You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Cultural faux pas every traveller will want to avoid

Photos logoPhotos 11/07/2016

Travelling is the best way to learn about new cultures and customs. However, a globe-trotter should be aware of some common local customs and practices that may be acceptable in one nation, but considered objectionable in another. Check out some major ones below.

© Veronika Trofer/Getty Images

Westerners travelling to Asian countries may want to be extra careful about the chopstick etiquette followed there. It’s considered inappropriate to leave your chopsticks sticking upright in your bowl of rice. This way, it looks like incense offered to the dead. Instead, lay them down flat, parallel to each other, after finishing the meal.

Stepping over someone’s leg is considered rude in Nepal, and touching a person’s head is an objectionable gesture in Thailand.

© luckyraccoon/Getty Images

Tipping culture varies from country to country. Therefore, it's important to familiarise yourself with the local customs first, before you travel. For instance, in the US, tipping isn’t compulsory, but it is expected. And, if you’re not tipping, you’d better have a good reason for that. It's usually a 10% tip for an informal bar meal and closer to 20% for a table-service restaurant.

© Tempura/Getty Images

When in China, do not finish all the food on your plate if you are being hosted. It might offend your hosts as a clean plate signals that you haven’t been served enough food and may want more.

Travellers in some countries – including Bulgaria, Albania, and Macedonia – should remember that a single nod of the head indicates “no” rather than “yes”. Shaking head left to right means "yes." Try not to mix those up while conversing with a local.

undefined © Punit Paranjpe/Reuters undefined

Boarding local trains in India can be quite a task, given the number of people you would have to shove and push to make your way inside the cabin. It’s alright to get a little aggressive and show promptness to grab a seat, and then, say your apologies later!

© Yarochkins/iStock/Getty Images

Avoid the faux pas of giving flowers in even numbers in countries including Russia and Azerbaijan. Flowers are offered in even numbers mainly during funerals here. Additionally, refrain from gifting yellow flowers in Russia, and marigolds in Mexico, as they are associated with death.

In Egypt, it is considered as an insult to the chef when you add salt to a dish. 

© mrcmos/Getty Images

In many countries - for example in Greece, Belize, Ethiopia, and some parts of Argentina - the plumbing cannot cope with flushed lavatory paper. Look out for a pedal bin by the side of the toilet: that’s where your used paper needs to go.

© Rupert Hartley/Rex/Shutterstock

If you’re from a country which frowns upon public displays of affection, remember that some nations embrace or kiss as a gesture of welcome. The French kiss on both cheeks is an etiquette followed even with strangers, while making acquaintance. Greeks also follow this double-kiss culture, and may even pull you into one despite your reluctance.

Korean eating etiquette dictates that you should not begin eating until the eldest male at the table starts his meal. Should one of your elders offer you a drink, be sure to accept it with both hands.

© Getty Images

You may consider thumbs-up as a motivating gesture, but in Iran it is considered rude to show anyone your thumb. Similarly, showing your palm to someone will have offensive connotations in Greece.

undefined © Todor Tsvetkov/Getty Images undefined

In Japan, keep your phone on silent or vibration mode if you have to use it in public. This is often referred to as “manner mode.” In particular, it’s seen as rude to talk on your phone on trains.

Westerners consider making eye contact as a sign of assertion and confidence. However, this could be understood differently in Nigeria. Making a lot of eye contact in this African nation can be considered downright rude and aggressive. Culturally, Nigerians tend not to gaze directly at their superiors eye-to-eye out of respect.

undefined © ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock undefined

Women are not allowed to make physical contact with monks in Laos.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon