Traveling Abroad: Common Cultural Faux Pas You Want to Avoid at All Costs

As a child, our parents and grandparents taught us to use our manners. We were taught to say “please” and “thank you,” to keep our elbows off the table, and to not slouch… all of these manners we learned as a child, we’ve carried on into our adulthood and have even taught our own children some of the same manners to follow.

As an adult, those manners we learned as a child have now been engraved in our total being and have allowed us to enter society as decent human beings, right? Yes, but what about when you travel to a different country? Do those same manners and customs apply in a foreign country and how will they be received?

When it comes to traveling, it’s pretty normal to make common travel mistakes like overpacking or forgetting to let your financial institution know that you’re going out of the country and they freeze your accounts. With those types of travel mistakes, there’s always a solution. For instance, people have a tendency to travel without enough money. To prevent that happening, lots of people create an extra source of income by starting their own business. This allows you to generate income at your fingertips, wherever you may be… therefore, providing you with your solution.

The Travel Mistake Everyone Forgets About

One travel mistake that people tend to often forget about is making cultural mistakes. When you travel to a different country, the last thing you want to do is offend the locals that live there. We’re so accustomed to our own culture and social norms that we forget that the foreign country we’re traveling to has their own social norms that we must adapt to and follow.

Although the reason you’re traveling abroad is for vacation purposes, you have to also keep in mind that traveling isn’t just about exploring the beautiful destination… it’s also about getting a better understanding of the diversity in cultures, perspectives, and unique customs. In knowing that, let’s take a look at some of the most common cultural blunders travelers make when traveling abroad.

Cultural Blunder #1: Not Taking Off Your Shoes When Entering Homes in China

A cultural blunder you want to stay as far away from as possible is not removing your shoes upon entering someone’s home in China. In your travels abroad (especially in China), you want to make sure you remove your shoes… not doing so can be reflected as a sign of disrespect; feet are looked at as unclean.

You want to adhere to this custom when entering temples too. To add on to the removing of your shoes, you also want to be sure to not show the bottoms of your feet as well. A lot of times, hosts will provide their guests with footies so that their feet won’t get cold from not having on any shoes.

Even in the U.S., people are adopting that custom. They will have their guests leave their shoes at the front door because they don’t want any dirt to be tracked in their homes. That’s also part of why that’s a social norm in China. But always keep that in mind whenever you visit a home or temple in China. It may be a social norm there, but you just might find yourself bringing it back to your home!

Cultural Blunder #2: Wearing Revealing Clothing and Public Displays of Affection (PDA) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

While it’s polite and common to exchange kisses as a way to greet someone in Europe, it is a huge cultural faux pas in the UAE. PDA as well as revealing clothing is absolutely forbidden in the Middle East. If you saw the movie Sex and the City 2, you’ll see how Samantha got a glimpse of the penalties of PDA and revealing clothing.

Wearing swimsuits are only allowed at beaches and at certain hotel pool areas while kissing and hand-holding is considered as inappropriate behavior and should be avoided at all costs if you want to avoid jail time and hefty fines. These offenses may sound silly to you but it’s a serious crime in the UAE so before you head out for you go to the UAE, make sure you do your research on the dos and don’ts.

Cultural Blunder #3: Giving a Thumbs Up

In the U.S., giving someone a thumbs up is a pleasant sign of approval. Even in the social media world, like Facebook. If you make a post or post a picture, receiving a thumbs up is a sign that your picture or post is likable. Well, can you imagine being somewhere where giving someone a thumbs up means the complete opposite of what you think it means? It can bring a whole new level of confusion, right?

In places like West Africa, Iran, and even Greece, giving someone a thumbs up can be one of the most disrespectful acts you can show someone. Another way to think of it is like this: you know how in the U.S. it’s disrespectful for someone to flash their middle finger? Well, think of that same level of disrespect, you’re just using your thumb instead of your middle finger.

What to Do After Your Cultural Blunders

It’s one thing to make these cultural mistakes but the key thing is figuring out what to do after you’ve made these blunders. Well, you have to think about it as if you were in your own country. What do you do when you make a mistake? After you’ve made some kind of mistake, the number one thing you SHOULD do is apologize, right? Yes!

When you’re in a foreign country and you make a social mistake, you definitely want to apologize and make sure the locals know that it was an accident. The Muse suggests that learning how to say “I’m sorry” in the local language will help your trip go very smoothly when you’ve made a cultural mistake.

Making cultural mistakes is something that you won’t be able to fully avoid when traveling and it’s definitely not something that should make you not want to travel abroad. The key thing is to learn from your mistakes and keep traveling and learning… that’s part of the adventure!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.