The weirdest etiquette rules from around the world

Here in the UK, we know to bring along a bottle or a dessert when visiting a friend’s for dinner for example. It’s a pretty simple unspoken rule. In other countries and cultures though, etiquette can be verrry different. Do the same thing in Italy and you’ll offend your host because they’ll think that what they are offering isn’t good enough for you. It seems bizarre but, it gets weirder. As a case in point, here are just some the weirdest etiquette rules from around the world…

download (57)

  • In Portugal, if you ask for any condiments that aren’t already on the table, including salt and pepper, get ready for the cold shoulder. Asking indicates the food they’ve offered you isn’t good enough for you – cue offense.
  • If you fill up your own glass in Japan, you’ll be branded an alcoholic. You should always fill someone else’s first and then wait your turn for it to be reciprocated.
  • In most cultures, eating is a social occasion, but you had better not talk during a meal when in Africa, Japan or China. It’s just not the ‘done’ thing and you’ll need to wait until everyone has finished eating before starting a conversation.
  • Personal space and eye contact is a biggie – in Italy, it’s encouraged. If you don’t look the person you’re speaking with in the eye, you’ll give off a shifty impression so show that you’re interested in what they have to say. In places like Japan and Korea it’s the opposite however and you’ll make people uncomfortable. In general, if you’re in Europe get eye balling, in the Far East, keep eye contact to a minimum.
  • If you happen to be in Denmark around any holidays, festivals or events, don’t don a mask; fancy dress or otherwise! You could wind up getting yourself arrested.
  • Visiting Singapore? Make sure clean hygiene is a priority or you could end up with a fine of up to $1,000 fine for smoking in public, $2,000 for littering and even $75 if you don’t flush the loo.
  • If a trip to Thailand is in your plans, don’t think about touching anyone’s head while you’re here. Thai people see it as the most important part of the body and to touch it is considered disrespectful.
  • From taxis to tuk tuks, getting around is a whole other minefield when it comes to etiquette, especially hailing them conversation topics! When it comes to the fee, in Thailand always check the price for the journey before you start; in London, New York or Australia, try to barter and you’ll probably be left on the side of the road to try again with the next taxi. (It’s probably better to organise car hire instead– at least, it will be one less thing to worry about!)
  • Lefties; look out when you’re in Africa, the Middle East and India. You had better train yourself before you arrive not to use your left hand, especially for hand shaking or passing anything. It’s considered unclean and reserved for personal hygiene use only!
  • The colour white is generally associated with death so you could be asking for trouble in more places than one. In Italy, Hong Kong, China, India and more, try not to wear white clothes. If you are giving flowers for any reason, it’s probably best to avoid white wherever you go, in case you accidentally give someone funeral flowers!

And that’s just for starters…if I was to share all of the weird etiquette rules around the world I’d be here all day! Brush up on your public decorum rules to ensure you don’t make a faux pas on your travels…

Bio: Kerri Ware writes for Economy Car Hire, a holiday car hire broker based in the UK which provides car hire around the world. Remember, a free additional driver and built in excess insurance are always included in the price!