A Guide to Global Etiquette

by Travelbag on 13 December 2018, 15:12PM

Chopsticks etiquette

Going on holiday is one of the most exciting, rewarding and relaxing pastimes that us Brits have come to adore, but travelling to foreign counties is not without its difficulties. There can be language barriers, cultural mishaps and things to do – or not do – to avoid insulting the locals.

We conducted a survey to uncover the habits of Brits abroad and to see whether cultural differences affect your trip. Over 20% of Brits don’t research local customs and traditions before travelling abroad. So, to help you out, we’ve put together a global guide to etiquette to help you navigate through the cultural differences around the world.

 

Cultural Etiquette in Japan

Japan is an enchanting and intriguing place. On the one hand, you have built-up cities with horizons lined by skyscrapers and, on the other, mountainous national parks and thousands of ancient shrines and temples. With its fusion of modern and traditional landmarks, Japan is a fantastic place to go on holiday and should definitely be on your list of must-visit destinations.

If you’re set on a visit to the Land of the Rising Sun, there are some things you need to know about its customs, cultures and etiquettes. A little inside knowledge can help ensure your trip goes smoothly, and you don’t upset the locals.

Japan is known for being one of the culinary centres of the world, and it’s easy to see why. With fresh, organic ingredients jam-packed with nutritional benefits making it into nearly every meal, you’ll enjoy a range of delicious meals during your holiday to Japan, including sushi, miso soup, tempura and ramen. If you do opt for a bowl of delicious ramen, don’t be afraid to slurp the noodles – in Japan, it’s a sign that you’re enjoying them. But, when you’re done, don’t cross your chopsticks in the bowl as this is taboo in Japan and is thought to be a symbol of death.

Etiquette Japan

As well as avoiding these culinary faux pas in Japan, you should know that tipping is not common practice. The Japanese are very polite and respectful, but they may decline your tip – don’t be offended. According to research, 56% of Brits don’t know that tipping is not necessary in Japan, and only 17% will be happily slurping their noodles during their holiday.

But it’s not just dining you need to think about. Did you know that Japan remains very traditional in its views of tattoos? They’re not very common or widely accepted. The Japanese associate tattoos with criminals so it’s best to cover them up, particularly when visiting traditional areas such as “onsen” (Japanese hot springs). Don’t be alarmed if you’re asked if you have any tattoos before you’re allowed enter – but do be aware that some places may refuse entry.

 

Things to Consider When Visiting Australia

Australia is known for its stunning coastline of sandy beaches, urban jungle cities and, of course, Vegemite. But with the same language as us Brits, and similar customs, you’d be forgiven for thinking you wouldn’t need to read up on Australian culture ahead of your trip down under.

But there are still a few things to be aware of. For starters, Australians are super friendly, though you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise with some of the colourful language they use. Fear not, this forms part of the slang culture and it’s deemed affectionate rather than abusive.

Swearing aside, Aussies are also really polite. They will let you off public transport first before piling on and are happy for you to sit in the passenger seat of a taxi, rather than hide in the back.

Australia etiquette

They take street safety seriously and you could find yourself with a fine if you cross the street without the green man showing. Be careful when crossing roads, particularly in the cities – Sydney is the congestion capital of Australasia so traffic can be heavy.

Smoking is discouraged Down Under, with the number of reported smokers steadily declining over the years. If you do smoke, however, be careful where you put your cigarette butt when you’ve finished as many bush fires are started this way.

If you’re visiting Australia but you’re not sure where to go or what to do, we’ve also put together an interactive itinerary for Sydney and Melbourne, so you’re covered from the moment you touch down.

 

Customs Worth Knowing When Travelling to Dubai

Dubai is well known for many things: the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building), its man-made beaches and for being a futuristic metropolis of superlatives. The epitome of opulence, Dubai is one of the most amazing cities in the world.

While Dubai can seem extravagant, its etiquettes remain quite humble. If you’re visiting the home of an Emirati, it’s best to leave your shoes at the door – although wearing shoes has recently become more acceptable, and hosts often leave it up to their guests to decide whether or not they want to keep their shoes on. But in personal spaces of the home, such as the bedroom, shoes are not worn. It’s also rude to display the soles of your feet, so if you have removed your shoes, be careful not to accidentally offend an Emirati. Feet are thought to be unclean, and therefore using them in gestures is considered insulting.

