taboo 2

Taboos, two


There are a number of customs and gestures that Americans use without thinking twice. But when traveling abroad, these will not only make you stand out as a tourist, but could get you in hot water.

Inspired by this Quora thread, we’ve rounded up some of the most common American customs that are seen as offensive elsewhere.

What do you think of these customs or taboos? Why are they considered rude or offensive? What is it like in your country? What do people in your country think of them?

13. Keeping your shoes on

In North America, and much of Europe and the world, people keep their shoes on in their homes; in most Asian and Caribbean cultures and many parts of Europe, it is expected that you take your shoes off when entering someone’s home.

14. Drinking someone else’s alcohol

You mustn’t drink alcohol you didn’t personally bring to a party in Norway. In the US, on the other hand, bringing a six pack of beer to a BBQ allows you access to anything else at the event.

15. Men showing some skin

It’s rare to see topless men in South Korea, where men even keep their shirts on at the beach.

16. Eating anywhere that doesn’t serve food

In Japan, people don’t eat anywhere outside a restaurant, bar or hotel (they only eat food in a restaurant, bar, hotel or at home. Eating a banana while walking down the street? Ice cream in a park? All no-nos.

17. Telling people to help themselves

While in the US and many other nation hosts tell guests “help yourself” to meals or snacks they have offered, in some cultures (like in Asia) this hands-off approach is makes visitors feel uncomfortable.

18. Touching
Contemporary Americans can be friendly, sometimes hugging others. This however is a no-no in places like China, Thailand, Korea, and the Middle East.

19. Keeping your clothes on in saunas and steam rooms

In Scandinavian countries and Turkey, people are expected to remove all their close in saunas, spas, and steam rooms.

20. Asking certain questions

Asking “what do you do” is a common American icebreaker, but is often considered insulting, especially in socialist countries like the Netherlands.

21. Refusing food

Americans often turn down food that is offered to them from their hosts. In most Arab countries, like Lebanon, you should never reject anything offered — especially food.

22. Not declining gifts

Americans are quick to accept gifts, favors, and invitations. However, many cultures (like in Japan) expect you to decline things a few times before ultimately accepting them. In China, you’re even expected to refuse a gift three times before accepting it.

23. Polishing off your meal

In the United States, people must eat everything on their plate and not leave any food remaining. In other countries, like China, the Philippines, Thailand and Russia, you should leave some uneaten food on your plate when you are full.

24. Blowing Your Nose

In countries like China, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, blowing your nose in public must be avoided.

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