The number one thing you realize when you travel to different places is that people do things differently in different places. You also realize there is more than one way to live life. This means that sometimes your way of life or how you do things back in your homeland, might not always be the right thing to do elsewhere. That is, there are some rules that people never tell you about, aka unwritten rules, when visiting other countries that you need to know in order to understand what behavior is acceptable and what is not. To give you an idea, Reddit user u/Alexandervz started a thread in which he asked the community about some unspoken rules for tourists in their countries. We have combined the best answers in this blog post. Browse through them and let us know what you think.
In Cuba it often looks like there’s no line, but there is. It’s called “el ultimo”. When you arrive somewhere you ask “el ultimo?” and whoever is last in line raises their hand. You are now “el ultimo” and you just know who is in front of you. In the meantime you can sit down in some shade. (Reddit: mmmkeyboards)
In Scandinavia, you don’t talk about religion. If you have one, good for you, but that’s nothing to bring up or discuss with people.
In Finland, you might find it rude, but people don’t usually engage in small talk. When you try to initiate small talk with someone and they seem uninterested, don’t get offended, it’s not something that they do.
Mainland China: Do not buy traditional Chinese silk clothes and from a shop also sells wreath. (no matter how beautiful they are) Those clothes are for dead people, and that shop is a shroud shop. You have no idea how horrifying to se a foreigner wearing them and walking down the street. (Reddit: rustyhalo93 )
Don’t talk to people on the tube. Got that? The tube is as sacred to us as the shower; it is where we reminisce about our pasts in complete silence. It is a memorial to fallen dreams, a cemetery of missed opportunities, but most of all it is a sanctuary of regret. And you will treat it like a library; Sit down, shut the f**k up, read a f**king book and ignore the tears rolling down the face of the person next to you.
Don’t tell anybody born north of Birmingham that Thatcher “wasn’t all that bad”.
We can complain about how s**te our country is all we want, but you’re not allowed to. We won’t protest too loudly about it and probably won’t even say anything, but inside we’re consulting our in-brain thesaurus for things to put in the strongly-worded letter we’re going to write, expressing our discontent at your behavior.
Do not go near anyone. Personal space is huge.
7. United States
We are going to talk to you. We like to make small talk with strangers because it sometimes leads to friendships or even just perks of having acquaintances. Once we hear your accent, oh SNAP! We will have a million questions about your country. Some will seem ignorant, some will just be downright funny. Humor us. (Reddit: AGirlNamedRoni).
8. United States
Do not pick up babies. Anywhere. I went to Costco with a few Korean foreign exchange student friends and one of them picked up a baby from the cart. The mother was looking away and when she turned back I saw the instant fear in her eyes. I told my friend to put the baby down and explained to the mom that they were foreign and its okay to touch babies in Korea. (Reddit: Alexandervz)
You have to commit to crossing the road. I know it looks scary due to the endless scooter stampede but if you just cross at a steady pace, they’ll avoid you. Do not try to dodge or make sudden movements, you will get your ass hit and there will be no sympathy. (Reddit: ricehatwarrior)
10. United Kingdom
You never, ever, jump a queue.
Bow to people who bow to you. Bow to people in general when they give you a service. It’s a sign of respect and it goes a long way. Also, take off your shoes and respect the culture. (Reddit: LazzzyButtons)
12. United States
Small town USA:
When we ask questions, we’re looking for ways in which we’re similar. We want to know how you fit in, which is more or less a question of how we fit in, where we can help each other, what it is that brings us together.
Example: “I am from Sweden.”
“You’re from Sweden? That’s so cool, I had a cousin that went to Sweden before, he said it was really awesome. I’ve visited France before, is Sweden anything like France?”
“Oh okay, that’s understandable, but at least you’re both European, right?”
“Well I’ve had Swedish fish before, is Swedish fish actually Swedish?”
“Cool so do you guys eat it all the time!”
“Not really, not more than you guys eat candy I suppose.”
“Right, that’s true, yeah, we both like candy!”
(Note: this does not imply ignorance. It’s an effusiveness of our desire to want to belong in a community. The local community knows and cares for each other and so an opportunity to bring someone else who fits in is an exciting way of expanding your proximal agency.)
Big city USA:
When we ask questions, we’re looking for ways in which we’re different from each other. This is so that we can distinguish ourselves amongst the giant crowd of people we’re surrounded by every day. We want to know what unique, idiosyncratic new perspective you can bring on board, because for the most part we’ve already heard of and dealt with all the rest.
“I’m from Sweden.”
“Yeah I know a few people from Sweden, which part of Sweden?”
“Yeah it seems most the people I meet from Sweden are from around there, what neighborhood do you live in?”
“Yeah I had a buddy that lived there, what did you do while you lived there?”
“I was a banker.”
“Well so was he but which bank? “
(Note: this is not to imply arrogance. It’s an effusiveness of our desire to extend our network and our reach into further corners of global map so that we can increase a larger and more competitive social safety net, or in short, to find community within a mass of people).
13. United Kingdom
If someone asks ‘you alright?’ Or ‘alright mate?’, this is not an invitation to explain how you are doing in any sort of detail. The only acceptable answers are ‘yeh mate, you?’ And ‘not bad, yourself?’ Anything else is just weird. (Reddit: JackLegg)
There’s lots of little cultural taboos. But one thing I can remember right now is, never refer to someone older than you by their name. If you are young (below 20-ish), you can refer to middle-aged and older people as ‘Aunty’ and ‘Uncle’, or ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’. It gets slightly confusing when you are around 20 (like I am) and the person is in their late twenties or early thirties. But yeah. Never call someone older by their name.
DO NOT DRINK THE TAP WATER.
When going to a friend’s house and the family offers you have dinner with them, it is impolite to say no.
Also, they would insist that you stay over in case you’ve had too much a lambanog and will give you the next best mattress they have.
Before you leave, accept the leftover they give should you be hungry on your way back home.
Speak in Spanish with us and you will get punched in the throat. (ColdFusionPT)