying "five" or even "stop" by holding up five fingers, with the palm of the hand facing the listener, especially when the palm is vertical, can be mistaken for an offensive gesture (similar to the finger). When signifying "five" the norm is to have the palm of the hand facing the speaker. Similarly for "Stop" closed fingers should be used.
  • The expression "Hello" is conveyed with a raised index finger and a closed palm. The American style hand waving is considered obscene.
  • "Goodbye" is indicated by facing the palm towards yourself with fingers raised and then moving the fingers up and down (this is exactly like the American version of "come here" and is therefore a serious source of confusion to Americans in Greece).
  • Making a fist with the thumb placed between the middle and index fingers is an offensive gesture.
  • Nodding and head shaking ("yes" and "no") is performed by moving the head only once. The American method of shaking the head several times is considered bizarre, uncivilized, and/or may not be understood, although it is not necessarily rude.
  • No is sometimes conveyed by a slight raise of the eyebrows, often accompanied by a "tsk" sound.
  • Greeks revere water, and they have a saying about stingy people that amounts to, "he would not even offer a glass of water." It is therefore customary when having guests to offer them water.
  • When eating spoon sweets, it is encouraged to just barely lick the sweets off the spoon. Because a visit is generally over when the sweets have been consumed, it is rude to lick or eat them with gusto or in a fast manner (it indicates you can't wait to leave).

Bulgaria

  • When saying 'cheers' and clinking your glass with someone, always look at the person in the eyes.
  • When you give money to somebody, do not put them in his/her hands. If possible, you better put the money on a table or similar place close to the person.

Central Europe

Czech Republic and Slovakia

  • Whistling in a clapping or cheering crowd is negative; it is identical to booing.
  • It is considered mildly impolite to wear baseball caps inside.
  • Women's last name tend to carry the appendix "-ova". For example Mr. Johnson's wife's last name would be Mrs. Johnsonova. Addressing a man with a female form of his last name (e.g., Mr. Johnsonova) is a serious faux pas.

Hungary

  • Simple generalizations about Eastern Europe can be considered incorrect; confusing Hungarians with Russians is particularly offensive because of Hungary's occupation by the USSR. Similarly, not knowing that Hungarians are not of Slavic origin, unlike most of the neighboring nations, and that the Hungarian language has different linguistic roots from the Czech, Slovak, Russian, Serbian etc. languages can be considered as rude.
  • In Hungary, people traditionally consider clinking their glasses/mugs when drinking beer as impolite. Clinking with any other alcoholic beverage, such as wine, champagne or hard liquor is customary, however. (This custom - or rather keeping from a custom - is receding nowadays.)
  • When Transylvania (a region in Romania with a significant Hungarian minority) comes up in a conversation, don't react by mentioning Dracula or the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Transylvania has a particular significance in Hungarian history, and Hungarians may get offended when people recognise this region only because of a popular horror story.
  • When giving flowers to a lady (girl, etc.), the number of them should be odd. Unless you are in love with the lady and want to compete for her, the flowers should not be red roses. White and yellow roses are OK in Hungary, they do not have negative meaning, like in several other countries.
  • Referring to the freedom fighters or revolutionaries of 1848 and 1956 as rebels.

Poland

  • In Poland, it is considered rude to use someone's first name before they introduce themselves to you or use their name first
  • In Poland, Serbia, and Armenia: sitting at a corner of a table is considered bad luck for an unmarried girl, as she will not find a husband.
  • In Armenia, while meeting or greeting someone, it is proper for you shake hands, then kiss both cheeks.
  • In Poland: entering someone's home for an event/dinner without a token gift is impolite.  This rule is rescinded among good friends, and no longer in place among younger generation of Poles.
  • In Poland: greeting guests and conducting transactions (i.e. paying the pizza delivery man) over the doorstep. This is considered unlucky: wait for the person to step inside or step outside yourself.
  • In Poland: dressing casually for Easter, Christmas or other family celebrations is very rude (only in little towns where Christian traditions remain strong, no longer important in bigger towns and cities).
  • In Poland: eating or offering horse meat, is a faux pas since to many Poles eating a horse is like eating a friend; a result of the 1000 year tradition of the Polish cavalry and the well known and admired paintings by Wojciech Kossak.
  • In Poland pointing at something and especially someone with the index finger is considered an extreme lack of good manners.
  • Asking an unfamiliar woman for her age is considered rude or cheeky.
  • In Poland, when offering a cigarette, open the box and allow the receiver to take one out. Do not take the cigarette out and give by hand. It is also customary to light cigarettes, especially for women.
  • In Poland, when offering a candy, a chocolate, a small gift toy for kids, etc. from a set or an assortment, it's considered extremely impolite to select one for the receiver. It's also considered very impolite to take more than one item when selecting one from the set/assortment.
  • In Poland, in schools, it's rude for those children who celebrate their birthdays not to bring wrapped candy for the whole class.

