American Customs That Might Be Rude In Other Countries

Every country has different customs that others might not understand. From food to dances to local dialects, it’s a plethora of different things that shape our culture. People from all over the world can see American customs on television shows because it’s one of the most powerful countries in the world. But those things might be considered rude in many nations. Can you imagine insulting someone on your next trip? Let’s find out which of our most common customs are not normal overseas!

TIPPING THE WAITER

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Image credits: Shutterstock

This might sound crazy, but tipping in many countries is actually considered rude. In places like Japan and South Korea, it’s an insult. If you think their service was good, all you need to do is let them know, which is pretty refreshing. Some people have said that tipping makes it look like the server is a beggar that needs money.


USING THE PEACE SIGN HAND GESTURE

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Image credits: Pexels

A lot of our readers might actually know about this faux pas. In the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia, our regular peace sign – the index finger and the middle finger up – means something completely different. You can make the sign if your palm is facing outward. However, if the palm is facing you, then you are flipping others off.


REJECTING FOOD

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Image credits: Shutterstock

In America, we might finish our plates and never reject gifts, but some are known for refusing food so that the host doesn’t feel obliged to give you something. But, in Lebanon and other Arab countries, you cannot refuse. The host is being kind enough to give you something, and you have to accept it no matter what.


USING "AMERICA" TO REFER TO THE UNITED STATES

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Image credits: Pexels

People in this country never say “the United States of America” unless it’s absolutely necessary. It’s much more natural to just say “America”, but that’s the name of the whole continent. When you visit South America, people might understand what you mean, but it will seem rude. Better to be safe than sorry!


CROSSING YOUR FINGERS IN PUBLIC

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Image credits: Shutterstock

We cross our fingers when we are wishing for luck or when we are making a promise we don’t intend to keep. But, in Vietnam, crossed fingers mean something completely different. In fact, it’s a symbol of a part of a woman’s anatomy that never sees the light of day. We are definitely glad we know that now!


EATING OUTSIDE AT ALL

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Image credits: Pexels

Americans are always in motion, and with fast food places as well as busy schedules, we are used to seeing people eat in public all the time. You don’t even notice because it’s as normal as breathing. However, in Asia, you might be better off eating at home or directly at the restaurant. Luckily, the younger generation is changing this.


MAKING DIRECT EYE CONTACT FOR PROLONGED PERIODS

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Image Credits: Shutterstock

In the United States, not making direct eye contact while speaking to someone is considered rude and indifferent. However, in other cultures, be careful how long you stare into someone's eyes. In some Asian countries, for instance, looking at somebody straight in the eyes for a prolonged period will make a local uncomfortable.


COMPLAINING TO THE MANAGEMENT AT RESTAURANTS

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Image credits: Shutterstock

Another faux pas that Americans might commit overseas is complaining at restaurants. Sadly, many people are used to sending their plates back until they are perfect. Yes, you are paying for a service; so you deserve what you want. However, you cannot do this in Britain. If there is a complaint, you must do it in private, but never try and send the plate back.


GESTURING SOMEONE OVER WITH YOUR HAND

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Image credits: Shutterstock

If you are in a crowded room or separated by a considerable distance, you probably call people over by signaling with your hand. We all know the common signal of “Come here”. But, you really need to avoid doing this when visiting the Philippines and some other Asian countries. To them, it’s like you are calling over a dog.


HAVING YOUR HANDS IN YOUR POCKETS

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Image credits: Pexels

It’s important to respect people while you’re having a conversation, and you might be surprised to learn that putting your hands in your pockets is considered rude in Turkey. It’s also inappropriate because some might interpret it as you being condescending and arrogant. It’s almost like crossing your arms, which can mean that you are not open to the discussion.


DOING THINGS WITH YOUR LEFT HAND

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Image credits: Pexels

This is sad news for lefties, but there are many countries that considered it awful to use your left hand. In countries like India, Africa, Sri Lanka, and many in the Middle East, you should always greet people with your right hand and even pass them things with the right hand. The reason is that the left hand is associated with cleaning your bottom.


GETTING TOO CLOSE TO OTHERS

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Image credits: Pexels

Of course, it’s normal for loved ones to do it, although there are many countries that find public displays of affection rather rude. In this case, we are referring to touching or hugging someone that is not your partner. In China, Thailand, Korea, and some parts of the Middle East, people love their personal space, and you better respect it!