Dubai etiquette

If your host has cooked for you, be sure to leave some food on your plate at the end of the meal. If you finish all of your food, some consider it a sign that you think the host didn’t provide you with enough nourishment. Quite surprisingly, it’s considered acceptable to pick your teeth after a meal.

Tempted? Check out our Dubai holidays and, if you’re travelling as a family, read our guide on what to do and where to stay before you book.

 

Etiquette Rules for Mexico

Mexico is a popular choice for holidaymakers. With year-round sun, great beaches and delicious food, Mexico is a great long-haul destination to visit. Known for its culinary delights, Mexico has brought us tequila, tacos, burritos and the ever-popular avocado.

Much of Mexico speaks Spanish, but a small percentage of the population still speaks indigenous languages, such as Nahuatl and Mayan. If you’re paying a visit to Mexico, it’s a good idea to learn some local phrases before you go.

If you’re due to holiday in this mouth-watering, vibrant country, there are a few things you need to know before you visit.

Etiquette Mexico

As we’ve mentioned, food plays a huge part in Mexican culture – so if you’re offered food in abundance, you’re encouraged to take it. Take the time to compliment your host’s cooking – whether you’re a fan of it or not.

When visiting certain parts of Mexico, you may be surprised to know that eye contact is considered rude, but in other areas don’t be surprised if someone greets you with a hug and a kiss. If you’re unsure, let your Mexican host take the lead. It’s also important to note that Mexicans generally stand closer than us Brits when having a conversation. As much as this may not be the norm for you, try to look comfortable even though you might feel your personal space is being invaded.

 

Family is also very important to Mexicans and families are usually fairly large. They also regularly host parties at home, welcoming friends and family to share in their hospitality.

 

Things to Know About Etiquette in Thailand

Thailand is a Southeast Asian country known for its Khmer, Burmese and Chinese temples and shrines, tropical beaches, impenetrable jungles and opulent royal palaces; it’s an incredible destination for all to visit. A firm favourite for backpackers and honeymooners, Thailand will submerge you in traditions and cultures. Before visiting, make sure you know the basics about its culture and customs, so you can enjoy your trip and avoid insulting the locals.

Not long after stepping foot in this country, you’ll understand why it’s well known for its street food. Offering up tasty and authentic food at a fraction of the cost back home, you’ll be forgiven for wanting to eat your way around the islands. Eat your food with a spoon – if you’re given a fork, use it to push food onto your spoon. This derives from it being easier to eat Thai food with a spoon (or chopsticks) as a lot of the national dishes are curries or rice.

Thailand is a very spiritual country, with shrines and temples dotted across the islands so – while unusual for you to do so anyway – it’s important to know that you shouldn’t touch Thai people on the head. The head is considered to be the home of the soul and spirit and this must be honoured. If you’re visiting temples, it’s important to cover up. Thai temples are holy places and you must respectfully cover your shoulders, chest and knees. Make sure you’re prepared – we’d suggest carrying a scarf in your bag – because you’ll likely stumble across temples and places of worship unexpectedly as there are so many.

Etiquette Thailand

Thai people greatly admire their royal family and so it’s vital that you don’t bad-mouth them. So much so, in fact, that the country has a “lèse-majesté” law, whereby it’s actually illegal to insult the royal family. While this may sound like an empty threat, the law is taken very seriously and you could land yourself in prison. The best advice is not to say anything at all on the subject.

All in all, Thailand is an incredibly happy and polite country. After all, it’s not known as the Land of Smiles for nothing. Want to know more? Read up on 10 things you might not know about Thailand.

 

Surprising Customs from China

Known for its tea, food, striking architecture, world heritage sites and wonders of the world, China is a fascinating country with wonderful panoramas and astounding areas of interest. With its stunning landscapes, innovations and inventions, and rich heritage, China has much to offer the intrepid traveller.

China should be on your list of must-visit destinations, and if you are set on going to this fast-paced nation, here are some customs you should know about beforehand.