Romania

  • For men shaking hands while wearing gloves is considered impolite. This does not apply to women.
  • For men to sit while women are standing.
  • Giving somebody an even number of flowers. Even numbers of flowers are used at funerals. This does not apply to bouquets larger than a dozen items. [citation needed]
  • Pointing at something and especially someone with your index finger is considered an extreme lack of good manners.
  • Placing a phonecall to somebody after 22:00.
  • Not removing the head cover indoors is considered very rude.
  • Sitting down to eat without removing outer garments and especially keeping your head covered (e.g. wearing a baseball cap when you eat) is considered very bad manners.
  • It is impolite to begin eating before others have been served.
  • Serving yourself an alcoholic drink. One must ask other people if they want some, serving them, and serving himself afterward.
  • Do not confuse the Romanian language roots and associations with any of their neighbours who speak non-related languages, except Moldovans who speak the same language, referring to Moldovan as anything other than Romanian is considered an offensive political statement.
  • As is the case in many languages featuring a T-V distinction addressing somebody you don't know well, especially in a formal context, using the singular form of "you".

Eastern Europe

Russia

  • Sitting at a corner of a table is jokingly considered bad luck for an unmarried person, as it is believed he/she will not find a spouse.
  • Greeting guests and conducting transactions (i.e. paying the pizza delivery man) over the doorstep. This is considered unlucky: wait for the person to step inside or step outside yourself.
  • Leaving an empty bottle on the table is considered wrong. If after pouring a drink the bottle becomes empty do put it on the floor (or into trashcan if found nearby).
  • When passing people in a theater row, face them. It is considered rude to pass with your back (or rear) toward the other person.
  • Whistling indoors is considered to bring bad luck (poverty).
  • Prolonged direct eye contact may be considered aggressive or as invitation to more intimate relationships (especially with opposite sex), so it should be avoided in business relationships.
  • If someone enters your "personal space" (about 1 meter away from you) moving away can be considered disrespectful, but often it is best to avoid direct contact, like patting etc, except with your close friends maybe.

Northern Europe

Finland

  • Talking too much. Finns are not uncomfortable with silent pauses in conversations; thus, cultural misunderstandings may happen when, for example, an American is trying to be friendly by constantly making small talk and a Finn is trying to be friendly by being silent and listening to what he is saying. They both may make an unfriendly impression on each other.
  • The things listed under Norway, Sweden, Denmark also apply to Finland.

Norway, Sweden, Denmark

  • Placing a phonecall to somebody after 22:00.
  • Sitting down to eat without removing outer garments, such as a winter jacket. This also applies to headgear, although some young people like to wear their headgear almost all the time.
  • In some Scandinavian countries, not finishing your food implies that the food was terrible and could not be eaten. In Norway, Sweden and Denmark a person does not have to finish all of their food if someone else served, but it would be rude if they don't finish what they served themselves. [citation needed]
  • Smoking indoors is illegal in public places according to Norwegian and Swedish law and smoking indoors in private places without asking permission is considered rude. Offer the host to smoke outside and he/she may grant you permission to smoke indoors. Even if the host smokes or has ashtrays indoors, you should still ask if it is okay if you smoke (as long as he/she doesn't offer you a cigarette).
  • In Norway and Sweden it is considered very impolite not to remove one's shoes when entering someone's house and going further in than the foyer. This room is intended for exactly shoes, coats and the like.

Iceland

  • Lighting a cigarette from a candle is by some people regarded as rude, many Icelanders are fishermen and it is believed that this act "kills a fisherman". The origin comes from the custom of lighting a candle in your window when someone in your house is returning from sea, this was believed to help them find their way. Lighting something from the candle might kill the flame and subsequently the fisherman as he won't find his way home.
  • In Iceland it is considered very rude to leave a dinner table without thanking the host for the meal. In Icelandic, the phrase used is, Takk fyrir mig. The host then normally responds with Veri r a gu.
  • Most of the items mentioned for Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland also apply to Iceland.
  • While at a dinner party it is considered rude to leave the table while others are still eating.

Estonia

  • Cutting a slice of bread with a knife is considered disrespectful. It should be ripped with the fingers.
  • If bread is dropped on the ground it should be kissed before being thrown away. This is a way of honoring the tradition of baking.

