Traveling is not as easy as simply packing your luggage and going away to a distant place, and even if we disregard all the time and effort that goes into planning and booking, people can still be prone to all sorts of mishaps. Some of the worst mistakes can happen when you’re preparing for travel, but others (which are often far more embarrassing even if they don’t have any lasting effects) can happen while you are on the road. You can commit travel faux-pas especially if you are visiting a place with different customs and cultural norms that you might not be aware of. So in order to avoid offending anyone and putting yourself in an embarrassing situation, here are some of the worst travel faux-pas one can make.
Giving inappropriate gifts in other countries
If you happen to make friends while you’re traveling to another country and you are invited over for dinner or lunch, it is of course polite to bring something to your hosts. While giving presents is definitely a good idea, you have to be careful what you give. For example, clocks are considered unlucky in China, alcohol is bad manners in Arab countries (if not downright illegal), and things with logos are disliked in Colombia. Ask other friends about the customs of the country.
In Georgia and Azerbaijan it is considered to be extremely impolite to talk while someone if holding a toast or drinking in someone’s health, and sometimes toasts can go on for hours, presided over by a toastmaster. In former Soviet countries toasts are taken seriously, as well as in northern European countries. In Sweden, for example, you should meet the host’s eye, and in Russia you have to finish your vodka in one gulp.
Even if you are not proficient in the use of chopsticks, showing that you know about chopstick etiquette will be seen as a nice gesture. Don’t spear your food with chopsticks, don’t point them at people, don’t lay them on opposite sides of the plate and never ever put them upright into the rice bowl, because it’s similar to something that’s done as part of certain funeral rites.
The wrong flowers
The wrong flowers or the wrong number of flowers can be a big faux-pas in certain countries. In Germany, Poland and Sweden, carnations are funeral flowers, as are chrysanthemums in Belgium, Italy, France, Spain and Turkey. In Chile and Mexico, yellow flowers mean grief. The number also counts, and in some countries odd/even numbers are unlucky.
Mind your shoes
As funny as it sounds, in many countries you have to be careful with your shoes and pay attention to occasions when you need to take them off. Entering religious buildings with shoes on in certain places is highly offensive, and sometimes even when entering people’s homes you need to to so shoeless – so wear clean socks all the time!