16 Unusual Customs Travelers Should Know

By James Chi, Epoch Times
November 27, 2013 Updated: November 27, 2013

1. Venezuela: Don’t show up on time

Guests who are early or on time are viewed as being too eager. Give it a good 30 minutes after the scheduled time. VIPs may arrive even later to “make an entrance.”

2. Egypt: Don’t season your meal

It’s an insult to the host if you sprinkle salt on your plate because it means the meal tastes bad.

3. Norway: Always use a knife and fork

Table manners are extremely important. Most meals require utensils, including sandwiches and pizza.

4. China: Never send these gifts

Don’t give clocks, handkerchiefs, towels, shoes (particularly straw sandals), anything white or black, gifts in sets of four—they’re all associated with death and funerals in China. Also avoid giving green hats as gifts—they refer to female adultery; and don’t give umbrellas or sharp objects like knives because they mean ending a friendship or relationship.

5. Netherlands: Don’t give fancy kitchen knives for gifts

Sharp and pointy objects are considered bad luck.

6. France: No ice

Even though the French prefer cold drinks, ice is not typically offered to customers because some consider that this dilutes the flavor of a beverage.

(Sidewalk Cafe Image via Shutterstock)

7. Hungary: Don’t clink and drink

The tradition dates back to 1849 when the Austrian generals celebrated by clinking glasses after they defeated the Hungarian forces and executed 13 of their military leaders. Hungarians vowed to refrain from clinking glasses for 150 years, but they continued to keep the vow even though it’s expired.

(Clinking Glasses image via Shutterstock)

8. Bolivia: Mind the neighbors

Bolivia has lost wars to many of its neighboring countries and is still sore about it. So if you want to make friends in Bolivia, don’t praise Chile, Brazil, or Paraguay.

9. Turkey: Skip the tab

It is customary for the host to pay for your meal. If you would like to pay your share, invite your host out to a follow-up meal. You can ask to split the bill, which will be viewed as a polite gesture, but they won’t accept it. So be aware too, if you invite someone out, it means you’re paying.

10. Japan: Mind your chopsticks

In Japan, proper etiquette is extremely important. It’s considered rude to point, play, or stab food with your chopsticks. Make sure to use the back end of the chopsticks to pick up food on a shared plate which is considered more hygienic. And never leave your chopsticks sticking straight out of a bowl of rice—that’s reserved for funerals.

11. Korea: Red signifies death

Writing a person’s name in red means the person is deceased. Make sure to remember this especially if giving a birthday card.

(Red Pen image via Shutterstock)

12. Finland: Sauna means all is well

Saunas are a way for the Finns to socialize and relax. If you are invited for a sauna after a business meeting, rest assured that the session went well. Note that Finns sauna naked.

13. Indonesia: No finger pointing

It is considered rude to point with index fingers, so the locals point with their thumb.

14. Thailand: Don’t stand if grandma sits

In Thailand, respect for age is taken very seriously and it’s disrespectful to have your body in a higher position than somebody older than you. So if grandma is sitting in a chair, definitely don’t stand beside her; best is to sit on the floor.

15. Poland: Women are queen of the kitchen

Never poke around the kitchen or open the fridge in another Pole’s home, particularly if the woman of the house is around. That’s her domain. The mantra of hospitality, “treat my home as your home,” won’t make you friends in Poland.

16. Japan: Slurp those noodles

It’s actually considered rude not to slurp your noodles when eating in Japan.

(Slurping Noodles image via Shutterstock)