Western Europe

Austria

  • In Austria it is impolite to begin eating before all others have been served, unless asked to do so by your host or hostess.
  • Referring to Austrians as Germans.
  • Opening a door that someone has closed for privacy without knocking or otherwise seeking permission is considered rude and an invasion of privacy.
  • Austrians tend to be more reserved than e.g. Americans. They value their privacy more and use phrases like "thank you" etc. more sparingly. They do not hug guests by default. To the unaccustomed ear the German language Austrians use perhaps sounds "harsh" (this also applies to Nordic languages). This does not mean, however, that they are in fact less friendly.
  • As is the case in many languages featuring a T-V distinction, addressing someone with the familiar second person pronoun (du) when they should be addressed with the formal form (Sie).  This is becoming less strict with younger people, but should always be observed in older or more conservative circles.
  • Placing a phone call to somebody after 10 p.m. (22:00) , unless by previous appointment or calling a friend. Furthermore, do not call between 7.30 p.m. and 8.00 p.m (19:30 - 20:00), as most Austrians watch the prime time daily news at that time.
  • The tapping of one's index finger on the side of the head or the waving of one's hand up and down in front of their face (palm of the hand towards the face) are both considered offensive gestures. Both of these gestures, along with the phrase, Sie haben einen Vogel (lit.: You have a bird), insinuate that the other person is crazy or deranged. In some cases, i.e. regarding police officers or judges, the offense may be fined. The severity of this offense has lessened to some extent in the last decades.
  • Displaying a swastika and other Nazi symbols as well as certain Nazi-gestures is generally illegal in Austria and even a criminal offence in some cirsumstances for which you can be sentenced to prison. It can be considered rude to mention or refer to Nazi Germany during normal conversation, unless the topic was started/offered by a Austrian. Even for Austrians, this topic is often considered thin ice. Although most Austrians do not feel responsible for what happened several generations ago, they feel that it is important to show a sensitive and mature approach to their past. So, before taking part in discussions about fascism and the Third Reich in Germany and Austria, make sure that your knowledge of the historic past is sufficient.
  • Asking an unfamiliar woman for her age (especially if she appears older than yourself).
  • Letting women open a door for a man. Male persons should always offer to open a door for women. This applies to many other aspects of life as well. Generally, let women walk first in narrow spots, except stairs or ladders.
  • Austrians are hesitant to speak about money or "how much they make a year". Bringing up this topic is considered crude.

Belgium

  • Belgians are very reserved when it comes to money. They will not say how much money they make or have on their bank accounts. When you give someone a gift, make sure that it does not include a price tag. Giving cash is accepted however.
  • The northern part of Belgium is Flanders, where Dutch is spoken. French is used in the south of Belgium, the Walloon region. There is also a relatively small German-speaking community in the east of Belgium. Both Dutch and French are spoken in Brussels. Considering Belgium to be a country where only Dutch or French is spoken is considered to be very offensive. It is considered extremely offensive to speak French to a Flemish local or Dutch to a Walloon local.
  • The Flemish political party Vlaams Belang, which is the former Vlaams Blok, one of the largest parties in Flanders, is excluded from any coalition government: the cordon sanitaire. This cordon sanitaire is a very sensitive political issue. Questioning it will often have you frowned upon.
  • Voting preferences are not made public in Belgium, especially not if the party is Vlaams Belang. This explains the discrepancy between exit polls and actual election results.

