Travelling to a foreign country is an amazing opportunity if you are fortunate enough to do it. You get to experience the world and meet new people. While you bring a well-packed suitcase and hopefully a good friend, you also bring something else – your mannerisms and cultural experiences. It is easy to offend a whole culture without realizing it.
Travelling to foreign country without research puts you at risk of committing cultural faux pas. Mostly, the locals will just laugh at you, call you a dumb tourists, or throw you side glances. The cost, however, can be greater. In particular, Americans who have traveled abroad without regard to local customs have been fined, caned, or even jailed.
Travelling can be scary and worrisome, but do not panic. Everyone does it at one point or another when travelling.
Take the United States, for instance. How is a foreigner supposed to know that Americans say “bless you” after sneezing? It doesn’t make sense anymore and originates back before America became a country; yet, it is considered to be rude when people do not say it. Even elevator rides – people are supposed stare at anything except each other. In other countries, not talking is considered rude and people have no problem standing very close to one another.
Some faux pas are ridiculously obscure. Unless you know someone from that area or are really gifted at minding (looking at you Professor Xavier), you are likely to commit these faux pas without intending to do it.
We bring you a list of 20 cultural faux pas to avoid while travelling.
Do not chew, spit, import, or even think about gum while in Singapore. Since 1992, it has been illegal to be in possession of gum unless for medicinal reasons.
Not only is it a dirty habit, but it can make the sidewalk look bad, too. The fine is hefty. If you are caught spitting out your gum in public or having it without a legitimate reason, you will receive a fine comparable to over $5,000 USD. Yes – they take it that seriously in Singapore. Don’t put yourself in an awkward social faux pas which can get you into serious trouble.
Nepal: So it’s rude to step over someone, but it’s not rude for a person to be sprawled out across the walkway?!