Everyone knows that when Americans go to other countries, they sometimes cause a bit of controversy. The cultural differences sometimes hilarious and completely harmful, but in other cases things could get serious. After all, not every American is capable of following the local customs and ways.
As a matter of fact, it is relatively easy to insult someone abroad with something that we all consider to be a part of everyday life here; however, some situations could get nasty and you may find yourself apologizing for something you didn’t even consider to be wrong in the first place.
1. Leaving a tip
It would be rude of you to not leave a tip in any American café or restaurant, but there are countries where servers have bigger salaries and tips are not needed. And to make matters worse – if you leave a tip in Japan or South Korea, you would probably insult the waiter.
2. Thumbs Up
Throwing thumbs up in the Middle East, Latin America, Western Africa and even Greece would most likely be considered as a similar gesture to flipping somebody off. We strongly advise you to avoid that.
3. Getting in the back seat of a taxi
Riding alone in a taxi next to the driver may seem awkward to you, but in Australia, New Zealand, Scotland and The Netherlands, for example, it is the right thing to do; otherwise you would likely be considered to think of yourself as a VIP.
4. Entering a steam room wearing something
Many cultures across the world, such as Turkey and Scandinavia, consider going into the sauna to be more or less a spiritual experience, and any piece of clothing would represent earthly matter, thus you would interfere with their customs.
5. Showing up late
In America everyone thinks that showing a little late is considered as normal, but in most European countries you would probably make a bad impression if you show up even a few minutes late.
6. Arriving on time
It may sound a bit controversial, but apparently showing up on time could also make you look bad, but not in Europe. Apparently arriving on time would most likely be considered rude in Latin America. You might as well show up and hour early; the result would be still the same.
7. Refusing food is a big no-no
It doesn’t matter if you are on a diet or you just ate two whole grilled chickens with fries on the side; if you are in Greece and you attended a dinner party, you must eat, or otherwise you would deeply offend your host by turning down the food they offered.
8. Accepting gifts right away
If you follow a simple logic, when somebody offers you something for free, you take it, right? Wrong. If you happen to be in China or Japan, you must refuse it up to three times before accepting it. It may seem odd, but we guess it’s just how things work there.
9. Adding or removing ingredients from your meal
Everything is customizable in America, including the food you order, but cultures like France consider upgrading your meal to be rather inappropriate, because they honor their chefs – they would likely prepare any type of meal in the best possible way.
10. Eating your food down to the last bite
Most Americans clean their plates when eating, but some Asian countries like China apparently have a different way of accepting things; if you eat all the food, you would indirectly tell the chef that you were still hungry and the amount of food was not enough for you.
11. Having a bite outside of food spots
Chewing on a sandwich while riding the sub is no big deal here, but in Japan, for example, eating in a place where they do not offer food would make you look rude.
12. Putting your hand in the pocket
It may sound strange, but South Koreans consider having one hand in your pocket to be very disrespectful, especially if you meet someone and shake hands.
13. Laughing without covering your mouth
You may have noticed how Japanese people cover their mouths when laughing, especially the women. The reason for that is they consider it to be inappropriate, just like chewing food with your mouth open.