France

  • Like in many languages featuring a T-V distinction, addressing people with the familiar "tu" (like in Middle English thou) when they should be addressed with "vous" (you) is seen as derogatory, insulting, or even aggressive. Conversely, addressing familiars with "vous" is considered snobbish and introduces distance.
  • Assuming that people speak English without inquiry may be found unpleasant; being able to greet in French and ask whether the interlocutor speaks English is highly appreciated.
  • Offering chrysanthemums is in bad taste, since they are traditionally reserved for mourners.
  • Offering red roses to a hostess or for professional reasons is inappropriate, as they express love.
  • Not finishing one's meal implies that the food is so poor one cannot finish it, or the host does not correctly balance the quantity of food one needs.
  • Serving yourself wine first. One must ask other people if they want some more wine, serving them, and serving himself afterward. If you just opened a bottle, it is customary to pour a little bit of wine in your own glass so that the little bit of cork that was dropped in the bottle when opening it doesn't go in somebody else's glass.
  • Putting a piece of bread on one's plate. Leave it on the table beside the plate. (Bread is not considered a part of the meal, but rather more like salt and pepper. This is why they do not charge for bread at the restaurant.)
  • Biting into the piece of bread directly (unless you have something on it -butter, pt,...). One should break a small piece off, and put it into one's mouth. (Same reason as above).
  • It is inappropriate to rest one's hands under the table or to have the elbows on the table.
  • Crossing the fork and knife on the plate when the dish is finished; they should be more or less parallel or else it expressess that one hasn't eaten enough.
  • Bringing a bottle of wine to a formal dinner in somebody's home suggests that the hosts are unable to provide their own wine. One may do so if you explain your hosts that you want them to discover a good wine that one like and that they do not know . (One should not bring a "good" bottle if one is not sure if it is good - it is not a question of price of the wine, it is a question of taste.)
  • Putting a loaf of bread upside down. It is a bad omen because it is said that the loaf that was put upside down by the baker was reserved for the executioner.
  • Holding one's umbrella open indoors may be seen as an omen of bad luck.
  • For a man, not taking off one's hat (or cap) when saluting. This was a practice of the Victorian age as it is now less practiced.
  • For a man, giving a handshake while wearing a glove. Coming out of use and was also present in the early 19th century England.
  • For both sexes, shaking hands with a woman in a casual context introduces distance. Embracing (holding each other loosely in the arms while lightly kissing each other's cheek) is usually expected. The number of cheek-kisses varies from region to region between 2, 3 or 4.
  • Giving the American "O-K" gesture, which in France means "zero" or "worthless".

Germany

A rather comprehensive introduction on what is considered good manners in Germany can be found in the "Knigge". The original Knigge is a book on manners by Adolf Freiherr Knigge written in the 18th century. Nowadays, there are a bunch of books with a similar title, adapted to newer times. Much of what is described in the Knigge doesn't necessarily apply to everyone, especially when dealing with younger people, the rules are far more relaxed.
  • Opening a door that someone has closed for privacy without knocking or otherwise seeking permission is considered rude and an invasion of privacy.
  • In German business dealings, scooting your chair closer to the host is considered an insult.
  • Germans tend to be more reserved than e.g. Americans. They value their privacy more and use phrases like "thank you" etc. more sparingly. They do not hug guests by default or ask everybody "How do you do?". To the unaccustomed ear the German language perhaps sounds "harsh" (this also applies to Nordic languages). This does not mean, however, that they are in fact less friendly.
  • As is the case in many languages featuring a T-V distinction, addressing someone with the familiar second person pronoun (du) when they should be addressed with the formal form (Sie).
  • Placing a phone call to somebody after 10 p.m. (22:00) , unless by previous appointment or calling a friend. Furthermore, do not call senior citizens between 8 p.m. and 8.15 p.m (20:00 - 20:15), as many of them watch the prime time daily news at that time.
  • The tapping of one's index finger on the side of their head, or the waving of one's hand up and down in front of their face (palm of the hand towards the face) are both considered offensive gestures. Both of these gestures, along with the phrase, Sie haben einen Vogel (lit.: You have a bird), insinuate that the other person is crazy or deranged. The same applies to pointing one's index finger to one's temple, and imitating a screwing motion. The corresponding expression in german is eine Schraube locker haben (lit.: to have a loose screw). In some cases, especially regarding police officers or judges, the offense may be fined. The severity of this offense has lessened to some extent in the last decades.
  • Displaying a swastika and other Nazi symbols as well as certain Nazi-gestures is illegal in Germany and considered extremely rude and will be fined. It can be considered rude to mention or refer to Nazi Germany during normal conversation, unless the topic was started/offered by a German. Even for Germans, this topic is often considered thin ice. Although most Germans do not feel responsible for what happened several generations ago, they feel that it is important to show a sensitive and mature approach to their past. So, before taking part in discussions about fascism and the Third Reich in Germany, make sure that your knowledge of the historic past is sufficient.
  • When eating, starting to eat before the hostess or eldest lady on table is considered rude. This also counts for taking the last bit of a dish without asking if any other person would like to have some, or taking a second portion while other people have not finished their first yet.
  • Offering yellow roses to a married woman, since yellow roses are considered as a symbol for adultery by some people.[citation needed]
  • Asking an unfamiliar woman for her age (especially if she appears older than yourself) or weight.
  • In Germany, as well as in Austria, it is impolite to begin eating before others have been served. Also it is impolite to begin eating without wishing everybody Guten Appetit (lit.: good appetite) first.
  • During a meal, crossing your cutlery on the plate means that you are taking a break, but have not finished eating. If you are finished, place you knife and fork parallelly on the plate.
  • If you served yourself, or had the opportunity to tell the serving person to stop serving you (so, almost always except in a restaurant), it is considered rude to not finish your plate. Kids are told that not finishing your plate causes bad weather the next day.
  • Especially in the north of Germany, using a candle to light a cigarette is said to kill a fisherman. The reason for this is that in former times fishermen earned their living during wintertime by producing matches.
  • Putting your glass down on the table after clinking glasses (and before drinking) is considered rude in some parts of Germany. It is said to "invalidate" the Prost (cheers).
  • When clinking glasses you are supposed to look into the person's eyes who you are toasting. Not doing so results in seven years of bad luck (or, more specifically, bad sex).
  • Not closing your umbrella before stepping inside any building, even if there is more than enough room for it open. (It is considered bad luck to open an umbrella indoors)
  • It is considered impolite to not cover your mouth and nose when sneezing, coughing or yawning.
  • Letting one or both hands rest under the table or on your lap during eating is considered rude.
  • Addressing someone by their first name without mutual agreement is considered overly familiar.
  • Never touch someone who is not an intimate or very close friend. It is considered very rude.
  • When eating, use a knife and fork. Normally the fork is held in the left hand throughout the meal, but the North American custom of holding a fork in the right hand and switching will be overlooked provided a knife is held at all times. The North American custom of eating with just a fork is considered bad table manners.
  • It is good manners to greet strangers when entering an elevator, a waiting room, and when sharing tables, and to say goodbye. It is not customary to greet strangers on the street.
  • It is not common in Germany to talk about someone's income or financial situation.
  • People normally don't tell their political preference or even their voting decision. Asking for this is considered very nosy and intrusive, especially by elder people.
  • Germany is a smoking society, and non-smokers are expected to accept this. It is considered gauche to make a fuss or object to someone smoking. Simply remove yourself quietly.
  • In the workplace, you are expected to bring cake or buy lunch for colleagues when it is your birthday, or when you are leaving the company.

