Every culture has its own etiquette red lines that tourists frequently aren’t aware they’re crossing. It doesn’t matter where you travel—you should never insult the people who live there by dismissing their customs. Here is a sample of some of the things not to do in Russia, Japan, France and India.
- Leave home without it: you probably won’t find that many places where your credit card will be accepted. Cash is king.
- Avoid making casual political criticisms. Russians view these kind of statements from tourists as personal insults, as if you consider them personally at fault for these problems, and not the government.
- Don’t go with the flow. If a situation arises and you’re not sure what is going on, try to ask someone. If you keep quiet, people will assume you understand what’s happening and won’t go out of their way to help you.
- If you bring someone flowers, make sure the bouquet has an odd number of flowers in it. Even numbered bouquets are reserved for funerals. A dozen roses would creep Russians out.
- No tipping. Tipping your servers in Japan will just confuse them.
- Escalators have one side for standing and one side for passing. Make sure you’re on the correct side. But keep an eye on what people are doing since in some cities you stand on the left, and in other cities you stand on the right.
- Don’t walk around while you eat. This is just not acceptable in Japan.
- Parlez français. Don’t expect to get by with English in France. The French have great pride in their language, and are somewhat resentful of its decline on the world stage. They don’t appreciate switching from French to another language at home.
- Avoid talking about money issues. The French have a strong distaste for discussing financial matters openly. You’ll put people in an uncomfortable spot to talk about how much they make or spent on something.
- Don’t rush while you eat. If you eat your food quickly, people will assume that you are a slob. The French take great pride in their cuisine, so savor what you eat. French lunches are known to last three hours long!
- Do not complain about the food. It is insulting to your host. Don’t eat something you don’t want to eat, but don’t offend the people who served it to you.
- No public kissing. This can even result in jail time.
- People usually don’t socialize while eating in India, and may take offense to being interrupted while they eat.
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