BEING SERVED HUGE PORTIONS

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Image credits: Pexels

Some people from other countries do not understand how Americans can eat such a large portion of food. This is a reality when it comes to the size of food portions in restaurants and fast-food places. They usually serve portions so large that in any other country they could be considered too much for one person. In addition, this sometimes includes items that aren’t food but also come in jumbo size.


NEVER TRYING TO REJECT PRESENTS

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Image credits: Pexels

It’s a common practice in America, and some countries in Latin America, to never reject a gift. Even if you don’t like it, you take it with a smile because it’s the gesture that counts. However, in Japan and China, people tend to refuse a present several times before finally accepting. Additionally, they don’t open it on the spot.


GETTING A LOT OF ICE IN EVERY DRINK

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Image credits: Pexels

Something that stands out a lot when we visit Europe is that they don't usually use ice: In fact, in most places you go they won't give you ice unless you ask for it. Americans often exaggerate with the amount of ice they serve in drinks. Even in some cases, they serve more ice than liquid and that is unfortunate. It is said that this is because Americans have a habit of thinking that "more is more" at all times.


USING OLD BILLS

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Image credits: Shutterstock

American bills usually stay in circulation for a long time. In fact, if someone gave you a brand new bill, you could think that it’s fake. But, it’s not the same in other countries. Using older cash is not allowed most of the time. Some shops reject the money if there is a scratch, a tear, or looks too worn out. We just don’t get it!


BEING TOO OPTIMISTIC

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Image credits: Pexels

Earlier we mentioned that some foreigners find it weird that Americans smile at strangers, but we are also extremely optimistic. It’s all about spreading positivity. We will always tell someone to “have a great day!” However, Europeans don’t think that it’s normal to say that. Everyone has whatever day they want.


THE LOVE FOR COLLEGE SPORTS

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Image credits: Pexels

In America, college sports, especially football, are just as important as professional-level games. Many states in the country go crazy over game nights. There are even all kinds of events surrounding the day of a match like tailgate parties. This doesn’t happen in other countries. You might support a team because someone you know is a participant, but that’s it.


THE WAY WE WRITE DATES

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Image credits: Pexels

Similarly to the previous item, we also have a different system for dates. Most of the world uses DD/MM/YY or even YY/MM/DD for many Asian countries. But, for Americans, we use MM/DD/YY, which makes it confusing to people outside our country. For example, February 10th might be written “02/10” or “10/02”. Some might think that you are talking about October 2nd.


OPENING PRESENTS RIGHT AWAY

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Image credits: Shutterstock

We probably all opened presents in front of our guests during birthday parties, but it seems that in many Asian countries, this is considered rude. Apparently, you have to wait for a while before doing so, otherwise, you might appear greedy. This might be too hard for everyone who grew up with a different custom.


TELLING PEOPLE TO HELP THEMSELVES

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Image credits: Pexels

In America, we are used to being accommodating hosts. Most of the time, we will tell a visitor to “help themselves” or “Mi casa es su casa”, which translates to “My house is your house”. But, in some countries in Asia, this is not a common practice. Therefore, you have to be a lot more respectful in foreign homes.


NOT BEING ON TIME

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Image credits: Pexels

Some people are always late, and others might hate that attitude too. It’s not a cultural thing, but there are places where punctuality is an absolute must. For example, in Germany, being late is considered the worst kind of insult. They take it to mean that your time is more important than everyone else’s. Therefore, wake up extra early while in Germany!


PUMPKIN EVERYTHING

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Image credits: Shutterstock

Not every American is happy about this trend, but as soon as the calendar page turns to October, you might start seeing all kinds of pumpkin things on the menu from every establishment. We are obsessed with pumpkin spice, but many other countries cannot understand this trend. You will definitely not be having a pumpkin latte in Italy.


HAVING A CONVERSATION WITH RANDOM FOLKS

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Image credits: Pexels

It might not happen in every single part of the United States of America, but in many places – like the line at the bank or the waiting room at the doctor’s office – you might be able to strike up a conversation with a stranger. However, in other countries, this is considered completely weird, even if they politely saying “Good morning”.


HAVING TO WORK ALL THE TIME

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Image credits: Pexels

If you want to eat in America, you have to work constantly. According to a study by the Center of Economic Policy and Research, one in four Americans is not even given paid leave. This is considered insane in several European countries, where you can probably get a month off a year. Some folks here cannot even take sick days, although laws are trying to change that.


HAVING A SMILE FOR RANDOM PEOPLE 

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Image credits: Pexels

Being friendly is part of daily life in America – in most places, at least. Therefore, you might find that people smile when you meet their eyes. But, that might not happen in other places around the world. Sometimes, smiling at a stranger abroad could make you look crazy or appears as a creep. Be careful during your travels!


