Common Habits That Will Get Americans In Trouble Abroad

Some seemingly normal habits, like blowing your nose or tipping a waiter, are considered not only rude but even offensive in other parts of the world.

Find out what you might want to avoid doing the next time you’re abroad.

Smiling With Your Mouth Open

Laugh
Photo Credit: Frank Busch / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Frank Busch / Unsplash

While laughing shows you’re having a good time and getting along in places like Japan, laughing loudly with your open mouth is considered impolite.

If you really can’t hold it back, the locals put a hand over their mouth to hide it instead.

Opening A Gift On The Spot

gift
Photo Credit: kira Auf Der Heide / Unsplash
Photo Credit: kira Auf Der Heide / Unsplash

Opening a gift is something that is done in private in places like China and India. Opening it in public is looked upon as a lack of self-control, and even tacky. Plus, in China, it’s incredibly rude to give an unwrapped gift.

You can thank them later if you love the gift.

Taking Your Shoes Off Indoors

Shoes
Photo Credit: Drew Coffman / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Drew Coffman / Unsplash

While the first thing you might think to do when visiting someone is to take off your shoes as to not dirty their home, you will be getting dirty looks if you do that in places in some places in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Over there, taking off your shoes inside is not only bad manners, but it’s also seen as unhygienic.

Smiling At Strangers

Smiling
Photo Credit: Luis Pacheco / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Luis Pacheco / Unsplash

While an innocent smile to a passerby could be considered friendly, in Russia, it’s considered to be quite an intimate gesture.

In Russia, a smile is meant to indicate a genuine affinity toward another person. If you don’t know them, they might think you’re insincere.

Blowing Your Nose In Public

photo-of-crying-woman-in-red-long-sleeve-shirt-blowing-her
Photo Credit: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels
Photo Credit: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

While it’s not always the most pleasant act, blowing your nose is usually considered natural. However, in places like China, It’s regarded as a repulsive act, even when you’re sick.

You might want to make a run for it to the bathroom before it drips instead.

Being On Time

Watch
Photo Credit: Jaelyn Castillo / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Jaelyn Castillo / Unsplash

Yes, it is better to be fashionably late in some places. In fact, in places like Argentina or Latin America, it is very rude to show up on time to a dinner party. It’s because it means you’ll be in the way of the host, who is probably still busy preparing.

Sitting In The Back Of A Cab

taxi
Photo Credit: Mourad Saadi / unsplash
Photo Credit: Mourad Saadi / unsplash

While Americans don’t usually think twice about riding in the back of a cab, in places like Australia, New Zealand, parts of Ireland, Scotland, and the Netherlands, it’s considered rude.

You might want to start practicing your small talk because over there, it’s a matter of egalitarianism.

Asking For Condiments With Your Meal

ketchup
Photo Credit: Charisse Kenion / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Charisse Kenion / Unsplash

In countries where there is a big emphasis on cuisine like in France, Italy, Spain, and Japan, you might get weird looks if you ask for extra ketchup, hot sauce, soy sauce, or salt to add to your meal.

They might take this to mean the food is not good enough for you. Better to check if other tables around you have any condiments first.

Giving Someone A Thumbs-Up

Thumbs Up
Photo Credit: Sincerly Media / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Sincerly Media / Unsplash

While you might think you’re showing encouragement with a thumbs-up, if you do it in places like Greece, South America, West Africa, and some Middle Eastern countries, they might take it the same way as if you were holding up your middle finger.

It’s a safer bet to just smile or nod instead.

Eating Everything On Your Plate

Food
Photo Credit: Helena Lopes / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Helena Lopes / Unsplash

Licking your plate clean might mean to you that you enjoyed your food and aren’t wasting any of it, but in places like China, it comes as off as you weren’t given enough food or a filling enough meal.

They prefer it if you leave a little and just give your compliments to the chef instead.

Exposing The Soles Of Your Feet

Soles of feet
Photo Credit: Lucas Sankey / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Lucas Sankey / Unsplash

You might want to reconsider putting your feet up in places that are predominantly Arab, Hindu, Muslim, or Buddhist. They consider the feet to be the dirtiest part of the body.

In hot countries especially, the men have to be extra careful when they cross their legs wearing flip flops.

Giving A Generous Tip

waitress
Photo Credit: Jessie Mccall / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Jessie Mccall / Unsplash

While it’s customary and even obliged in North America to give a good tip to reward good service, in places like Japan, it’s considered rude.

That’s because great service there is expected to be the norm, so it’s insulting to indicate that you don’t usually get it.

Crossing Your Fingers For Good Luck

Fingers Crossed
Photo Credit: Dayne Topkin / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Dayne Topkin / Unsplash

You might cross your fingers when you wish for something in America, but in places like Vietnam, you’re definitely going to be giving people the wrong idea.

That’s because, there, crossed fingers are considered a rude way of mimicking female genitalia. Maybe just say “good luck” instead…

Calling Someone Over With Your Hand

Calling dog over
Photo Credit: Mbalimbali / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Mbalimbali / Unsplash

You might have beckoned someone over with your hand to signal an encouraging invitation. It’s usually friendly and even flirty sometimes.

But in the Philippines, this gesture is reserved for calling dogs over and will be taken offensively if used to another person.

Using Your Left Hand

Left hand
Photo Credit: Michel Preuss / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Michel Preuss / Unsplash

In some cultures like in Africa, India, Sri Lanka, and the Middle East, the left hand is reserved for the toilet. So it’s considered very impolite to use that hand for anything else.

Putting Your Hands In Your Pockets

pockets
Photo Credit: Katarina Sikuljak / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Katarina Sikuljak / Unsplash

This is often a sign of discomfort or casualness in American culture. But if you do it in Turkey and South Korea, it’s a sign of arrogance. They might especially think you have an attitude if you’re in public or around temples or monuments.

Drinking Someone Else’s Alcohol

Drinking
Photo Credit: Giovanna Gomes / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Giovanna Gomes / Unsplash

All parties in Norway must be B.Y.O.B., because it’s considered rude to drink anything you didn’t bring yourself. They’re missing out on keggers and the experience of sharing a bunch of mismatched packs of beer…

Making Yourself At Home

Dinner
Photo Credit: Romeo / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Romeo / Unsplash

In some Asian cultures, you should most definitely not make yourself at home. In fact, if you’re invited over for dinner, you should not even serve yourself food, as it’s the hosts’ job to entertain and serve the guest.

Giving Someone A Hug

Hug
Photo Credit: Chermiti mOhamd / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Chermiti mOhamd / Unsplash

A friendly hug or even a playful touch on the arm can be considered offensive in places like China, Thailand, and Korea. It’s regarded as a violation of privacy and personal space. Make sure you ask if it’s okay first.

Saying No To A Food Offer

food
Photo Credit: Spencer Davis / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Spencer Davis / Unsplash

Every Arab knows that if you are offered food, it doesn’t matter if you just came back from a five-star buffet, you say yes. In places like Lebanon, it’s very rude to refuse anything offered to you, especially food.

It shows that you are refusing an act of generosity because you think you are above it or it’s not good enough for you. Be prepared to be offered seconds and thirds.