As a tourist, you often forget that as a visitor to another country there will be specific cultural customs that are expected to be followed in the same way that there are seemingly random cultural faux pas to avoid. As a westerner, you may deem yourself civilized, culturally aware and courteous to every person you meet when on your travels. However, you should not become complacent. There is a long list of common practices that you might do such as shaking hands when greeting someone for the first time, that can seem rude and offensive to many millions of people halfway around the globe. Take a look at these random cultural mistakes and do your best to avoid them at all costs.
Looking People In The Eye
Did your mother ever demand that you look at her while she was speaking to you? The lack of eye contact that we make with people can seem rude, show disinterest or weakness in the western hemisphere. However, venture to Japan or South Korea and look at someone you are conversing with for a little too long and they can feel uncomfortable. It’s not uncommon in Asia for people to make brief eye contact and allow their eyes to wander as they talk to you. You should mirror this behavior so not to offend.
The Nose Blow
While you may deem it the ultimate annoyance to hear commuters sniffing constantly when on packed buses, trains, and planes, the people of Japan and China find it disgusting that someone would wish to consider expelling their nose contents into a tissue or handkerchief only to return it to their pocket. When you think about it like that, it makes sense really. If you find yourself with the sniffles in Asia, you’re going to have to suck it up… literally. If sniffing is too unbearable, you could find yourself a restroom to blow your nose, but don’t do it in public.
Keeping Your Shoes On
If you find yourself embarking on a spot of Thailand travel and you’re eager to head off the beaten track to experience the unspoiled villages, the majestic temples and even spend time with a local family, it’s vital that you stick to traditions. To enter a home with your shoes on is hugely disrespectful to their culture. While we may take our shoes off once we have entered our house for practical reasons, in Thailand, they leave shoes outside the home as a symbol of leaving the world and its issues outside, so peace remains within the four walls of the home.
Knowing Your Left From Your Right
Backpacking through India is life-affirming as you experience the scents, the sights and the sounds of a whole new culture. You may find yourself being greeted with food as you explore the country and you’ll be expected to sit and eat and share stories with the locals. Ensure that you eat with your right hand, never your left. Your left hand is for dealing with the food as it leaves your body. Be courteous and only eat what is closest to you. Gorge yourself on every morsel from all over the table and expect to receive some looks of disgust.
Traveling is a joyous experience. However, it’s vital that you do your research to make every effort to be the respectful and courteous traveler you aspire to be at all times.