NOT GREETING THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU

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Image credits: Shuttertsock

In regards to American friendliness, it’s common practice to greet people, even strangers. However, it’s not the norm. It’s also alright NOT to do it. But, in other countries, you might be committing a serious faux pas if you don’t greet a person. For example, in France, you have to say “Bonjour, Madame/Monsieur!” almost everywhere you go.


TALKING ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT

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Image credits: Pexels

Some people love to chat with others on public transport, especially if they commute for long hours. However, in many Asian countries, this is considered rude and disruptive, so you should try and be as quiet as possible while on the train or bus. This means you should both limit your conversations and keep your phone on silent.


INQUIRING ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE'S WORK

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Image credits: Pexels

When we meet someone, we always ask common questions like “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” It’s a great way to really get to know a person. However, in the Netherlands, you cannot ask about a person’s job because it’s considered rude. You might be deemed classist because the country has a massive welfare program.


CONTINUE GOING RIGHT WHEN THE LIGHT IS RED

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Image credits: Pexels

In most countries, when the light turns RED, you have to stop no matter what. However, in America, you can go to the right in intersections as long as you wait for other cars to pass. You have to be careful if you rent a car abroad because the rules of the road are different everywhere. It’s best to avoid problems!


BLOWING YOUR NOSE IN PUBLIC

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Image credits: Pexels

We don’t exactly blow our noses everywhere we go, but we don’t have massive rules against it either. Mostly, we don’t do it in a restaurant and other places with a lot of people. However, in China, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, you have to go to the bathroom to do it. They view it as a bodily function.


LAUGHING OUT LOUD

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Image credits: Pexels

Americans are known for their boisterous humor and rolling on the floor with laughter. However, there are countries where laughing loudly can be considered impolite. If you have to laugh, you must cover your mouth to avoid disrespecting others. You should also try to keep your volume to a minimum.


GOING WITHOUT A SHIRT AT THE BEACH

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Image credits: Pexels

You might be confused because women don’t go topless in America. However, we are actually referring to men. It might seem weird, but in South Korea, you won’t see a man without a shirt on even at the beach. When they spend sometime under the sun, they usually keep their shirts on. Do you find this strange as well?


USING THE "OK" HAND GESTURE

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Image credits: Pexels

Here is another hand signal that you should completely avoid while traveling. Americans use “OK” for many things, sometimes associated with racist groups. However, it was considered a negative gesture even before that. In France, doing the “OK” hand signal could actually be interpreted as calling others worthless.


REQUESTING SOMETHING NOT ON THE MENU

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Image credits: Pexels

Americans are used to picking and choosing menu items and sometimes, slightly changing the order. However, other countries take pride in their food. Be it the way things are cooked or the ingredients added to a dish. Therefore, it’s considered uncouth to ask for some exchange or adding something extra to an order.


GETTING YOUR COFFEE TO GO

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Image credits: Pexels

Italians love their coffee, and one of the best parts of their day is sitting at a café enjoying their espresso. However, Americans are used to taking their drinks “to-go”, and you should never ask for that in Italy. It’s true what they say that Europeans are a lot more relax and coffee time is a sacred moment, instead of an errand.


USING THE THE "ROCK ‘N’ ROLL" SIGN

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Image credits: Pexels

You might be used to making “bull horns” with your hands, especially at rock concerts, although it’s not that popular among younger generations. Meanwhile, in countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal, and some in South America, you might be implying that someone’s wife is cheating on him. Isn’t that crazy? You could end a marriage in the name of rock ‘n’ roll!


SHOWING YOUR HAND TO OTHERS 

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Image credits: Pexels

Most of us show the palm of our hands when we are asking someone to stop. It’s a natural barrier we put against others. You also put it up to push someone away. But, in Greece and Pakistan, it’s incredibly rude. Instead of trying to stop something, it can be seen as if you want to start a fight with someone. So, keep your hands down.


GOING TOO EARLY

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Image credits: Shutterstock

While it might be great to be on time in Germany, there are places where you are expected to arrive late. For example, in some Latin American countries, you are not supposed to show up early. In Argentina, it’s best to get there a little later. It doesn’t apply to all situations. It’s mostly for gatherings or parties, but if you show up on time, you might have to help set up.


