Monday, March 26, 2012

Cultural Faux Pas to Avoid

Hi everyone!  Today I am excited to host Joe from Total Travel Blog as my guest writer!  We all know how important good manners and cultural sensitivity are to me, so I am extra-happy that he wrote the following to share with us.  Go check out his blog and show him some love!

Ten Cultural Faux Pas to Avoid Around the World

When embarking on an extended period of travel to far-flung destinations, how to behave towards the locals is probably the last thing on your mind, after all, they embrace tourists with open arms right? On the whole yes, locals, even those unfamiliar with tourism, are warm and friendly, but a degree of respect is required, it certainly pays to do some research on the local customs where you plan to visit because even the most routine gestures or utterances can cause great offence to cultures you may not be familiar with.

Here are Ten Cultural Faux Pas to avoid in various countries around the world;

1.       Staying Sober, Russia
Many countries consider being drunk in public to be unacceptable, and in some, it is indeed illegal. Not in Russia. Alcohol is a big part of life in Eastern Europe and the former USSR and the national drink, Vodka is imbibed routinely throughout the day by people of all ages and classes. If you are offered a Vodka here, kindly accept and begrudging neck it, not doing so is considered incredibly rude.

2.       Saying No Everything, Albania
The headshake to indicate ‘no’ and the nod to indicate ‘yes’ is almost universally accepted, but in the small south-eastern European country of Albania, this is not the case, the meanings are reversed so make sure you re-educate yourself before visiting or you could end up agreeing to things you normally wouldn’t!

3.       Shaking with your Left Hand, Most Muslim Countries
In Muslim cultures, the left hand is considered unclean, so the right should be reserved for activities like eating and shaking hands. Lefties beware!

4.       Clearing your Plate, Egypt
In all but the most touristy areas of Egypt, it’s considered rude to finish everything on your plate since it implies that your hosts haven’t provided enough food. Make sure you overfill your plate or eat slowly to ensure you’re fully satisfied.

5.       Showing Five Fingers, Greece
In most western countries, showing the index finger, or index finger and first finger with the palm facing away from the body is extremely offensive. In Greece however, an opposing (away from the body) palm with five fingers displayed is called the ‘moutza’, and is considered equally vulgar.

6.       Leaving Chopsticks Upright in Your Bowl, Japan
Jamming your chopsticks in an upright position in your rice resembles the incense sticks used as a memorial when someone dies in Japan, so don’t do it! Instead lay your chopsticks flat.

7.       Public Shows of Affection, Dubai
Many people get caught out with this because, although Dubai is very westernized and tolerant of outside cultures, it still has Islamic underpinnings you shouldn’t hold hands with or even touch your partner in public, doing so is extremely offensive and could result in a substantial fine or even a jail sentence. Get a room!

8.       Whistling, Czech Republic
In the Czech Republic, whistling is akin to booing, so show your appreciation through the traditional medium of applause

9.       Showing the Soles of Your Feet, India
Indians, as well as most inhabitants of most Far-eastern and South-East Asian countries are offended by people showing the soles of their feet in public, this is considered to be the most unclean part of the body.

10.   Keeping Your Distance, South America
In contrast to most other regions of the world, South Americans are very touchy feely and often sit or stand in close proximity, even in business situations. Keeping your distance could be considered rude so embrace their customs and reciprocate physical contact wherever possible
Joe is a travel blogger who’s made his fair share of cultural faux pas before, he’ll make sure he familiarises himself with the local customs before he goes on his Caribbean holidays this year. You can follow his adventures on his travel blog, or contribute one of your own stories via the write for us page!

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