Ireland

  • Referring to Britain and Ireland as the British Isles, or to Britain as the "Mainland". Most Irish people will consider this offensive.
  • Referring to the Republic of Ireland as a part or special case of the United Kingdom rather than the independent nation that it is.
  • Referring to the Republic of Ireland as ire can sometimes be taken as an insult. Although ire is the official title of the state, it can be considered a patronizing term when used by the English media (see ire for further clarification). It is more common to refer to the country as "Ireland" or "the Republic of Ireland" in everyday conversation.
  • Referring to Derry city or county Derry as Londonderry among the nationalist community, including the Republic of Ireland; OR referring to Londonderry as Derry among the unionist community.
  • When out for drinks with work colleagues or friends, it is sometimes considered rude not to pay for a "round" of drinks (i.e. each individual present pays for a set of drinks for all present). However this practice is most common amongst groups of friends. Should the first set of drinks be bought by a single person, then it is polite to continue that practice. This usually does not apply if it is understood that you are only going to be having one or two drinks or if you are in unfamiliar or casual company. It may still apply if you are not drinking alcohol but still staying for more than two or three drinks.
  • It is illegal to smoke indoors in any workplace in Ireland including all bars, restaurants and offices. This is almost universally observed. Smoking indoors is becoming increasingly frowned on, especially in the presence of others who do not smoke or in another person's home. It is not considered rude to ask permission, but it is often considered more polite to go outside to smoke.
  • The Republic of Ireland shares many faux pas in common with the United Kingdom, many of which are listed below under the title United Kingdom.

Italy

  • It's forbidden to enter a church if you don't have your upper arms and (male) legs covered by clothes; for women a skirt within a couple of inches of the knee is acceptable. You will be shown outside if you wear very short sleeves or short pants in church. Locals often complain about tourists breaking this rule.
  • Like in many languages, there are two distinct way of addressing people; one familiar used with friends and relatives ("tu"), and one formal used with strangers and (usually) co-workers ("lei"). Thus, it's considered impolite (or even aggressive) to address people with the familiar one when the formal one is seen as appropriate.
  • Biting into the piece of bread directly (butter, pt, etc should be placed on a small piece broken off, and then put whole into one's mouth).
  • Bread must be broken with hands and not with a knife or other cutlery. This is because hungry peasants crammed their mouths with food; the better bred were less hungry, and displaying teeth tearing off chunks of bread is not attractive to behold.
  • Crossing the fork and knife on the plate when the dish is finished; they should be more or less parallel (at the "four o'clock position").
  • After entering, leaving one's coat without being invited to do so. One must ask first.
  • Putting one's hat on a bed is considered ominous by some.
  • Entering into a shop without greeting the proprietor. A friendly "Buona Sera" or some other polite greeting is expected, even if just browsing.
  • Asking for the check immediatly after finishing one's meal is generally seen as rude, take the time to relax and enjoy your surroundings and "un cappucino".
  • Wearing white socks is seen as a sign of weakness or of being a "mamma's boy".

