Before You Travel, Learn the Local Etiquette

Before you hop on a plane in search of a new adventure, study up on the local etiquette to avoid any potential awkward situations

Credit: iStock / photomorphic

Before travelling to a foreign land, brush up on the local etiquette to save yourself from misunderstandings

Some of the customs and even hand gestures in foreign countries are just that: foreign. So it’s always a good idea to do a bit of research before you arrive at a new destination.

It’s actually more fun to be aware of the customs and traditions of the place you’re visiting. Do some research before you go and you’ll be fine. Plenty of websites out there can help you with this, but I recommend first checking out the country’s own tourism board.

To get you started, here are a few of the more interesting customs I’ve discovered.

Credit: iStock / vasiliki

Hello, Goodbye

When travelling in France or Latin America, remember that storekeepers regard their shops as they do their personal homes, so make a point of saying hello and goodbye to the owner.

Credit: Flickr / littleREDelf

Come in, Take Your Shoes Off

In many countries, it is seen as a sign of respect to take off your shoes when you enter a temple or someone’s home. This is the case in Japan, China, Nepal and India, where traditional homes have a rack outside the door for shoes. (Speaking of Nepal, you’ll also be interested to know it’s a big no-no there to blow your nose in public.)

Credit: Flickr / LexnGer

Break Bread

A good one to remember for European countries is that it’s rude to put a piece of the table’s bread on your plate. That’s what your side plate is for. And never cut the bread with your knife; always break it with your hands instead.

Credit: iStock / photomorphic

Be Mindful of Your Hands

There are plenty of hand gestures that you need to be aware of when travelling. Some of the most common gestures used across North America have drastically different meanings all over the world and can even be considered incredibly offensive. The OK sign, for example, doesn’t always mean “OK.” In Brazil and Germany, it’s considered vulgar, and in France, it means “worthless.” And how many times have you used the sign for “rock on!”? Don’t do it in Italy, whatever you do! There it’s considered even ruder than raising your middle finger — and we all know what that means.

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.