USING YOUR FINGER TO POINT AT STUFF

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Image credits: Pexels

In many countries, pointing, in general, is considered incredibly rude, but Americans do it so much that it’s not really a problem. However, in China, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, and Latin America, it’s one of the rudest gestures you can make. Many of these countries actually use their lips to point, and others might use their hands.


MAKING THE THUMBS-UP GESTURE

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Image credits: Pexels

In the Middle East, some parts of Latin America, Western Africa, Russia, and even Greece, given the thumbs-up is an insult. Some consider it as bad as giving someone the middle finger. While Americans use it as encouragement, or to say “job well done”, you better not try this signal while you are traveling abroad.


SHOWING EVERYONE THE BOTTOM OF YOUR FEET

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Image credits: Pexels

It might not be a problem in the United States, especially in regions where people are always in flip flops because of the hot weather. However, you need to avoid showing the sole of your feet in Arab, Muslim, Hindi, and Buddhist countries. The reason is that feet are the lowest part of your body, and therefore, the dirtiest.


NOT TAKING SECOND HELPINGS OF FOOD

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Image credits: Pexels

In some countries such as the Philipines, it is customary first to reject second helpings but to accept them ultimately. According to Etiquette Scholar, in the Philippines, "if you really don't want more, take very little and leave it on your plate," because rejecting the offer may be considered rude. 


THE CONCEPT OF PERSONAL SPACE

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Image credits: Pexels

Americans might be very affectionate, but we have a clearly defined concept of personal space. It’s something you don’t trespass unless you are really close to the other person. However, in other countries, personal space doesn’t exist. Sometimes, people choose to be very friendly, but other times, it’s because there is a lot of people around.


DISCUSSING MENTAL HEALTH AND PROBLEMS

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Image credits: Pexels

Americans have become incredibly open about their feelings in the last few decades. Most people actually visit therapists to talk about their issues. However, it’s not the same in the United Kingdom. Feelings over there are still something to keep to yourself, and you can go to the therapist, but you never talk about your conversation with them.


NOT TAKING YOUR SHOES OFF IN SOMEONE’S HOUSE

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Image credits: Pexels

In America, we keep our shoes on all the time when we are outside our own homes. Unless your host has new flooring or carpeting, the thought of taking our shoes off is crazy. However, in most Asian and some Caribbean countries, you have to take them off before entering a house. On the other hand, some places find it rude to take your socks off.


USING THE BACKSEAT IN A TAXI

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Image credits: Pexels

While in America is just customary to sit in the back of your taxi, Uber, or Lyft, there are many places where that’s just rude. In Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, and Ireland, the drivers actually prefer that you sit in front if there is no one there. Apparently, sitting in the back is against egalitarianism, which means that everyone is equal and should get equal sitting.


THE CUSTOM OF FREE REFILLS EVERYWHERE

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Image credits: Shutterstock

The consumer lifestyle in America is something that foreigners find very strange. You can get infinite refills on your soda at many establishments, especially fast food places. However, you might not be able to do that outside the country. A refill is really just ordering another drink, but you will have to pay it abroad.


HAVING BABY SHOWERS

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Image credits: Pexels

We are obsessed with parties. Baby showers are a very American custom, although people from other countries have adopted the practice as well. Nowadays, the trend is to have gender-reveal events. However, there are many countries that believe that those things are completely unlucky. Apparently, celebrating before the actual birth is bad luck.


WAY TOO MUCH FOOD IN ONE SERVING

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Image credits: Pexels

Americans are used to eating giant portions of food, and every restaurant will give you massive amounts on your plate. Many studies have actually found that foreigners end up gaining a lot of weight when they visit the United States. In fact, even chocolate bars are 41% larger than those sold in other countries.


NEEDING A LOT OF OPTIONS

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Image credits: Pexels

Americans have the largest supermarkets in the world, and inside, you can find a huge variety of products. You can choose from more than 10 brands of mayonnaise, for example, with different characteristics like diet, gluten-free, low-sodium, and more. This doesn’t happen in many other countries.


EATING EVERYTHING ON YOUR PLATE

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Image credits: Pexels

It’s the norm to finish everything on your plate in every part of America, and several other countries have this rule too. It’s mostly so that everyone learns not to waste food, but this custom is not observed everywhere else. In countries like China, Philippines, Thailand, and Russia, you have to leave some food, otherwise, the host thinks that you are still hungry.


MASSIVE COLLEGE DEBT

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Image credits: Shutterstock

Many other countries think the amount Americans have to pay for college is insane. Some tuitions go for $25,000 to $50,000 a year. Meanwhile, countries like France and Germany have free universities where people can learn without paying a penny for classes. Many Americans have actually traveled abroad to avoid getting into debt.