Netherlands

  • Addressing the country as Holland is considered incorrect in most parts of the Netherlands, since Holland only covers two of the provinces of the country. Although it is considered formally incorrect, few people will object to it in informal speech.
  • Addressing a stranger, especially older person with the familiar second person pronoun instead of the formal form, is considered as a friendly form. Addressing someone in a formal manner is considered too formal. Business people in general always use the formal form in initial correspeondence and formal correspondence, but in direct communication people will quickly insist on using first names.
  • Not closing your umbrella before stepping inside any building, even if there is more than enough room for it open. (It is traditionally considered bad luck to open an umbrella indoors, a belief only still held by the very few Dutch people who are superstitious)
  • Unlike in other countries like Russia, being asked to come and visit in the afternoon does not include an invitation to dinner. Staying longer in the expectation to be served dinner is considered rude. In general you will always announce your visit and it is considered rude to be late even 5 minutes, while it is considered unpleasant to be early more than 5 minutes.
  • Opening the door for women or offering to help and carry luggage for women, is considered overly considerate and as sexist by most women.
  • Making fun of people is considered a way to break down formality between people, so to behave in a too formal manner being overly polite is considered a refusal to reach more friendly terms. Formality in general is considered as keeping your distance or even as coming across hypocrite.
  • It is considered obligatory to kiss family and friends three times on the cheek when meeting.

Portugal

  • Asking an unfamiliar woman for her age.

Spain

  • At Spanish restaurants it is considered rude for the staff to bring a customer the check without the customer first requesting it.
  • Using the pronoun "t" instead of "usted" (formal you) when talking to an elder stranger might be seen as impolite.
  • Leaving a tip at restaurants and bares is a common practice, though not always necessarily observed, and usually a low amount. Normally you would leave the minor coins of the change when paying the bill with cash, and no tip at all when paying by credit card.
  • There are at least four distinct languages (Galician, Catalan, Spanish, Basque). Nearly everyone speaks the dominant language, Spanish (Castellano), but betraying ignorance of the subcultures (especially the one you happen to be in) will appear rude.
  • You should not question the political beliefs of those who want their state (usually one of the former kingdoms conquered by Castile) to be independent from Spain. Although it may sound unfamliar, this is a very controversial issue in Spain nowadays and you should show some knowledge as well as respect for their intentions.
  • There are some traditional issues that you should avoid to discuss about: fighting bulls ("Toros"), religion and fascism/nationalism. Regarding the last one, Spain is still divided after a relatively recent Civil War.
  • Most spaniards have very low spoken-English skills and some of them even refuse to try to speak it and ask foreigners to speak spanish. You should avoid in any case argueing whether Spanish or English is a better language, and put all of your efforts in trying to express yourself with gestures if it's needed.
  • Be very observative and pay attention to every detail and word you hear. Spanish people will be very thankful to hear some gossip when talking about someone.
  • Always try to look relaxed and casual. You can speak loudly, gesture exaggeratedly, use physical contact and make your hosts laugh without making anyone feel awkward.
  • You have to greet (saludar) all your neighbours, even if you have never talked to them.
  • When greeting, women expect to receive two cheek-kisses (one in each side of their face) and men expect a hand shake.
  • When entering a place where there's people eating, it's polite to tell them to enjoy their meal ("que aproveche").
  • When you are invited to watching a football match, which is very common, you should never criticise the host's team. Football is one of the most common subjets in arguments, as well as politics.

Switzerland

  • Arriving right on time or slightly ahead of time when visiting friends is considered inappropriate. It is usually well received to arrive a bit late instead (10-15 minutes). This resulted in the expression quart d'heure vaudois, i.e. arriving fifteen minutes late in the Canton de Vaud.

