3 years, 7 months ago
Pack a passport, be polite and you’re a welcome guest. But beware. It can all go horribly wrong in
some very unexpected ways if you don’t know what’s what, when and where. Here’s how to charm-cheat your way around awkward and fit in anywhere fast.
1. Only ever eat with your right hand in Muslim countries, your left hand is “unclean”.
2. In France, if your hands are full or grubby, bump elbows in place of a handshake.
3. Greece says thumbs down to the “Thumbs Up” sign, it’s abusive and never good.
4. A reverse “Victory” sign is rude almost everywhere but the US.
5. “Senor, your wife is cheating on you”, is the polite translation of a “rock-on” gesture in Mediterranean countries
6. Germany is the world’s time-keeper, turn up for everything at least 10 minutes early.
7. Arrive less than 30 minutes late for dinner in Argentina and you’re “too keen to eat” and very rude.
8. Turn up late for dinner in Russia and you’re expected to down a vodka shot straight off, to “catch up”.
9. Don’t “clink” glasses in Hungary, it’s a reminder of Austro Hungarian conflicts and that’s never good.
10. In a Russian toast, always finish your drink in one go and slap the empty glass, upside down, on the table.
11. Never refill your own glass in Japan, let your host do the honours.
12. Flowers are a perfect gesture in Germany, just remove any packaging before you hand them over.
13. Don’t give chrysanthemums as a gift in France, they’re associated with death and mourning.
14. Want to say “Drop Dead” to your Chinese host? Bring a bunch of white flowers, job done.
15. Looking for a neutral gift in the Czech Republic? Avoid flowers, unless you’re declaring undying love.
16. Slurp noodles long and loud in East Asia, it cools them down and compliments the chef.
17. Steer clear of salt in Egypt, seasoning your own food is an insult to the cook.
18. Be cutlery-conscious in Norway, everything is eaten with a knife and fork – even sandwiches.
19. Tacos are hands-on in Mexico, use cutlery and you won’t be asked back.
20. Watch your chopstick-etiquette in Japan. It’s a no-no to point at or poke food with them and never, ever use the eating end to pick up from a shared plate.
21. On South African roads, shepherds have the right of way, whatever they’re herding – even ostriches.
22. In a Dutch taxi, sit up front with the driver and they won’t think you’re a “schoenlapper” (snob).
23. You can be fined for shaking your fist (or even hand) out of the driver’s window in Cyprus.
24. Drive through a puddle and splash a pedestrian in Japan and you could be fined.
25. Don’t smile at strangers in Korea, you’re as good as saying, “Hey Stupid”.
26. La bise in La France is a tricky one – stick with a kiss on each side to be safe. And, if you’re in the South of the country, start on the left cheek and on the right cheek in the North.
27. Greeks traditionally spit three times after paying a compliment – be flattered, not disgusted.
28. Sticking out your tongue in Tibet is a polite greeting, do the same thing in Dubai and you could end up in jail.
29. If you want to lose friends fast in the Middle East, flash the soles of your feet at them.
30. “Slut” means “end” in Swedish, so don’t be insulted when you hear it or see it – “slutstation” is the end of a bus journey, not a home for wayward Swedes.
31. Avoid saying “hiya” in Turkey, it’s perilously close to the Turkish word for “testicles”.