10 Cultural Mistakes To Avoid When You Travel Overseas

Written by Indrani Karmakar  • 

Imagine living all your life following a norm taught by your culture, and then seeing someone do the opposite right under your nose. Uncomfortable, isn’t it? Well, while it may strike you as odd, most travelers all over the world face uncomfortable gazes as they may do something that goes against a particular country’s culture. So, the only solution is to read up bits about the country you intend to visit so you can be a part of them instead of agitating them. Here are some cultural mistakes you should avoid in these countries. Read on!

1. South Korea: Showing Your Shoulders And Collar Bone

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Wearing a top that exposes your collarbone and shoulders in public is frowned upon in South Korea. This is because of long-held cultural norms on the desirability of modest dressing sense. On the other hand, miniskirts are not considered out of place in polite company!

2. Japan: Paying A Tip

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Dear travelers to Japan, please don’t bring any unnecessary excess yen. Regarding showing gratitude in Japan, service is considered part and parcel of the job. Thus, tipping is not expected. In fact, it is an indication of disdain because it suggests the service provider is less concerned with performing a good job than with making a profit.

3. Japan: Blowing Your Nose


If you’re going to Japan, you should pack some tissues. Nose-blowing in public is considered highly impolite and unhygienic in Japanese society. So if you need to blow your nasal passages on vacation, do it discreetly or hold on until you are back in your hotel room.

4. Italy: Requesting A Doggy Bag

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Leave the doggie bag at home if you’re dining in Italy. In this nation, it is considered rude to ask for a to-go bag for your leftovers because doing so shows disdain for the meal and the culture. However, acknowledging the quality of the cuisine offered is essential to enjoying one’s time at the restaurant. So, prepare to savor your dinner to the last mouthful and leave the establishment full and happy.

5. Thailand: Eating With A Fork

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You should pack away your fork if you’re considering visiting Thailand. There is a strong stigma attached to using utensils like forks and knives in the local culture. Instead, you should practice using just a spoon to scoop meals and put them in your mouth.

6. Morocco: Leaving After Saying The First Goodbye

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When visiting someone’s house in Morocco, you should expect a lengthy departure. In this culture, saying farewell just once is considered impolite. This behavior is interpreted as an indication of a lack of interest or impatience.

7. China: Sticking Chopstick In Rice

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A common faux pas in Chinese dining is to use your chopsticks like a fork, which is suggestive of morbid burial rites. Furthermore, using your chopsticks to make rude gestures such as pointing or slapping the table is considered rude.

8. Portugal: Using Crimson Ink

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Writing using red ink is seen as rude in Portugal. That could be because people automatically link it with bad vibes and blunders. Therefore, its use might be interpreted as rude. Therefore, if you’re going to Portugal but don’t want to upset people, pack a blue and black ink cartridge instead of a red one.

9. Vietnam: Crossing Your Fingers

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In this culture, crossing your fingers is considered quite impolite. It’s rude and provocative, not to mention disrespectful. Study a bit of Vietnamese culture before your trip to make sure you are aware of social missteps. Use many additional acceptable motions if you’re paranoid or need extra luck.

10. France: Not Making Kissing Sound While Performing La Bise

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A French kiss on every cheek, or “la bise,” is a standard form of greeting. To avoid looking rude when doing la bise, you should also make a kissing noise. The kissing noise is integral to greetings since it shows how much you care about and value the other person. Remember to make that kissing sound while greeting someone with la bise in Paris if you want to prevent any social faux pas. Only some people feel comfortable with a handshake as a form of welcome.

The world has a plethora of different cultures and norms to offer, and naturally, you can only learn them after some time. But once you decide which country you want to visit, reading up on the culture helps avoid uncomfortable situations. So, which of these customs did you find absolutely surprising? Let us know in the comments section!

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