All you globetrotters out there will know that traveling can be a bit of a minefield in terms of knowing what to do or how to act in certain situations. Customs and cultures vary widely, and so what’s polite in one country might be darned rude in another.
If we look at the United States, it’s a fairly laid back culture, and it would be unusual to get things too wrong. But it’s not that laid back, as many Europeans Might have learned when they didn’t leave a tip at any of the places they ate or drank. You can virtually embarrass yourself in any country, and today we’ll find out how Embarrassing Tourist Mistakes Everyone Makes Around the World.
There are a few things in Italy which you might do wrong or even take offense to. Take staring for instance. Italians do seem to stare at you a lot. This doesn’t mean you should go up to people and ask the question, “What the hell are you looking at?” As one person writing for the Huffington Postsays, you might well get a good staring at by groups of Italian men standing outside a “scommesse” (betting shop). The stares are not usually aggressive, it’s just what people often do. If you’re a woman you might even hear the words. “Ciao Bella!” You might not like such overt flirtation,but again, it’s cultural and getting all mad about it may just end-up being embarrassing for you. This was discussed on Tripadvisor, with one person writing, “It’s part of the Italian male scene. I suppose you could say that it’s in their genes.”
Japan is very friendly for the most part, but there are a few things you could do to upset someone. One thing and this is the same in many parts of Asia, is when you accept someone’s business card you should not do it with just one hand. It’s actually quite serious business, accepting those cards, so you should look grateful and hold out two hands. Another thing, don’t be really loud in public. Loud Americans, listen up. It’s considered really rude in Japan to talk very loudly in public places, and that includes shouting down your phone so everyone in the vicinity can hear. If you have a cold, you might not want to advertise it by coughing loudly or taking a big blow off your nose. That kind of Tourist Mistakes happens. The Japanese often wear surgical masks when they are sick, and they certainly don’t want to be near a person that is obviously carrying an infection.
If you’ve spent a fair bit of time in France, you’ll know it’s really not the place to be shouting your orders or questions in English. Learn some French and understand many people will resent you if you just think they will understand your English. If you’re invited for dinner, don’t go crazy on the first course or drink your wine like it’s a drinking competition. Eating in France is often quite the ritual, with many courses being served and lots of conversation. It’s not about consuming as fast as you can. “Don’t make a pig of yourself” might be the appropriate expression. The French already have enough rude-American and uncouth-Brit jokes.
Let’s now go to the Middle East, to a country with a lot of cultural Dos and Don’ts. Well, the first thing is don’t think about getting into an argument about the merits of Islam. This won’t just be embarrassing, but it could mean serious trouble for you. If you can do that, people might like you more. They might even invite you to dinner, which happens a lot there. Whatever you do, try very hard to say yes. It’s seen as mightily impolite to refuse a dinner invitation at someone’s house. Oh, and please don’t complain about stores being closed during what’s called “Azan” (Muslim Prayer calling). That’s just the way it is. Women might also have to accept the fact that they won’t be allowed to drive or even go to a normal gym. You’ll have to find a woman’s gym. One of those was recently closed down because pictures emerged showing women there wearing tight-fitting clothes. By the way, the driving ban for women has been lifted, but so far not many licenses have been issued. If you’re a female visitor, it’s unlikely you’ll be getting behind the wheel.
This is a nation where you’ll find hordes of tourists from around the world basking under the sun on beautiful beaches and trekking through rolling mountains. It’s also a place where the locals take videos of ‘farang’ (foreigners) breaching cultural Dos and Don’ts. The number one is probably westerners being a bit too affectionate in public, which is a big no-no in Thailand. Or what about westerners turning up to temple in beachwear, or donning skimpy shorts for a visit to a government office. Perhaps even worse is putting your feet close to someone’s head, something that is sure to create very hostile feelings. That kind of Tourist Mistakes happens. Do these things happen? Yes, and quite often. You might just find yourself starring in a viral (in Thailand at least) video if you do any of these things.
Reading tourism websites, we are told that making the “OK” sign in this country isn’t at all. One blogger writes, “It’s VERY obscene! It means ‘screw you.’’ So yeah, it’s an easy mistake to make, but might end badly for you. Brazil.com tells us you should not eat with your hands in the country as people will think you are uncivilized. And yes, that applies to eat pizza, too. Things that are also embarrassing for tourists and seem to happen quite often are visitors using the Spanish language, thinking the Portuguese-speaking-people are actually Spanish speakers. Tourists, we are told, should also not call the USA “America”. Why? Well, Brazil is also America, just South America. If you do this, you’ll look ignorant. That kind of Tourist Mistakes happens.
Let’s venture into Scandinavia and Sweden. One Swedish tourism website tells us that one mistake people make is thinking everyone here is fluent in English. While Swedes, in general, are good at English, just remember not everyone will understand you, especially if you have some broad Scottish accent or are a fast-talking person from Kentucky. According to one website, the Swedes often regard some visitors as loud and overly animated in conversation. “This is the quickest way to irritate the locals, and you can expect to be gently reprimanded if your voice carries over to the next table,” said the writer. We are also told not to invade someone’s personal space as Swedes are not keen on that. Keep your distance if possible.
Over to China and we are told one thing tourists often do to embarrass themselves is greet people with a bow. You are in China, not Japan. Some people may shake hands, but whatever you do, don’t apply that strong grip which many people are told is a sign of confidence or even sincerity. In China, it will be taken as you being aggressive. If you eat out, don’t leave your chopsticks standing like poles in your food. While this might seem convenient, it’s symbolic in China of incense sticks at a funeral. You might also not want to write with red ink, for many reasons it is symbolic of death. Many westerners have written someone’s name in red ink, and we can tell you, it doesn’t go down well at all.
This is such a culturally diverse nation that customs will change depending on where you are, but it’s generally accepted that wearing skimpy clothes in public is a no-no. The beach, ok, but not walking down the high street or exploring the countryside. One website tells us, “There’s a common perception in India that foreign women are promiscuous, and wearing inappropriate clothing perpetuates this.” Showing a lot of your body may result in a lot of attention, but despite this many tourists still don’t adhere to India’s conservative dressing standards. That kind of Tourist Mistakes happens. Sticking with clothes, try to remember that when you go indoors, Indians will generally take off their shoes. If you don’t, you will look rude. Another thing that will not go down well is passing people things with your left hand. The left is the hand usually used for matters of going to the bathroom.
So, what about the USA, a country that is fairly laid back and if anything is more associated with cultural rule-breaking than having rules broken. Well, as we said already, tipping for good service is a big deal in the U.S. You’ll look very stingy if you take an “I Don’t tip” approach when visiting the country. In some parts of the world, it’s fairly normal to see people smoking cigarettes, but in the U.S. you should be aware that smoking in public is very much frowned upon or even illegal. California has very strict smoking rules, so be aware. That kind of Tourist Mistakes happens. You might also remember that the Metric system is generally not used in the USA.
People won’t be offended if you do talking kilometers and kilograms, but they might be confused. We’ve also read stories of some people saying Americans are overly friendly. Yes, that’s a thing. On Quora, this is discussed many times, with one person writing, “I am from Vienna, Austria. A city where people are known to be grumpy and ever-complaining. The American friendliness often strikes as superficial and insincere.” Well, get used to it, and wear your smile. We could have talked about so many more nations, but why don’t you tell us how tourists can embarrass themselves in your country. That kind of Tourist Mistakes happens. We can help each other that way. Let us know some dos and don’ts in the comments!