Avoid Travel Etiquette Errors When Going Abroad

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Americans have a reputation for being rude travelers, and it really is no wonder why: Every country's rules and customs are different, and sometimes it's hard to find time to read up on the subject before taking trips.

Even seemingly harmless hand gestures used every day in the United States can land you in trouble abroad. In Greece, an open-palmed wave is the equivalent to flipping someone off.

Visiting new countries often comes with a whole new set of rules.

Money shouldn't be discussed over dinner in France; while in Portugal, asking for any type of seasoning or condiment is considered rude to the cook. On the other hand, in Thailand, it's okay to pick your nose during a conversation. With all these different customs, how can travelers avoid causing offense when traveling abroad?

Thankfully, Lonely Planet pulled together a list of common etiquette tips travelers should keep in mind when dining, drinking and more abroad.

Japan: When drinking with the Japanese don't fill your own drink; fill the glass of the person next to you and wait for them to reciprocate. Filling your own glass amounts to admitting to everyone at the table that you're an alcoholic.

Going Abroad Soon? Be Informed on Local Etiquette!

If you're looking to go abroad, it's always a good idea to read up on the rules of conduct before you make the trip.

Sources such as Travel Etiquette, a website dedicated solely to helping travelers keep from making mistakes, can bring you up to speed.

There is also a series of books called "Culture Shock!" available in most travel sections at book stores that can help you avoid making potentially shocking travel errors.

By preparing yourself before being immersed in a new culture, you can make the most of your journey.
Armenia: If you empty a bottle into someone's glass, it obliges them to buy the next bottle- it's polite to put the last drops into your own glass.

Australia: Shout your preferred drink to a group on arrival at the pub. "Shouting" is a revered custom where people rotate paying for a round of drinks. Don't leave before it's your turn to buy!

Russia: Vodka is for toasting, not for casual sipping; wait for the cue. Men are expected to down shots in one gulp while women are usually excused. Never mix your vodka or dilute it. And don't place an empty bottle on the table – it must be placed on the floor.

Italy: Though it's not technically illegal to order a cappuccino after noon, it's considered a culinary crime punishable by the barista's malocchio (evil eye). If an espresso is too strong, try a macchiato (espresso with a 'stain' of milk).

Table Manners
Japan: When you eat noodles it's perfectly okay – even expected – to slurp them.

Various, Asia: Never stick your chopsticks into a bowl of rice upright - that's how rice is offered to the dead.

Russia: Put your wrists on the edge of the table (not in your lap) while eating, and keep your fork in your left hand and knife in your right.

Portugal: In restaurants, don't ask for salt and pepper if it is not already on the table. Asking for any kind of seasoning or condiment is to cast aspersions on the cook. And cooks are highly respected people in Portugal.

France: Never, ever discuss money over dinner. And splitting the bill is considered the height of unsophistication.

Mexico: "Whenever you catch the eye of someone who's eating, stranger or not, say 'Provecho' (Enjoy). Don't avoid this custom. It's good manners and feels nice."

Body Language
UK: Don't stick your index finger and middle finger up with the palm of your hand facing towards you. It's the equivalent of giving someone the finger. Tip: Don't order two beers in this fashion in UK bars. Doing it palm facing out is OK (i.e. the peace sign)

Greece: You shouldn't wave to anyone with an open palm (like greeting a friend or crossing the street) or show your palm (as one might say "hold on" or "wait" or show the number 5). It is essentially the way one flips someone the bird in Greece, but more than that, it states "I reject you," the ultimate "diss" as opposed to being a friendly gesture.

Business etiquette


Asia: Never touch any part of someone else's body with your foot, which is considered the "lowest" part of the body. If you accidentally do this, apologize by touching your hand to the person's arm and then touching your own head. Don't point at objects or people with your feet, don't prop your feet on chairs or tables while sitting.

Thailand: Don't be alarmed if a local unabashedly picks their nose while talking to you; it's considered a natural act of good hygiene...!

Nepal: It's bad manners to step over someone's outstretched legs, so avoid doing that, and move your own legs when someone wants to pass.

Russia: "When sitting on benches keep your feet on the ground. Anyone attempting sideways lounging or picturesque knee-hugging poses is risking death by babushka laser vision"

Business Etiquette
Brazil: Expect clients to answer cellular phones during meetings – even in mid conversation. It is considered rude to not answer a phone call to at least say you will call back and interrupting an in-person meeting for this purpose is not considered rude.

Russia: Traditional gentlemanly behavior is not just appreciated, but expected – you'll notice this when you see women standing in front of closed doors waiting for something to happen.

Denmark: Any flippant remark about the royal family is apt to offend.

Jamaica: Don't call the locals "natives." Jamaicans may be natives of the island, but the term is laden with racial connotations and can be taken as a slur. "Islanders" or simply "Jamaicans" is more appropriate.

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