A Globetrotter’s Guide to Social Etiquettes from Around the World

People are generally tolerant and accepting of foreign visitors but it would serve you well to always practice good manners and social etiquettes so as not to offend anyone. 

Etiquette differs in each culture and country. In general, if you are well-mannered, tolerant, and respectful, your travels will be pleasant and easy. Here is a list of international etiquettes from around the world to keep so when you go travelling next, you can be mindful of local mannerisms and make the best of your trip.


Do you know that you must never stick your chopsticks upright in your rice? Sticking them upright in a bowl of rice is even worse. This is because during funerals in Japan, the rice bowl of the deceased is placed before their coffin with the chopsticks upright in the rice. If you need to stop between bites, it’s best to place your chopsticks together right in front of you, parallel to the edge of the table.


In China, it may be considered bad manners to clean your plate at the dinner table as it can be construed that you don’t have enough food and you are still hungry. It is also bad luck to flip a whole fish once you have finished one side. The phrase is called “dao yue” which means “to flip the fish is like saying the fisherman’s boat is going to capsize,” or simply bad luck. The most superstitious won’t even attempt to eat the bottom part of the fish.


Alternatively, in a Greek family home, you must eat everything that is on your plate. Leaving food on your plate could be taken as an insult as the hostess may think you don’t like the food.

Middle East & India

For all the lefties in the world, please take note that it considered rude to pass items with your left hand in India. Especially in South India, you should not even touch your plate with your left hand while eating, as the left hand is associated with cleaning yourself in the toilet. It is also considered a gross indecency in Iran to eat with your left hand. If you are having coffee with the Bedouins in the Middle East, shake the cup at the end. A Bedouin will continuously refresh your cup unless you tilt it two or three times before handing it back.


It’s best to learn a few greetings in French to make yourself comfortable with the locals. They appreciate being people who are bien eleve (well brought up or well mannered). Remember that you must not eat bread as an appetizer before the meal. It has to be eaten as an accompaniment to your food, particularly with the cheese course at the end of the meal. Also, did you know it is preferred that you place your bread directly on the table and not on a plate?


When in Germany, it’s vital to be appropriately dressed for every occasion. This cannot be stressed enough. You express your respect not only for the occasion but the guests, the surroundings and especially the host or hostess.


Unless it is explicitly offered, don’t ask for Parmesan cheese for your pizza. It’s a culinary sin; like putting sawdust on expensive caviar. Many dishes in Italy aren’t meant for Parmesan. For example, in Rome, the traditional cheese is Pecorino. Just remember, if it’s not offered, don’t ask. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.


Don’t eat anything with your hands, even fries. In Chile, manners are a little more formal than other South American countries. Even though it might seem more practical to pick up certain foods with your hands, don’t do it. Just use your fork.


If someone older to you offers you a drink, lift your glass to receive the pour with both hands. Then turn your head away and take a discreet sip. It is a sign of respect for elders and an extremely important tenet of Korean culture. Also, don’t start eating until the oldest gentleman has done so and don’t leave the table until he is finished.


The holy grail of spirits in Russia is of course, vodka. This beverage must always be drunk neat – not even with ice. Adding any form of liquid is seen as polluting the drink’s purity unless it’s Yorsh. Yorsh is a formidable concoction of vodka and beer. Most important of all, don’t ever turn down a drink. Offering someone a drink is a sign of trust and friendship. Even if it’s 9am, it’s a good idea to take the drink.

An overarching etiquette that transcends borders is international driving etiquette. While the do’s and don’ts still differ depending on the country you’re in, it's important that you get acquainted with the primary driving rules of the country you’re visiting beforehand - i.e. identifying the correct driving lane to be in. In the event of an accident with another vehicle, a standard social etiquette would be to greet and pacify the other driver, and to exchange car insurance details. Exactly why it’s important to be sure that you have a comprehensive personal travel insurance plan to keep you safe abroad, click here for more details.

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To read more about exploring within Malaysia, click here: http://www.sofianaznim.com/2017/01/exploring-haven-resort-ipoh.html

Contributor Profile 
M.J. George
Menaka George is a professional copywriter with a Masters in Business Administration. She has written weekly blogs for Malaysia’s Largest Online Wine Shop, WineTalk and over 1000 product descriptions for EBay. She currently contributes digital articles to various commercial and corporate giants.

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