 

UNITED KINGDOM

  • Signifying "two" of something by holding up two fingers separated, with the back of the hand pointed towards the listener, can be mistaken for an offensive gesture (similar to the finger). Holding up two fingers with the hand held the other way (palm of the hand towards the listener) is perfectly acceptable (as it forms the "Peace" sign and the "V for victory" sign used during World War II). See also The V sign as an insult.  To avoid confusion, "two" can be shown on the hand with the thumb and index finger, rather than the index and middle fingers.
  • Calling the united - but culturally and socially independent - countries (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland) "England". This may be regarded as highly offensive to everybody including the English. Sensitivity is appreciated regarding national identity (some prefer to be "English", some "British", some "Scottish", etc.).
  • It is considered proper to hold doors open for others before you pass the threshold yourself, particularly for women, the elderly or those carrying heavy or bulky goods that could prevent them opening the door themselves. However help should be offered before any physical contact, even that of helping an Old Age Pensioner with their bags, can occur. If you are on the receiving end, a "thank you" is expected, even in hotels where people are paid to do this for you.
  • Asking an unfamiliar woman for her age (especially if she appears older than yourself) or weight.
  • Queueing is expected when there is any demand for an item. The only exception to this is a pub or bar, where finding a space at the bar displays your intention. However it is still considered rude to allow a barperson to serve you before someone who has been waiting longer than you.
  • Many English words have different, sometimes contradictory or offensive (such as fanny, which is a mildly humorous word for female genitalia) meanings in Britain and the USA or Canada (consider Dick's Sporting Goods). A basic knowledge of British word usage is looked kindly upon from visitors from other Anglophone nations, although those who do not speak English as a first language will be given far more clemency.
  • In the United States it is common to vocally thank the host after a meal, often stopping to propose a toast. In Britain a small gift for the host given upon entering such as flowers for the table or wine or chocolates for the meal combined with more subdued thanks is more common.
  • Complaining if the person who called an important meeting is late can be seen as impolite in some more traditional businesses; if they are important enough to call the meeting they are important enough to wait for.
  • Not offering tea or coffee to a guest.
  • Kissing (or hugging) people you don't know or people with whom you have been briefly acquainted (this could even include relatives of your spouse - the inlaws).
  • Talking (or asking) about one's personal wealth, possessions or success in business is seen as vulgar. It is generally frowned upon to ask one's work colleagues about their salary, and in some places of work it is forbidden.
  • Eating chips/French fries with your fingers in a restaurant is not done. Use your fork instead. You can use your fingers to eat meat if it's on the bone, such as chicken legs. Use of the fingers is acceptable when the food is served buffet style.
  • Pointing directly towards someone whilst talking about them, or just pointing at people in general.
  • Touching someone to get their attention unless it's an emergency or touching someone without saying "excuse me" or "sorry".
  • Not shaking hands when meeting someone for the first time.
  • It is considered polite to offer up a seat on public transport to elderly people (and older women in general), pregnant women, or the infirm. In fact many public transport authorities now request this by placing signs in the vehicles, and a space MUST be given up to elderly people or wheelchair users in these instances. It is also considered polite to offer a seat in a busy bar or other informal setting (shopping centre, waiting room) to others.
  • In a pub or bar it is traditional to buy drinks in rounds (i.e. one person will buy for a number of others) trying to stay out of this group or offer money to the buyer can be seen as rude. Not buying a round is very rude. It is generally accepted that not everyone will stay long enough to buy a round, instead of trying to avoid being in the round it is better to accept the drink with thanks. This is done on the understanding that at a later date this might be reciprocated.
  • Whereas "asking nicely" is often sufficient for politeness in the USA, tone of voice is not adequate for polite requests in the UK: you must follow requests with "please".
  • Summoning shop workers or servers with gestures, or particularly with snapping of fingers, is considered rude.
  • It is considered rude not to bag your own groceries at the check-out. This is a faux pas commonly committed by Americans, because bags are commonly packed for them by store employees in the United States. In some shops, particularly supermarkets, help with packing may be offered by the cashier before they begin checking out your items.
  • In Northern Ireland, asking people whether they are Catholic or Protestant is considered inflammatory.
  • Specific to Scotland (may also apply to other parts of the UK); On Hogmanay (New Year's Eve) going into someone's house without a bottle (of alcohol) or forgetting to say "Happy New Year"
  • Asking which church a person attends or questions about their religious beliefs in general are considered impolite.

 

LATIN AMERICA

  • In Latin American culture, it is considered impolite to "toss" objects to people instead of directly handing it to them.
  • The American "come here" gesture of palm upwards with the fingers curled back is considered a romantic solicitation.
  • Latin American cultures have a smaller sense of personal space than other cultures and it is considered rude to step away when someone is stepping closer.