If you’re a gift giver, aim for something related to, or in a set of, eight. Eight is a lucky number in China and is considered to be a good omen. Favoured by businessmen, the number eight also means prosperity; its pronunciation in Chinese is “Ba”, which sounds similar to “Fa”, meaning wealth, fortune or prosperity. Be sure not to gift a clock though – they denote death in an ancient Chinese proverb. It’s thought that clocks and watches symbolise “running out of time”, so it’s especially important not to gift a clock to an older person.

Etiquette China

One thing you can feel confident about, though, is burping. Yes, in Chinese culture it’s considered socially acceptable to burp after a meal. In fact, it’s a compliment to the chef and a sign that you enjoyed your meal. In our survey, 53% of people didn’t know that burping and was okay and just 18% of people said they thought it was acceptable.

As in Japan, tipping is not common practice in mainland China, so don’t feel obliged to leave a tip when you’re eating out. However, it’s becoming more popular nowadays, so best to check with the restaurant ahead of offering money. Only 7% of British travellers in our survey said they feel confident when tipping abroad, 23% are somewhat or very unconfident and 61% indicated that they didn’t know China was a country where tipping isn’t the norm.

If you want to see all of the country’s highlights, why not book a tour of China with Travelbag?

 

Cultural Tips for Travelling in South America

South America is a continent comprising diverse cultures, including Brazil, Peru, Argentina and more, and is home to the Amazon Rainforest, the Amazon River and Machu Picchu.

The countries within South America are collectively known for their good food, good weather and good wine. If you do find yourself enjoying wine at a home in Argentina, pour wine with your left hand and avoid pouring backwards as this can symbolise that you dislike the person you’re pouring wine for. And, as Argentina is the fifth-largest producer of wine in the world, they take the ritual of pouring wine very seriously. Here are some more tips on how to behave on holiday in Argentina.

Etiquette Argentina

In terms of signs to avoid, don’t give someone the thumbs up gesture as it’s considered rude. The “OK” sign is fine to use in Argentina, provided that it’s upside down – Argentines use this to show their approval of something and to symbolise that everything is perfect. However, in Brazil, it’s synonymous with giving someone the middle finger. In our survey, 63% of Brits said they didn’t know that this sign is considered offensive in many countries.

Especially if you can’t speak Spanish, another gesture that’s good to know is one that shows that you “don’t know” or “have no idea” – stick out your lower lip and flick your fingers out from underneath your chin. Did you know that Welsh is also spoken in South America? Patagonian Welsh is spoken in Patagonia, a mountainous region spread across Chile and Argentina.

 

Indian Etiquette to Know Before You Travel

A popular tourist destination, this vibrant country is steeped in ancient history, architecture and culture. In India, it’s considered rude to point with your fingers or feet. Even worse, showing the soles of your feet to someone; it’s okay to walk barefoot, but it’s not okay to display your feet. As in Dubai, feet are considered dirty – and it’s easy to see why if you’ve been walking around the streets of India barefoot all day.

It’s important to respect local customs in India so, for example, you should avoid public displays of affection (PDA). Indian society is very conservative and so PDA is a no-go. Also a taboo subject, so best to avoid completely, is drinking or smoking in public.

Etiquette India

There are a variety of languages spoken all over India, with each language having multiple dialects so it can be tricky to grasp the native tongue. These dialects vary from region to region, so best to read up on languages before you go to help you get around. In Delhi, one of the oldest capital cities in the world, the language is Hindi.

Indian food is known for its diversity of flavours, with fresh produce packed with spices your taste buds will certainly be in for a treat. Try out the roadside stalls as that’s where you’ll get the most authentic Indian experience. However, when dining in India, you should only eat with your right hand. Eating with your hands is the norm, but the left hand is specifically reserved for personal hygiene, so make sure you only eat your food with your right hand.

 

Getting Ready for Your Holiday

Before you go on any trip, it’s important to do your research on local customs, cultures and etiquettes to ensure that you have the most enjoyable holiday possible, where you can really fit in with the locals, experience how they live, and immerse yourself in the culture.

We found that Londoners were the most likely to do their homework before going abroad, with 77% of respondents researching local customs and traditions beforehand, followed by respondents in Wales (73%). The least likely to do their homework were people living in East Anglia, where just 60% of respondents said they would check beforehand.

If you’re planning to go abroad, but you’re not sure where, get in touch with our team of friendly travel experts. We’ll be able to help you find the right long-haul destination for you.


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