You didn’t know these 55 customs were offensive in some countries

The frequent volcanic activity on Italy’s Stromboli Island means that travelers are practically guaranteed a good show.
Slide 1 of 56: In a growing global culture of travel and tourism, it's important to remember that our seemingly normal actions, words, and gestures may not be so normal in other countries. In fact, there are a surprising amount of common customs that are offensive in other countries. Whether you're taking a trip soon or you're just interested in how internationally offensive you are,  check out this gallery to see what's rude around the world.
Slide 2 of 56: Touching and hugging other people in many parts of China, Korea, and the Middle East is considered offensive.
Slide 3 of 56: In southern Europe, seasoning your food and dressing it in condiments is an insult to the chef. You are basically telling them that they did not prepare it well enough.
Slide 4 of 56: In the UK, the backwards peace sign (palm facing toward your face) is equivalent to flipping someone off.
Slide 5 of 56: While many countries have a suggested tip percentage, in Japan, while the service might be impeccable, tipping can be seen as degrading.
Slide 6 of 56: In Asian countries, such as China and India, opening a gift immediately upon receiving it is seen as being greedy.
Slide 7 of 56: In Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the Netherlands, riding shotgun is the norm as it is seen as a matter of egalitarianism.
Slide 8 of 56: In Japan, laughing while exposing your teeth is considered extremely rude.
Slide 9 of 56: "The customer is always right" does not always exist in Europe. Don't expect to be heard if you complain about bad service.
Slide 10 of 56: In Germany, it’s customary to keep your hands on the table while eating, rather than resting them in your lap.
Slide 11 of 56: While it’s the norm to eat with your hands in many parts of South Asia and Africa, using utensils is a must in Chile, even if you're eating fries.
Slide 12 of 56: In certain countries this hand gesture is crude and offensive, and in places like Turkey, it is specifically offensive to homosexuals.
Slide 13 of 56: In Russia, a smile is seen as an intimate gesture, indicating a genuine affinity toward another person, so giving them out to just anyone comes off as insincere.
Slide 14 of 56: In Japan, eating while walking or in places that are not restaurants is considered both weird and impolite.
Slide 15 of 56: Crossing your legs in parts of the Middle East, especially if you're sitting opposite from someone who is older than you, is considered a sign of disrespect.
Slide 16 of 56: In Caribbean and Asian cultures in particular, not removing shoes when entering the home is a huge sign of disrespect.
Slide 17 of 56: If you give a thumbs up in the Middle East, Latin America, and western Africa, it is the same as showing them your middle finger.
Slide 18 of 56: Eavesdropping is a fun activity in many countries, but in Japan it is considered rude to talk on your cell phone on trains and buses. E-mail or text messages are preferred.
Slide 19 of 56: Some might wonder why you’d ever decline a gift, however, in Japanese and Chinese culture it’s expected that you decline things a few times before ultimately accepting them.
Slide 20 of 56: It is considered rude and even repulsive in countries including China, France, Japan, and Saudi Arabia to blow your nose in public.
Slide 21 of 56: Trying to split the bill in France, as opposed to just paying for the entire bill, is considered unsophisticated.
Slide 22 of 56: In countries including China, Russia, and Thailand, clearing your plate is seen as a sign that you were not served enough to eat and are still hungry.
Slide 23 of 56: In northern Europe, jaywalking is illegal, and the law is also strictly adhered to. Even when there are no cars coming, people wait for the crosswalk signal.
Slide 24 of 56: Talking about mental health and seeing a therapist is becoming less and less stigmatized. However if you go to the UK, talking about this part of your life is considered a huge overshare and makes people very uncomfortable.
Slide 25 of 56: In Japan, slurping is essentially considered to be music to the ears of any chef, as it shows you’re enjoying your bowl of noodles. In North America, however, it’s considered rude.
Slide 26 of 56: In Arab, Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu countries, showing the soles of your feet is a sign of disrespect as they are seen as dirty.
Slide 27 of 56: In Lebanon, don't even think about refusing an offering of food, as you will be deeply insulting the person and the culture.
Slide 28 of 56: Before noon, having a cappuccino in Italy is perfectly normal, but afterwards, it’s customary to switch to espresso (unless you want to be branded a tourist).
Slide 29 of 56: Thanking people for every little thing is common in some cultures, but in India, a “thank you” at the end of a meal is usually unwelcome. Hosting the next dinner is more acceptable.
Slide 30 of 56: If you want to talk about your country while in South America, call it the United States and not "America." A seemingly innocent habit is seen as insulting to South Americans who also live in America.
Slide 31 of 56: In North America, crossing your fingers is a gesture of good luck or a way of saying "I hope so!" However in Vietnam, crossed fingers is a crass gesture for female genitalia.
Slide 32 of 56: In Latin American cultures, showing up on time is the equivalent of showing up an hour early in countries like the US. No one likes to have to entertain a guest who arrives early when they're still preparing for their dinner party.
Slide 33 of 56: In many other countries and cultures, being overly nationalistic and proud of one's own country brings negative and still-raw reminders of fascism.
Slide 34 of 56: Asking this question in the Netherlands is the same as asking how much money they make, and is seen as a classist question.
Slide 35 of 56: In Chile, helping yourself to a second portion is considered rude, and you should instead wait for the host to offer it.
Slide 36 of 56: In Germany, there is no concept of being fashionably late. If you are expected to meet someone at a certain time, you must arrive early or right on the dot.
Slide 37 of 56: In many countries, it is expected to offer visitors a drink when they enter your home, including anyone from a friend to the repairman.
Slide 38 of 56: In the Philippines, keep your grip loose and casual. A firm handshake is a sign of dominance, whereas a loose one is a sign of respect.
Slide 39 of 56: North Americans tend to describe the most mundane things as "amazing" or "the best," but that exaggeration comes off as fake or dishonest in many countries.
Slide 40 of 56: While it might seem like a kind, trusting gesture in some cultures, in many parts of Asia this hands-off approach is seen as inappropriate for a host.
Slide 41 of 56: People all over the world are all too comfortable with honking at the slightest inconvenience, but in Norway it’s only used in an emergency, so unnecessary beeping could cause drivers to panic.
Slide 42 of 56: In certain Asian countries, this position is considered very arrogant.
Slide 43 of 56: In Middle Eastern countries, it’s customary to pick up dropped food, clean it, and eat it. In germ-obsessed countries like the US, eating something that’s been dropped on the ground is considered unhygienic.
Slide 44 of 56: In Europe, a waiter who brings the bill before the customer requests it is telling them to get out of the restaurant or pub.
Slide 45 of 56: Apparently, in Norway it’s rude to drink alcohol you didn't personally bring to a party. In Russia, however, turning down an offer of vodka is seen as offensive.
Slide 46 of 56: In Africa, India, and Sri Lanka, the left hand is seen as dirty, so using it to greet someone or eat is extremely offensive.
Slide 47 of 56: Certain outfits, including sweatpants with flip-flops, baggy clothes, and baseball caps, are frowned upon in Japan and certain European countries where this attire is seen as disrespectful and sloppy.
Slide 48 of 56: In Ethiopia, a tradition called “gursha” involves feeding other people with your hands and helps people connect. In many other countries, however, it’s rude to put your hands on someone else’s food.
Slide 49 of 56: In Middle Eastern culture, it’s customary to lick your fingers after eating (only at the end of the meal), whereas only the use of napkins are preferred in other countries.
Slide 50 of 56: In Germany, cutting potatoes with a knife and fork signals to the cook that the food wasn’t done all the way through, while mashing is much more normal.
Slide 51 of 56: Though it may seem like a casual gesture, it’s considered rude in Germany.
Slide 52 of 56: In China, burping after a meal is like a compliment to the chef, whereas burping is seen as rude and requires an “excuse me” in Europe and North America.
Slide 53 of 56: In fast-paced countries, people sometimes skip the pleasantries when they’re ordering food or buying something. In France, however, skipping the “Bonjour” shows that you feel the person is beneath you.
Slide 54 of 56: In many parts of Asia, pointing at someone with your chopsticks is an insult. Chopsticks should also never go upright in rice as that signifies a funeral.
Slide 55 of 56: Saunas and steam rooms in Nordic countries like Finland are not the place to be private. Rather, keeping clothes on appears prudish. 
Slide 56 of 56: While sharing food often comes down to personal preference, in India, food is considered contaminated once it touches your plate, so offering a taste is not common.See also: Travel mistakes you're making (and how to avoid them).

