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20 Things You Didn't Know Were Considered Rude In Other Countries

Take note of these when you travel!

Cover image via KidneyBuzz

We went through The Guardian, PocketCultures and Quora for these 20 seemingly normal things that aren't very polite in other countries.

1. Laughing with your mouth wide open

Image via KickBlue22

In Japan, laughing loudly with an open mouth is considered impolite. When they can't hold back a chuckle, locals usually hold a hand over their mouth. 

2. Giving a thumbs up

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In Greece, South America, West Africa and some Middle Eastern countries, giving someone a thumbs up is the equivalent of holding up your middle finger. A better way of showing approval for something would be to simply smile or nod.


3. Adding condiments to a meal

At restaurants in France, Italy, Spain, and Japan, asking for any alterations to the dish you're ordering is not normal. You're generally expected to eat the food as it is meant to be served. This means that even asking for things like chili or tomato sauce would be frowned upon. Unless the condiment is already on your table, like a salt or pepper shaker, you shouldn't use anything to alter the taste of your food. 

4. Sitting in the back of a taxi

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If you're travelling solo in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland or the Netherlands, think twice before jumping into the back seat.

Riding in the backseat might imply that you 'think you're above the driver' and think of them as more of a chauffeur or servant. 

5. Finishing your food

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In the Philippines, China, Thailand, and Russia, polishing your plate completely signifies that you're still hungry and that your host failed to provide you with enough food. 

6. Exposing the soles of your feet

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In most Arab, Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist countries, the feet are considered to be the dirtiest part of the body. Take note of this when you sit with your legs up. 

7. Blowing your nose

In China, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, blowing your nose in public is considered repulsive. 

8. Crossing your fingers

In Vietnam, crossed fingers are understood to symbolise female genitalia. It would be especially offensive if you were to do it right in front of someone's face. 

9. Eating in public areas

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Eating in public is generally frowned upon in Japan. Unless an area (like a park) has a sign that says it permits eating and drinking, it's disrespectful to eat anywhere that isn't a restaurant.

10. Making the 'peace' sign with the back of your hand

Image via BBC America

While you might consider it to be your default pose every time you want to take a picture, making a 'V' shape using your index and middle finger with the back of your hand facing someone is offensive in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom. It is often used as a way to signify defiance towards authority figures. 

A 'peace' sign where your palm is facing outwards is generally fine. 

11. Having one hand in your pocket

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Doing this in South Korea and Turkey will make you seem arrogant. It is especially rude if you're talking to someone. 

12. Shooting up your hand to call for a waiter

If you want to get the attention of your waiter in the United States, you are expected to only slightly raise your hand when they walk by you. Never whistle, call out their name, or hastily wave your hand at them.

13. Making the 'sign of the horns'

Image via Jacksonville

While many of us associate this gesture with rock concerts or heavy metal, 'horn fingers' have quite an offensive meaning in  Mediterranean and Latin countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Uruguay.

When you show this gesture to a man, it means that you're implying their wife is cheating on them. 

14. Tipping

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While you might be inclined to tip a server or taxi driver who left a good impression on you, Japanese and South Korean workers would take your generosity the wrong way. Workers here generally take pride in doing their jobs well and don't want added incentives. 

15. Drinking a cappuccino after eating

Image via Bean Ground

Italians adhere very strongly to the belief that consuming milky beverages on a full stomach causes indigestion. For this reason, most baristas would frown upon the idea of their customers ordering anything with lots of milk in it after lunch hours. Milky coffees, such as a cappuccino, are usually only consumed in the morning. 

16. Using your left hand

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In most Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries, using your left hand to do things like eating or accepting a gift is considered impolite.

It's a tough world for left-handers out there.

17. Refusing food that is offered to you

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In many Arab countries, refusing anything, especially food, that is offered to you is considered rude. In the past, it was much harder for families to put enough food on the table and so someone offering you their share was seen as a token of their hard work.

18. Accepting a gift right away

On the other hand, countries like China and Japan expect you to say no a few times before accepting an offer. 

You're generally expected to modestly say no up to three times before politely receiving any gifts. 

19. Opening a gift immediately

Image via LA Beer Hop

In many Asian countries, notably China and India, you should never tear open a gift the moment you receive it. It is seen as an act of greediness. 

20. Biting or slicing into a baguette

There is a saying in France that goes “On ne coupe pas le pain, on le rompt” meaning "you don’t cut bread, you break bread". 

The polite way to eat bread in France, is to tear it up in your hands. Never bite straight into it or use utensils to slice it. 

Some cultures can be so different yet so alike. Did you know that the word 'alamak' is also used by the Japanese?

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