Rude! What You Should Never Do in Other Countries

Planning a trip abroad? Learn these seven rules to avoid offending the locals.

By Taylor Shea
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    Don't tip in Japan.

    Service at restaurants and hotels will likely be exceptional in Japan, but tipping isn't done; and it could be seen as degrading.


    Don't smile at strangers in Russia.

    They'll see it as an intimate gesture, indicating a genuine affinity toward another person. If you don't know them, they might consider you insincere.

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    Don't use your left hand in India.

    The left hand is thought of as unclean in Indian culture, so always use your right hand to greet someone, exchange money, or pick up merchandise.

    John Slater/Getty Images

    Don't eat everything on your plate in China.

    That shows your host didn't provide enough food or a filling meal. Along with leaving a little, it's fine to burp after eating, as a compliment to the chef.


    Don't honk in Norway.

    It's only used in an emergency—so your unnecessary beeping could cause drivers to panic.

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    Don't forget to say hello in France.

    "Bonjour madame, monsieur" should be the first words out of your mouth, otherwise you're subtly showing you feel the person is beneath you.

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    Don't talk with your hands in your pockets in Germany.

    It's considered rude. It's also customary to keep your hands on the table while eating, rather than resting them in your lap.


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    Your Comments

    • Richard

      Using the left hand is considered rude in Muslim countries, too. That’s the hand you use for the potty. You don’t tip in China, either. It’s insulting. My wife from Shenyang was shocked when I tried to tip a waiter and if I burp after meals, she thinks I’m acting like a clown. Don’t do either of these in northeastern China. Most of these are old rules no longer observed. Ask first.

    • Bill Sparkington

      Your left hand in India is the crapper hand as in no toilet paper and toilets that are nothing more than a slab with a hole in it with a flat surface for the poo to collect where one of the “untouchables” scoop it up and cart off. You eat with the right hand and sit on the left hand. When dining in China at someone’s house you do take off your shoes and place them at the front exit. Its mostly to do with China’s horrible plumbing as feces flows down the middle of many streets under clay tiles. China also allows public deification especially with kids. So think of all of China being Bourbon Street. when at the dinner table in China don’t just take a lot of the meat. Chances are, it cost them a week’s pay to make that meal with most of the cost being the meat if they went to a market. There is a good chance the meat was ran over or caught in a trap. Could also be the neighbor’s pet you are eating as all protein in China is kosher. So, you first take an ample portion of rice. You will like China’s rice because its different than what you get in the US. All party members in good standing get an allotment of rice just like the USDA gives away beans, milk, butter, and pork to Indian tribes in the USA. So take plenty of rice then the vegetables, which will be deliciously spiced. Spicing will be to perfection so don’t even think of asking for salt or pepper. Its perfect so don’t go there. The last item you take on your plate is the meat item, even if its roasted rat, cat or dog.

      • TheLastEagle

        Slavic peoples ALSO take off their shoes at the front door.

    • Peredon

      Korea never serve your own drink! There’s a few more things around drinking like on how you hold your cup when someone is pouring your drink depending on seniority or not.

    • Ramart

      In Greece, holding out the palm of your hand toward someone (as in our “stop” gesture) supposedly is considered at least as offensive/provocative as flipping someone the bird in, say, NYC.

    • Moontaha Alam

      Islam says that it’s a sin to leave food on the plate … unless you are unable to have more of it …

    • Sugi

      I am from India. May be in some parts of India this comment is true. I have lived in Delhi, Punjab and in some south states. This comment is not valid. People equally use left or right hand as required by the situation.

    • Karmen

      I am left-handed. That would be pretty difficult when I go to India then, LOL

    • It’s Just Me

      Burping is NOT a compliment to the chef in China. Good grief.

    • Yasenia

      Wow, there is no tipping in japan. That is wonderful! Here in Los Angeles everybody wants to get tipped now days. Pretty soon we’ll have police and fire personal expecting a tip as well. It’s getting to the point of ridiculous. Oh yeah, and what it’s considered an acceptable tip days have gone up. 12%-14% was considered sufficient for a job well done, but now they want 18%. I suppose that most people have forgotten that tipping was originally done as a token of gratitude for a job well done. It was not considered a must. It has gotten out of hand.

      I also like the idea of NOT using the horn in your car unless it’s an emergency in Norway. Another beautiful concept. It sounds so civilized.

      • chris

        I only tip if the service is remarkable. Otherwise flat 5 or nothing. is the server/waitress isn’t trying hard to earn a little extra, im not giving it to them

        • lucas

          so if you tip 5 to a waitress this is what you are tipping.
          20 % to the food runner.
          10% for the busser.
          and if you declare the tip the tax will take at least 30% of that. How much did you tip the waitress??? may be you want the waitress to suck you dirty and small D… dignity.
          to add another fact the waitress make 2.95 $ an hour and when they get cheap as-s.tronautas like you they end up with a check that is 0 $$.
          thank you for you support. i guaranty you that you go to a restaurant and don’t even say hi, or please or thank you.
          please don’t leave you house cause no server wants to serve you.

          • bruwin

            waiters serve multiple tables at a time, one low tip isn’t going to ruin their life.

    • bb91103

      The smiling at stranger is b.s. I’ve been to Russia. I smiled at people and they smiled back pretty much every where I went.

      • It’s Just Me

        They might think you’re crazy, though.