TRICK OR TREATING ON HALLOWEEN

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Image credits: Pexels

Halloween is not a universal holiday. Not a lot of folks celebrate it outside the United States, and even if they do, not everyone expects children to go trick-or-treating. That’s a very American custom. But, what would October be without pumpkins, scary costumes, ghosts, vampires, and candy? We hope Halloween spreads more over the years.


HAVING DINNER TOO EARLY

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Image credits: Pexels

This might sound odd to foreigners, but most people in the United States actually eat their dinner between 5:30 pm and 8 pm. That’s not the case in other countries where sitting at the table before 8 pm is crazy. Most Americans cannot imagine having food at such a late hour. On the other hand, our dinners are actually heavier than in other cultures.


TAKING THE LEFTOVERS HOME

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Image credits: Shutterstock

The term itself, “doggie bag”, seems a bit insulting. For anyone that’s not familiar, that’s literally taking your leftovers from a restaurant home in a to-go bag. However, this practice is not viewed well in some parts of Europe. In fact, taking food home is considered a health hazard that can develop into food poisoning.


NO NEGATIVE CRITICISM

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Image credits: Shutterstock

There is a huge taboo in our country about saying negative things. We usually beat around the bush when conversing with each other. Additionally, we tend not to reject anything upfront. We disguise our words in a kinder way so that the other person doesn’t get their feelings hurt. Being brutally honest can be considered rude.


A LOT OF WATER IN TOILET BOWLS

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Image credits: Pinterest

Toilets in the United States are certainly different compared to the rest of the world. The biggest difference is the amount of water that people use in this country while flushing the toilet. For most other countries, the toilet uses only the necessary, but in America, water usage can be outrageous.


ACCEPTING COMPLIMENTS

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Image credits: Pexels

Accepting compliments can be a bit awkward for many people, even in America. However, no one would consider accepting a compliment rude, but in some cultures, it is. In Japan, for example, accepting a compliment is seen as arrogance, and they should always be denied, so as not to toot your own horn.


USING ATHLEISURE CLOTHES

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Image credits: Shutterstock

In America, we have become more and more accustomed to using sweat pants, flip flops, and T-shirts all the time. We like to be comfortable and gyms clothes are the best for that, even if we do not go to the gym. However, in Japan and several countries in Europe, it’s seen as a rude custom. So, let’s dress better while traveling!


DRINKING SOMEONE ELSE'S ALCOHOL

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Image credits: Pexels

In Norway, they take the concept of "BYOB" very seriously. So, if you go to a party in Norway, never drink alcohol that you didn't personally bring, as this is considered extremely rude. In the United States, on the other hand, if you bring a six-pack of beer to a party or BBQ, it is considered fine to drink anything else at the event. Don't try that in Norway.


KEEPING YOUR CLOTHES ON IN SAUNAS OR STEAM ROOMS

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Image Credits: Shutterstock

We wouldn't go as far as saying this is offensive, but people in Turkey or Scandinavian countries will think you're a prude if you don't take your clothes off in saunas, spas, steam rooms, or any other place of physical purification. Also, it is considered rude because those are places of purity and reflection, and anything from the outside world, including clothes, should be removed. 


REVEALING TOO MUCH SKIN

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Image credits: Pexels

There are many Asian countries where it’s still pretty rude for a woman to reveal too much skin in public. However, it’s not exactly like you might imagine. In America, we have no problem showing our shoulders, especially while wearing a tank top or spaghetti straps on a summer day. However, in Cambodia, women better keep themselves covered.


OUR PHARMACIES SELL SO MANY THINGS

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Image credits: Shutterstock

There are many differences between pharmacies in the United States and those in other countries. Most people anywhere in the world find it very strange that in the US pharmacies sell junk food and any other kinds of products. From their point of view, pharmacies in the United States function as convenience stores.


TALKING DURING A MEAL

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Image credits: Pexels

In the United States, it's quite common to talk about your day's adventures over dinner, but in some countries like Japan and China, this is considered rude because mealtimes are for eating rather than talking. Nobody is likely to talk to you while eating as they consider mealtime a sacred practice. 

Now, we are prepared for our next trip around the world, and hopefully, we won’t insult anybody while having fun. Let us know which one is the craziest is your opinion. If you liked this article, share it with your friends from other countries to see what they think. See you next time!

Source: Travel A Lot, Business Insider, Yahoo

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