13 Accidentally Rude Things You Can Do Overseas
There was that time Richard Nixon flipped the bird to the people of Brazil by doing the “A-OK” sign from the steps of Air Force One.
Then there was the occasion George Bush Senior gave the middle finger to a group of Aussies while on tour in Canberra by flashing a peace sign with his palm facing inward.
And some might remember when former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson enraged Saddam Hussein by exposing the soles of his shoes to the dictator in a meeting.
No one wants to be that insensitive, offensive tourist. But there are certain types of behavior that you wouldn’t think twice about, or even recognize you are doing, that are considered rude or offensive in other countries.
Before traveling, it’s a good idea to brush up on the local customs and traditions, so you don’t find yourself unintentionally telling someone to go …… well, you get the idea.
Here are 13 things to avoid doing overseas that are considered offensive.
1. The A-OK
By joining your thumb and index finger to make a circle, you might think you are telling someone everything is hunky-dory, but in some countries like Brazil and Germany you are actually calling them an “a-hole” or telling them where to go. The gesture may also have unwanted connotations in Turkey, Venezuela, and France, where it can mean you are into same-sex relations. Remember, everything is not always A-OK in other countries (as Richard Nixon found out), so think twice before using this gesture while traveling.
2. “V” for Victory
You want to convey “victory” or “peace,” but if you make the V sign with your palm and fingers facing inwards in the UK, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand, you are essentially telling them “up yours.” Holding up your index and middle fingers in this way is the equivalent of giving someone the middle finger.
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3. Thumbs Up
In many countries, especially in Latin America, the Middle East, West Africa, Russia and Greece, a thumbs up is also the same as flipping someone off. This doesn’t mean that things are good; instead, it shows you want to stick your thumb in an area where thumbs don’t usually go.
4. Hands in Your Pockets
You might be thinking that you can save yourself a pile of trouble in a foreign country if you just keep your hands in your pockets. But think again. Keeping your hands shoved in your pockets is considered disrespectful in a range of countries such as Japan, Sweden, France, Finland, Belgium and Indonesia.
5. Showing the Soles of Your Shoes
In Arab cultures, the soles of the shoes are considered dirty and shouldn’t be pointed at or displayed to anyone. Former US Congressman Bill Richardson learned about this custom the hard way when he crossed his foot over his other knee, exposing the bottom of his shoe to Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi leader was so offended he left the room.
6. Tapping Your Head with Your Forefinger
When you make this gesture you probably think you are telling someone they are ”smart”. But do the same thing in Holland, and you will be telling them they are actually crazy, which isn’t so much of a compliment.
You’re used to giving a tip as a sign of appreciation and a job well done, but in Japan and Korea, tipping can be viewed as an insult. The amount you tip can also be a cause of contention in some countries. Before going to any country, get to know the tipping customs so you can tip accordingly without offending.
8. Using Your Left Hand
In certain countries in the Middle East, parts of Africa and India, the left hand is considered dirty because it is used for sanitary activities. Using it to touch food, eat with, touch someone else or give a gift is considered pretty gross.
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9. One-Handed Giving
The way you use your hands to give something to others can also offend in some countries. In Japan, it is polite and expected for people to give things to others using both hands. This shows that you are sincere in your offering and fully attentive to what you are doing. To use one hand only is considered dismissive.
10. Touching Other People’s Heads
You probably think nothing of patting a child on the head as an endearing, isn’t-he-adorable type gesture, but this is a bad move in countries with Buddhist populations such as Thailand, China, and Sri Lanka. Buddhists believe the head is where the spirit lives and is considered sacred. Best to keep your hands to yourself in general when you’re traveling.
11. Sitting in the Back Seat of a Taxi
Jumping in the back seat of a cab is the norm for many, but do that in Australia or New Zealand, and they are likely to think you are a bit of a snob. However, sitting in the front seat is not a hard and fast rule. You should sit wherever makes you feel comfortable and safe.
12. Laughing with Your Mouth Open
A raucous, teeth-baring laugh may be good for the soul, but it’s considered pretty impolite in Japan. Laughter that exposes your choppers is a no-no and thought by some to be ‘horse-like’. When they laugh, Japanese women often cover their mouths with their hand, which is considered ladylike behavior.
13. Polishing Off Your Meal
Licking the plate clean shows how much you enjoyed your meal, right? Maybe it does where you come from, but in other countries like Thailand, Russia, China and the Philippines, it means you are still hungry, and your host didn’t give you enough food. Best to leave at least a morsel or two on your plate if you don’t want to appear rude or still hungry.
Have you ever done any of these things unintentionally while traveling? Let us know your thoughts or comments in the comments section below. Also, read this guide regarding Creative Travel Agency Names ideas If you enjoyed this story please share!