Top Ten Cultural Faux Pas to Avoid


Moving abroad to a new country means that you are highly likely to encounter new cultures, peoples and situations that are completely alien to you as a Brit. Some things that we may believe as polite can be mistaken for extreme rudeness in other cultures; everyday things can be considered as completely disrespectful. Here we list just some of the big cultural blunders that you should avoid, many are silly and downright daft but some could cost you your life!

Touching someone on the head (parts of Asia)

If you’re travelling or living in Asia do not pat or touch people on the top of their head. Just don’t, they’re not pets and the people will be deeply offended by such an act. In Southern Asia the head is considered sacred and you never know just how much trouble you could land in if you touch it.

Nodding your head to signify yes (Bulgaria)

In Bulgaria opposites apply. Whereas in the UK and other countries nodding your head up and down signifies yes, in Bulgaria this means a strong no. If your host asks you if you enjoyed their cooking make sure you shake your head left to right to avoid offending them.

Inter-gender handshakes (Middle-East)

Many Middle-Eastern cultures have some pretty severe rules in regards to inter sex interaction. Just looking at a member of the opposite sex could land you in serious trouble so think twice before even contemplating shaking their hand!

Displays of affection (parts of the Middle-East)

If you’re in Dubai or Saudi Arabia do not show any signs of affection to your other half. There have been a number of incidents reported in the press about couples ending up in jail or being deported due to them not being able to keep their hands off of each other in public. This includes kissing, hugging and holding hands, as for more intimate things, well don’t even think about it!

The A-ok sign (Brazil)

Making the A-Okay gesture in Brazil is a big no-no. To a Brazilian it is the equivalent t of giving them the finger.

Pointing your palm at someone (Greece)

By extending your hand with its palm outwards you are making the gesture called Moutza in Greece. This gesture is highly offensive to Greeks and the only thing worse than that is the double Moutza where you raise both hands. If you need to make a gesture for the number five make sure your palm is facing you to avoid any abuse.

Chewing gum (Singapore)

Chewing gum is illegal in Singapore and you could face a fine or jail time for even accidently bringing any into the country. The islanders are rightly proud of the cleanliness of their city and they don’t want anyone spitting gum on the ground, a sight all too familiar in Western countries.

Finishing your meal (Asia)

In the Uk polishing off your dinner plate is regarded as a good thing but in some Asian countries the host may become offended. To them you’re saying that they didn’t provide you with enough food and that you’re still hungry, a huge insult. In some cases the host may continue to keep piling up your plate until you leave some behind.

Not belching (Asia)

As mentioned previously, leaving food on your plate in some parts of Asia is sure to insult your host, so if you’re looking to compliment them try burping. They’ll be flattered.

Don’t turn down a drink (Russia)

Don’t turn down vodka in Russia. If you are visiting Russia and are offered vodka, it is considered rude to turn it down. It is obligatory to drink with the Russians and vodka is a big part of their life.

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