You didn’t know these customs were offensive in some countries


Altering food

Peace sign


Opening a gift in front of the gift-giver

Sitting in the back of a cab

Laughing open-mouthed

Complaining about service

Resting your hands on your lap while eating

Eating with your hands

The “A-OK” sign

Smiling at strangers

Eating in public

Crossing your legs

Wearing shoes in the house

Thumbs up

Talking on the phone in public

Accepting a gift right away

Blowing your nose

Splitting the bill

Eating everything on your plate


Talking about mental health


Revealing the soles of the feet

Refusing food

Drinking a cappuccino after lunch

Saying “thank you”

Referring to the US as just “America”

Crossing fingers

Showing up on time


Asking what someone does for a living

Helping yourself to seconds

Fashionably late

Not offering a beverage

A firm handshake

Excessive use of superlatives

Telling people to help themselves


One hand in the pocket

Eating dropped food

Bringing someone the bill before they ask for it

Drinking someone else’s alcohol

Using your left hand

Wearing sweatpants with flip-flops

Touching others’ food

Licking your fingers

Not playing with your food

Talking with your hands in your pocket


Not saying hello

Not being careful with your chopsticks

Keeping clothes on in saunas

Sharing food

While sharing food often comes down to personal preference, in India, food is considered contaminated once it touches your plate, so offering a taste is not common.

See also: Travel mistakes you’re making (and how to avoid them).

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