The world is an amazing and wonderful place and exploring the globes four corners is a grand adventure! There is so much to see and do and discover. However, there are also many things that we do as Americans that aren’t grand or wonderful in other parts of the world. So the next time you make that list of necessities add “learn the culture!” to that list. If you can let the locals know how much you appreciate their customs and traditions the more you will get out of your travels.
What Not to do:
- Sportswear, exercise wear and baseball caps are no no’s in Japan and most of Europe. It’s too bad, I love my yoga pants. And, please, for the love of all that is Holy don’t EVER wear any type of pj’s out for ANY reason! Just no. In South Korean men even wear t-shirts to the beach; as a visitor you are not expected to keep covered up at the beach, but I would. When in Rome is how the saying goes.
- Tipping. In America the standard for tipping is at least 15% in Japan and South Korea tipping is in an insult. It insinuates that they are not earning a fair wage. Australia is another country that doesn’t expect a tip but it is becoming more common at high end resorts. Most Europeans, if they tip, it’s just a few coins. That being said, dining abroad is a much more leisurely endeavor. Don’t rush your server and don’t expect them to come check you often.
- Forget the condiments. I love to try the local fare! It’s one of the best parts of travel. Many countries take great pride in their food. When sampling the yummy goodness of Spain, Italy, Japan and France(you knew that one was coming) do not expect condiments and please don’t ask for them; is it very rude. This includes adding soy sauce or hot sauce. Which is a staple for most Americans but is bad manners in many countries. Also, in Portugal asking for salt and pepper is offensive to your host. So please be polite and refrain.
- No PDA. Not many surprises here. In China, Thailand, Korea and the Middle East communicate your love and affection for your partner with your eyes, no touching; not even holding hands. In India people of the opposite sex are not allowed to touch each other in public, even if they are married. These rules seem like a bummer but they should absolutely be followed and respected. Speaking of India and touching; if you touch a product, guess what, you just bought it! They won’t take it back. Same goes for New Delhi.
- Don’t be late. This is kind of a given. There are some countries where it is a bigger slap in the face than others, Germany is a prime example. Other places to make sure you are prompt in are Japan and South Korea. Asian countries are very big on respect! Showing up late is a way of saying that your time is more valuable than theirs. There are some places that are more laid back about time. Which I appreciate when I am vacation! Greece, Argentina-most of Latin America really, Mexico, Morocco and Malaysia are places where you won’t get dirty looks for not being punctual.
- Watch those feet! In Asian and Caribbean cultures it is expected to take your shoes off when entering someone’s home. Keep those tootsies clean since you will be showing them off! It’s a good excuse to have a whole heap of fun colored socks. For Middle Eastern countries it is UNACCEPTABLE to show the soles of your feet. Feet are the lowest part of your body and are generally considered dirty.
Things that Make You go Hmmm!?!?
- Watch those gestures. Thumbs up, the okay hand signal, one hand in your pocket; all of these are so incredibly offensive! In Latin America, Western Africa, Middle East, Greece, Russia and Italy the thumbs up signal translates to “up yours” and that just isn’t nice! Visiting Turkey or South Korea? Don’t put one hand in your pocket. it’s sign of arrogance. The “ok” sign is not okay at all in Latin America, the Middle East, Western Africa, Russia and Greece. While visiting Malaysia, Indonesia or Africa don’t point at things, and never at people. Be classy and cool Roamers!
- Welcome to Australia: Here, have some insecticide disinfectant. It’s true. You and your belongings can expect to be meet with a thorough coating of insecticide. Nothing makes a person feel more welcome than a healthy dose of disinfectant. Don’t take it personally, it’s not you, it’s them. If you need to know about it check out this link.https://abcnews.go.com/Travel/story?id=118829&page=1
- Ice cold water? Ice in your drink? Don’t count on it! Europe is an amazing place, the architecture especially; at least in my opinion. It can get really hot and I don’t like the heat and when I walk a lot I get so incredibly thirsty! I love icy cold drinks but in most restaurants you can expect drinks to be room temperature and don’t be surprised if, when you ask for ice to get the death stare. France, especially. My Mom and Dad lived in the Bahamas for six months after retirement and they both found it odd that milk is not refrigerated. Yeah, ditto here. I find it odd, but again, embrace the new. I found out I like pina colada soup which is also an odd thing.
