Customs From Around The World That Shocked Travelers

One of the greatest parts about traveling to foreign countries is that you have the opportunity to learn about others’ cultures and customs. Some customs, however, have left a lot of tourists scratching their heads.

These are some customs and cultural celebrations from around the world that absolutely shocked foreign visitors.

Using Your Left Hand Is Not The Way To Go In Many Countries

Persons hand on gray background
Photo Credit: Scopio / Nicole Honeywill
Photo Credit: Scopio / Nicole Honeywill

In some countries, the right hand is reserved for things like eating and greeting others, while the left hand is reserved for cleaning up after using the washroom. This practice applies to multiple places such as the Middle East, Sri Lanka, India, and parts of Africa.

Russia Has A National Holiday Dedicated To Getting Pregnant

Couple in bed
Photo Credit: Christophe Gateau / picture alliance via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Christophe Gateau / picture alliance via Getty Images

September 12 is the “Day Of Conception” in Russia, and it is a public holiday—meaning people are off from work—that’s dedicated specifically to couples getting it on and making babies.

Pointing With Lips In Nicaragua

venus williams pursing her lips
Photo Credit: Juan MABROMATA / AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Juan MABROMATA / AFP via Getty Images

In most cultures, hand and head gestures are often used to point to a specific thing, but it’s normal to point using your lips in Nicaragua. People will purse their lips and direct them toward the item they want to point out.

Spitting On The Bride Is Typical At Greek Weddings

still from
Photo Credit: moviestillsdb / HBO
Photo Credit: moviestillsdb / HBO

While it’s an old tradition, it became better known through the 2002 film My Big Fat Greek Wedding. In Greek culture, spitting is seen as a good luck charm meant to help ward off the devil. For weddings, it’s more mimicking the act of spitting rather than launching your saliva at the bride.

Lie Down To Show Respect For Others In Nigeria

GettyImages-175042638
Photo Credit: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

In Nigeria’s Yoruba tribe, it is customary to kneel before elders to show your respect. Women will often kneel during greetings and men will lie down prostrate to show respect.

Tipping At Restaurants In North America

An itemized bill with tip suggestions
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Greenberg / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Greenberg / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In most places in the world, gratuity fees are included in the price of a meal or service, making tipping an optional choice for customers and therefore rare. In comparison, they find the practice of regular tipping in North America quite bizarre.

Giving The Monkeys A Buffet In Thailand

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Photo Credit: PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL / AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL / AFP via Getty Images

An annual festivity in Bangkok, Thailand, involves preparing a delicious assortment of vegetables and fruits in a buffet style and providing it for the local monkeys to eat to their hearts’ content.

Hanging Out In The Cemetery Is Normal In Denmark

Headstones in cemetery
Photo Credit: Bryan R. Smith / AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Bryan R. Smith / AFP via Getty Images

While most others might prefer to hang out in the park, Danes have been converting their cemeteries into social spaces for citizens, giving the large, green spaces a more pragmatic use.

Kissing Everyone You Meet In France

French President Emmanuel Macron kisses New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on the cheek
Photo Credit: Chesnot / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Chesnot / Getty Images

In France, like many Latin and Romance cultures, it’s the norm to greet both loved ones and acquaintances with a kiss on the cheek as a way of saying “hello.”

Slurping Is Just Fine In Japan

two women eat instant noodles for lunch
Photo Credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP via Getty Images

While it’s considered rude to slurp up your food in most countries, it’s totally fine in Japan. In fact, slurping your food loudly can be used as a compliment to indicate that you’re really enjoying the meal.

Groundhog Day In The US

A Groundhog walking on grass
Photo Credit: Raymond Boyd / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Groundhog Day, where people patiently wait for a groundhog to emerge from its burrow and react to the weather and/or its shadow in order to predict the end of winter, puzzles many foreigners who think the holiday is absurd.

Catch Hands On Christmas In Peru

Two men fight during Takanakuy celebrations
Photo Credit: Sebastian Castaneda / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Sebastian Castaneda / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Every year at Christmas, citizens in the Peruvian province of Chumbivilcas partake in a festival called “Takanakuy” meaning “when the blood is boiling.” On this day, people solve their social problems with others by physically fighting them and then end the fight with a hug or handshake.

No Bathroom Breaks After The Wedding In Northern Borneo

Indonesian bride and groom at traditional wedding
Photo Credit: Arterra / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Arterra / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In the Tidong tribe of Northern Borneo, it’s customary for a new husband and wife to undergo a three-day bathroom ban—that means no peeing, defecating, or showering. They eat and drink minuscule amounts over these days to avoid the washroom.

Eating The Dead’s Ashes In Venezuela And Brazil

Urns for cremation ashes and other memorials
Photo Credit: Spencer Platt / Newsmakers
Photo Credit: Spencer Platt / Newsmakers

It’s hard to let go of our late loved ones, but some take it to another level. The people of the Yonamamo tribe who live in the rainforests of Brazil and Venezuela believe that it’s wrong to keep parts of the body, so when someone dies, they burn the body, split the ashes, and eat them.

Carrying A Pregnant Wife Over Hot Coals In China

hot coals on the ground with people blurring in the background
Photo Credit: David MAREUIL / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images
Photo Credit: David MAREUIL / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

In some areas of China, it’s believed that if a husband carries his pregnant wife while walking over a bed of hot coals, she will have an easier birthing delivery.

A Food Fight As A Holiday In Spain

Revellers pelt each other with tomato pulp during the world's biggest tomato fight at La Tomatina
Photo Credit: Jasper Juinen / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Jasper Juinen / Getty Images

The Valencians in the eastern Spanish town of Buñol participate in an annual festival called “La Tomatina,” where people throw tomatoes at each other in an enormous, town-wide food fight.

Point With Your Thumb In Malaysia

woman giving a thumbs up
Photo Credit: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP via Getty Images

Pointing with your index finger is pretty normal in North America, but Malaysians and Indonesians can find the motion offensive. Instead, it’s customary there to gesture towards things using your thumbs.

“Blackening” The Bride In Scotland

women running down streets of edinburgh dressed as brides
Photo Credit: Scott Campbell / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Scott Campbell / Getty Images

In some parts of Scotland, there’s a pre-wedding ritual called “blackening the bride” that involves throwing eggs, spoiled milk, and an array of other disgusting things at the bride-to-be before taking her around the town to be seen by everyone.

Don’t Show Up On Time In Venezuela

set dining table
Photo Credit: Scopio / Abby Willtrout
Photo Credit: Scopio / Abby Willtrout

If you’re invited to a dinner party in Venezuela, it’s considered disrespectful to show up on time. Guests are expected to show up at least 15 minutes after the agreed-upon time, or else they come across as greedy.

Writing In Red Is Not The Way To Go In South Korea

Open personal organiser or diary & red fountain pen
Photo Credit: Photofusion / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Photofusion / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In the history of the country, red ink was primarily used to write down the names of dead people. To this day, it is considered taboo to write a living person’s name in red.