Brazil

  • Flashing the American "O-K" gesture is considered inappropriate because in Brazil that gesture refers to the anus. Flipping someone off by hitting the wrist against the inside of the elbow is considered playful and not offensive (usually called giving someone a "banana"). The "thumbs up" gesture is acceptable and widely used. Although, don't be too surprised if a Brazilian is gesturing with the OK gesture, as long as it is not directed to someone it's not offensive.
  • Gift giving among the opposite sex can be misinterpreted as having romantic overtures.
  • When offering something, especially food, offer at least three times, and enforce the offer a bit more each time. It is considered rude if you offer something only once. As a result, it is not considered rude if you politely refuse an offer. In fact, sometimes it is offered only as politeness and there is no expectation that you will accept.
  • In certain parts of the country, most notably rural areas, it is considered rude to walk up to a house or apartment door and knock. The appropriate action is to stand in the yard and clap your hands. If no one comes to the door, then the visitor may approach the door, knock, and then step back away from the door and await a response.
  • The common gratuity is ten percent of the bill, and any more is not expected or usual. Fine restaurants and popular tourists spots expect a tip, especially from foreigners, however the rest of the country doesn't usually get a tip and don't be surprised if your tip is refused. Taxi drivers sometimes give a reverse 'tip' rather than giving exact change (i.e the charge you less than what the meter reads).
  • Saying "please" with too much emphasis may be considered rude. In Brazilian portuguese, "please" is implied by the tone of the question, and is normally used to demonstrate frustration at the lack of a proper response or action.
  • Although technically, Brazilians are "Americans" too, they are aware, from watching Holywood movies, that U.S. citizens call themselves "Americans" and aren't offended if you call yourself an "American" instead of "U.S. citizen".
  • Kissing women is common, and only a little less common in business contexts. Both men and women kiss a woman on both cheeks (i.e. twice). Depending on where you are the number of kisses may vary: one kiss in So Paulo and three kisses in Belo Horizonte, for example. Kissing the wrong number of times will show you are from out of town. You often kiss both meeting the person (especially after not having seen them for a few days) and when saying goodbye (especially after a party). It's perfectly acceptable for a man to shake hands with a woman if they have met for the first time, and is more polite than kissing if the husband or significant other is present.
  • For men they should shake hands both when meeting and when saying goodbye. Once you know each other better, the other hand gets involved as well, either as a form of light hug or just tapping the other's side.
  • Not saying hello (complimentando) or saying goodbye (descomplimentando) can be quite rude. Foreigners are given a little more leeway, but only a little. Unfortunally, it depends a little on the context, but it is best if you make an effort to say hello or goodbye. You don't need to kiss or shake hands every time, especially if you expect to meet them again the next day.

Chile

  • In Chile, wine is expected to be poured with the right hand.
  • Smoking is banned on public transportation and in cinemas.

Ecuador

  • It is polite for someone to ask permission before taking a photograph. A tip may be requested in exchange for that permission.
  • Beachwear should only be worn at the beach and not in town.

Mexico

  • Criticism of nepotism in business dealings.
  • The color purple is associated with funeral and should be avoided when giving flowers.
  • The courtesy titles "Seora" and "Seorita" (Mrs. and Miss, respectively) are taken colloquially as "Married Woman" and "Virgin Woman", as a woman is not supposed to have lost virginity unless married. Even older women should be addressed as "Seorita" if their marital status is unknown, especially in rural areas.
  • When an invitation is issued the invitee assumes everything will be paid for, unless clarified. Even if he/she offers to pay their part.
  • It's considered rude to talk about sex or bodily functions openly, even though double entendres are a common form of humor and joking.
  • Several kinds of food are eaten with the fingers (tacos, tortas) and it's considered snobbish to eat them with fork and knife. In case of doubt wait to see how the rest of the table eats their own.
  • Toasting with water is considered bad luck and, in a lesser degree, toasting with any non-alcoholic drink.
  • Women expect doors to be opened for them as a sign of chivalry by the closest male to them. This also applies to lighting of cigarettes and helping them to their seat.
  • Unless the service is really bad, tips should never be below 10% of the bill total, as they're commonly the waiter's main means of income. 15% is recommended in highly-frequented places.
  • Eating all of a food on your plate indicates that you want a second portion of that item. To indicate you are finished, leave just a few bites.

Nicaragua

  • Refusing a drink on a hot day or not praising the host for the quality of the meal is considered rude.
  • Knocking softly on someone's front door. One should knock loudly on the door so that one can easily be heard.
  • Referring to the United States as 'America'. To Nicaraguans, they too are 'Americans'. The USA should be referred to as 'Los Estados Unidos', and in adjective form as 'estadounidense'.
  • Not heeding the advice of Nicaraguans urging you not to shower when you are hot, or agitado would be considered poor form.
  • Not heeding the advice for women not to sit on rocks... it's said to reduce their ability to procreate (the rocks are hot).
  • Calling someone a "cochn" (homosexual), when you really want to buy a "colchn" (mattress)
 

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