Around the world, people just have their own way of doing things. So it comes as no surprise that certain things that you don’t normally pay attention to, even simple things you do when going to a restaurant or going shopping, might actually be considered offensive or strange somewhere else. In fact, some things that you might find offensive, like yelling or throwing a tantrum in public, might actually be considered polite or normal in another country.
We at Mobonews love looking at different cultures and the things that make us so unique, so we’re sharing this list of how everyday things can be very different around the world. Don’t forget to check out or bonus that shows how language can even change the way you think.
Giving tips to service workers, like a waiter or a taxi driver, can be generous or insulting depending on where you are.
- Generally, in the West, you are expected to give a generous tip. A service worker might even be offended if they believe they were given too little and many places even impose a tip on large parties. Fast food workers are usually an exception to this rule and might even be punished for accepting tips.
- In many European countries, a service fee is already added to your bill, but an additional tip is sometimes expected too. Because of this, customers are expected to pay a smaller tip than their American counterparts. In some places, like England, the service fee isn’t always customary and often does take the place of a tip when it’s imposed.
- In some Asian countries, like South Korea, China, or Japan, tipping is not common, can even be considered an insult to the worker, and should be avoided. That said, some of these countries might get around this by imposing a service fee before work is performed, so that it’s not seen as a reflection of the workers’ performance.
- In the countries of Oceania, like Australia, New Zealand, and Samoa, tipping isn’t usually expected or required. Some places, like casinos, might outright ban giving tips.
2. Table sharing
In the West, sitting down at a table with free seats when a family is already there would be considered rude, and while there are some restaurants that have communal tables, it’s often seen as an invasion of privacy. In Japan, however, placing complete strangers at the same table is often done at busy restaurants and is seen as an efficient way to give people their food as quickly as possible.
3. Cheek kissing
- In Latin American countries, it’s often a greeting between friends of the opposite sex or 2 women. A man kissing a male friend like this would usually be seen as inappropriate.
- In some Middle Eastern or North African countries, like Israel and Egypt, a man kissing a male friend is a common greeting, but a man and woman kissing in public is often seen as improper and can even be illegal. There are some exceptions, like Lebanon and Tunisia, where a man kissing a female friend is seen as “brotherly.”
- In southern European countries, it’s often a greeting between friends. Whether there is a taboo according gender depends on the country. Men will kiss male friends in Italy and France, but only kiss female friends in Spain or Portugal.
- Generally, in East Asian countries, kissing in public is seen as inappropriate. Some exceptions where cheek kissing is common include the Philippines, East Timor, and parts of Indonesia
4. Personal space
In the West, giving people personal space is an unspoken rule and it’s very inappropriate to get too close for somebody’s comfort, especially someone of the opposite gender. In some countries, especially ones with large populations like China, personal space is seen as a luxury and people accumulating in large groups is seen as the norm.
In the West, if you go to a supermarket, you generally have to pay the assigned price for an item if you want it. The only way to lower the price, is to buy it when it’s on sale or find a coupon. However, bargaining over the price of an item is considered much more normal in countries like China, Turkey, Iran, and Egypt. In fact, in many of these places, not haggling about the cost of something means you’ll likely get ripped off when shopping.
6. Cleaning your plate
If you are a guest in somebody’s home and you are given a plate of food, do your homework to know if finishing your plate is considered polite or insulting. In China, eating all the food offered to you is seen as a sign that you are still hungry and that your host hasn’t given you enough. In India and Japan, however, not finishing your plate is considered an insult to the host, because you don’t seem to like the food.
- In some places, like Singapore, nudity is illegal and prohibited to the point that there are cases where people can be arrested for being naked in their own homes.
- Some countries are a little more relaxed about this. Hungary is known for its bathing culture and the country is filled with spas. Not only is changing your clothes in public considered normal, the country even has spas that prohibit patrons from wearing bathing suits, since it’s seen as hindering the good the spa will do.
8. Sharing utensils
Some countries, like North and South Korea, have a sort of sharing culture. When it comes to eating out with friends, there’s often a large dish that everyone at the table shares and people might even use the same utensils to share food. In the West, by contrast, this is considered double-dipping and is considered unclean, even for families.
In China, yelling in public is perfectly normal. For example, when you go out to eat, yelling at a server is considered a perfectly acceptable way to get their attention — after all you can’t expect the waiters to read your mind and know what you want. In the West, however, this is kind of considered impolite and disrespectful to employees and people usually just wait for their waiter to come to their table.
10. Throwing tantrums
In the West, a woman might act cutesy or childish when she wants something or just to be coy. In China it’s a whole other art form, where it’s very common to see adult women throw tantrums in public just to get what they want, like a new dress or a present. And this isn’t something that’s simply tolerated: women who don’t regularly throw tantrums like this, to get what they want from their men, are usually seen as unfeminine. In a way, this childish behavior reflects the responsibility a man is expected to have when providing for the women in his life.
Bonus: Even colors aren’t the same around the world!
In many Asian languages, blue and green were traditionally viewed as shades of the same color. In Japan, for example, this caused complications when designing the country’s traffic lights. Technically speaking, the law demands that the light for “go” is green, but the bluest shade possible. On a different note, light blue and dark blue are often considered different colors (arguably similar to how red and pink are considered different colors).
What are some things that you’ve done, that people thought were rude or offensive? Please share with us in the comments!