- Coffee Italian style: Italy has very particular ideas about coffee. Milk based coffee in only part of the morning routine and never after a meal. Awww; that one makes me sad! I love coffee after dinner! If you feel you must at least apologize to the bartender. Don’t call it Espresso and understand that most Italians have shots of coffee not a triple vente. My sister said everyone ordered shots, downed it and left. Very different from here. Depending on the region you are in keep the order simple. Naples and Milan are more agreeable to us complicated coffee connoisseurs.
- Call shotgun. Cabs are a great resource when getting around in a foreign country, but unlike in the U.S. there are places where if you are travelling solo or are a male and hop in the back you are just a schmuck. Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, parts of Ireland and the Netherlands are all countries that it expected for you to ride shotgun. I like that idea. It’s better to talk to someone if you are sitting side by side.
- No one stop shopping. I have a LONG list of vitamin and mineral supplements that I take daily as well as a few medications. Fortunately, I can pick all those up when I buy dinner, buy dog food, etc. That is an American thing however. In England, for example, the pharmacy is a pharmacy, period. Most things we are use to such as large portioned meals, 24 hours restaurants, free refills, being super fans of cheerleaders are considered bizarre by many countries.
- Let’s hang out at the cemetery. In Denmark it is pretty common to see people throw down a blanket and read a book or just hang with friends in the cemetery. Sure, why not.
Now that Sounds Fun!
Who doesn’t love a good festival? It’s a giant party where everyone is invited. Everyone is your friend, yet you don’t have to really know anyone. Some are well known. Flag throwing in Tuscany, Carnival in Rio De Janeiro, the Lantern Festival of Thailand and the Day of the Dead in Mexico. But there are some that I had never heard of that sound amazing!
- Holi: India, Pakistan and Nepal. Actually, I have heard of this one, but I had to bring it up because it is on my bucket list in a BIG way! It marks the beginning of the Hindu spring and it a street party where people throw colored powder on each other! Holi is a nationwide celebration that is observed in all 28 states and symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. It starts at night with a bonfire. This year it began on March 1st. Hint: put on plenty of moisture, it helps to keep the color from staining the skin and is easier to remove. Bright colors are better for the colors to be seen. Also, be a good person and bring your dyed powder.
- Smigus Dyngus Day: A Polish Easter holiday steeped in history and tradition that ends up as a giant free for all street water fight. And I am definitely on board with that! If you can’t make it to Poland there are States here in the U.S. that partake in this watery festival. Cleveland, Ohio; Buffalo, NY and South Bend, Indiana are the biggest party destinations for day filled of water blaster fights. If those places aren’t on you preferred travel list then jet over to Thailand for the Songkran Festival that is the Thai New Year. Bring a towel and water proof shoes and embrace the fun!
- Harbin Snow and Ice Festival: Harbin, China. I have to be really honest and say China is not one of top 10 places to visit. I don’t like crowds, or the heat or the food-not a whole lot, anyway, but this festival seems like a mind blower! I would go there JUST to see this! It officially opens on Jan. 5th but there are some activities that begin on December 17th. http://www.harbinice.com/fact-v43-the-35th-harbin-ice-and-snow-festival-2019.html
- White Nights and Scarlet Sails: St. Petersburg, Russia. This is the largest public event in the country and celebrates the season of the Midnight Sun. It is an international arts festival with emphasis on ballet, opera and musical performances that culminates in the Scarlet Sails celebration and an impressive fireworks display. It’s a crush with about 1 million attendees so be prepared to lose your sense of personal space.
- Lopburi Monkey Buffet: Lopburi, Thailand. Every year on Nov 25th-my birthday- the city sets out a HUGE outdoor buffet for monkeys and they just help themselves. It was created to bring in tourists and it works really well! It was even covered by National Geographic. So kudos. If any of you have ever been please share your thoughts and experience.
Did You Know?
- In the UK the Skittles purple candy in black currant not grape.
- The beautiful handmade ceramics you buy in Mexico should not be used for food and beverage storage because the paint can have a high lead content.
- In France you should always greet your server or cashier before asking for anything or paying. It is expected to say goodbye as you leave as well.
- America is about the only country that cards people who are obviously over 21 before serving them alcohol.
- Receiving gifts is great but in Asia please remember not to open them in front of the giver.
There is no way to cover everything about this topic in one post. For anyone that has other tips or experiences please share. Maybe it could be a bi weekly post, just for fun.