So, you’re in France or Africa or perhaps India and you meet some local people who invite you over for dinner or out to lunch. Unbeknownst to you, their customs are vastly different to what you are accustomed to back home. What do you do?
First, don’t panic – just follow your hosts’ lead and hopefully you’ll get by. However, it can be quite embarrassing or even disrespectful if you make the wrong gestures. So to help you, we have identified a few customs.
This custom could make or break a friendship, so read on to ensure you keep your Argentine friends. If you have been invited over for dinner, bring a small gift. But more importantly, make sure it’s not a knife or scissors – this means you want to sever your relationship.
You’ve been invited over for dinner by some friends and you are served wiener schnitzel with a host of other dishes. You take your first bite of the schnitzel, but you find it quite tough – do not use your knife to cut the rest of it! You must mainly use your fork as it shows that the food is very tender and the host will be flattered.
If you are a ‘lefty’ (by that I mean naturally left-handed), then you may find yourself in a bit of a quandary when visiting Bangladesh. See, they consider the left hand to be dirty/unclean, which means you can only eat, pass dishes or drink with your right hand.
If you have been invited over and you are considering bringing a gift, make sure you do not give four of anything because it is an unlucky number. However, eight is the luckiest number – just be sure the gift you are purchasing is not expensive because eight gifts can certainly add up.
Has your doctor ever told you to ‘cut back on the salt’? If you’re planning on visiting Egypt, it’s the perfect time to do just that. In Egypt, if you sprinkle salt on your food, it is considered an insult and means that you dislike the meal.
When visiting a friend or going to them for dinner, it is totally fine to bring a gift. Just make sure it is not expensive. This will embarrass the host as the country is poor and they will not be able to reciprocate.
France, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, regularly sneeze and often need to blow your nose, then perhaps these countries may not be on your list of places to visit. Blowing your nose in public is considered rude and repulsive.
This tradition is quite fun and very inclusive. If you’re invited over to some friends and it is their child’s birthday, don’t just arrive and wish the daughter a happy birthday – make sure you congratulate the whole family. And when it comes to having some cake and refreshments, be prepared to sit in a rather large circle.
Indonesia, Malaysia and Africa.
While you may be accustomed to pointing, this is a big no-no in these countries. If you would like to point, make sure that you only use your thumb. It may feel foreign to you, but it will definitely keep you on the right side of etiquette.
Japan and South Korea.
We’re accustomed to tipping and sometimes there’s even a debate as to how much to tip. But do not even consider giving a tip in Japan or South Korea as it will be taken as an insult. The restaurant staff take pride in what they do and believe they are paid to do their job.
You’ve had a great day out on safari and your mouth is parched from the heat and dust. You get back to your friend’s house and cannot wait to gulp down some ice-cold water – only your host brings you a piping hot meal with no water in sight. The custom in Kenya is that drinks are not served with meals as it is not polite to eat and drink at the same time.
In Canada, when you are invited out by friends or family you always ensure that you are on time because being late is considered rude. But if you’re just not punctual by nature, you will fit in perfectly in Chile, Ecuador and Brazil. Arriving late is the norm, while arriving on time or being early is frowned upon as it comes off as you are too eager to eat.
We generally never use a red pen to write, but rather blue or black. If you stick to these two colours, you will be fine in South Korea. The reason for not using red ink is that it was used in the past for writing the names of dead people and now it’s considered a taboo.
There are two things you should be aware of when visiting Thailand – head and feet. It is frowned upon to touch anyone on the head. The reason for this is that the Thai people believe that the soul resides in the head. Therefore, it is sacred. The feet, on the other hand, are dirty and it is imperative that you never point your foot at some else. And never point your toes towards a Buddha statue or symbol.
It is good to know the customs of foreign countries and it’s also good to have Travel Insurance, as you never know what may happen while you’re abroad.