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Top 10 Things You Should Never Do in Other Countries

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my beloved USA can be pretty interesting at times. There are plenty of trends and traditions here that confuse foreigners, such as our love of huge portion sizes, dressing up our pets, and erm, spray cheese. But it’s not just the US that has surprising habits – every country in the world has its own oddities that outsiders need to know about if they want to avoid offending people and potentially getting into trouble with the law. Which is why we compiled a list of 10 things you should never do in other countries!

10. Japan
The United States is known as being a "tipping" country. In fact, most servers depend on tips as an essential part of their wage, so it’s hugely frowned upon to not leave at least 15%. If that irritates you, you might want to consider moving to Japan, as tipping there just isn’t a thing. Leaving money for your server in a restaurant is actually considered to be rude, and the same goes for taxi drivers, hotel staff, or anybody else working in the service industry. There are actually a lot of surprising rules for politeness in Japan – loudly slurping noodles is encouraged, and less surprisingly, blowing your nose in front of others is thought by locals to be totally disgusting. Another thing you should never do in Japan is get fat. The country’s national waistline rule came into effect in 2008 and monitors how many inches each 40 to 74-year-old packs around their waist. If you exceed the government’s limits – 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women, you’ll find yourself in diet class, which doesn’t sound fun at all.


9. Italy
Italy is renowned for its spectacular churches and cathedrals, so it’s likely that any visitor will spend a fair bit of their time around religious buildings. Now, I know that sightseeing can really work up an appetite, but no matter how hungry you get, don’t be tempted to pop a squat for a snack on any church steps. If you’re caught eating or drinking on monument steps or in the immediate vicinity of main churches, then you might be handed a hefty fine. That could really take a bite out of your pizza budget! When in Italia, also remember that you can get in a lot of trouble for bathing in public fountains. I don’t know why you’d want to do so, but if you’re ever tempted just remember that it could cost you a fair few Euros.

8. Singapore
I hate spitting. Seriously, does anyone else think it’s pretty gross? If you’re anti-spitting like me, you might want to consider moving to Singapore as it’s completely illegal there. If you get caught you’ll find yourself in very hot water with the authorities. Singaporeans take keeping their streets clean seriously and you could also get fined $1,000 for littering, throwing cigarette butts, or spitting out gum. It’s not just the streets, either: you can also get fined for not flushing a public toilet. Whatever you do, don’t get caught doing graffiti. If you’re seen vandalizing anything you will receive mandatory caning. Yes, that’s right: caning.

7. Turkey
Turkey is a minefield when it comes to body language, and you might want to check some of your US habits at the departure gate to avoid causing offense. You know the OK sign? This one. Well, if you do this a lot you’re going to need to keep your hands in your pockets as this signal is used to accuse someone of being homosexual. In Turkey’s culture, this is a very bad accusation to make so this isn’t the jolly hand signal we know it to be at home. You’ll also need to watch your hands when you’re playing ‘got your nose’ with kids in Turkey. When you do this you’re actually making a gesture called a fig. The fig is the Turkish way of telling someone to F off. Charming, huh? Oh, and don’t stroke your chin in the presence of a woman no matter how itchy your beard is – it’s seen as a sign of sexual intent which could easily get you into lots of trouble.

6. Jamaica
You may have noticed in recent years that US states are legalizing cannabis. Residents in Michigan, California, Colorado and a handful of other states can now light up without getting locked up. But that’s obviously not the case in many countries around the world, and one might come as a bigger surprise to you than the others. Any guesses? Well, it’s illegal to smoke marijuana in Jamaica. Many foreigners assume that Jamaica’s air might be thick with weed smoke, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, each year tourists fall foul of this rule by mistakenly believing they’re permitted to get high on more than just island life. If you’re caught with less than 2 ounces you can expect to receive a fine, but if you’re carrying any more than that you’ll face a jail term. And you’ll want to avoid that at all costs – Jamaica’s prisons are tough places. Or so I’ve heard.

5. Malaysia
In the US, many of us have a habit of patting a child’s head or ruffling their hair as a sign of endearment. Just me? Oh. Anyway, if you do have a habit of touching people’s heads, you will need to cut it out before you head to Malaysia. This is because the head is the most sacred part of the body in Malaysian culture, so it’s extremely rude to touch a person there without being given permission first. This rule is also adhered to in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, so you might want to just keep your hands to yourself if you’re traveling in that area. And that’s not the only rule to remember when it comes to body parts in Malaysia. Whatever you do, don’t flash the bottoms of your feet to anyone. This is because they’re considered to be a dirty part of the body that should be kept to oneself.

4. Iran
This one’s for all the romantics out there. In the US, we tend to make a big deal of Valentine’s Day, and many of us know all too well how much trouble you can get into if you forget to buy flowers or candy for your sweetheart. If you’re guilty of forgetting, you might want to consider spending your Februarys in Iran because the celebration is totally outlawed there. Exchanging gifts or sending cards could get you into big trouble, and shops promoting the celebration can be found guilty of committing a crime. The Islamic nation calls it the promotion of western culture through Valentine’s Day rituals and the ban includes symbols of hearts and red roses.

3. China
China is one of the food capitals of the world, and as such, they have their very own set of etiquettes and guidelines when it comes to eating. No matter how tasty the food is that you’ve been served, you should never, ever clear your entire plate. Eating all of your food signals to your host that you’re still hungry, and that might imply that they haven’t provided you with enough food. This could cause offense or you end up with another full plate to contend with. Oh, and it’s totally fine to burp at the dinner table, no matter what your mama told you. Burping is a sign of satisfaction and a sort of compliments to the chef response to a delicious dinner.

2. Germany
In the US, we love a birthday celebration, and it’s common to make a big deal of becoming another year older. So much so, in fact, that if your birthday falls on a weekday it’s pretty common to celebrate the weekend before. But if you suggest someone does that in Germany, get ready for some seriously funny looks. You see, some Germans believe that it’s extremely bad luck to celebrate a birthday before the day itself. It’s so bad, in fact, that many people believe you can bring death upon someone simply by wishing them a happy birthday before the day itself. This isn’t the only birthday superstition native to Germany, and it’s believed that one of the US’s favorites originated there. You know how you make a wish when you blow out your candles? Well, that custom may have come from a time when Germans added an extra-large candle to the middle of a birthday cake. It was said that blowing out this larger candle made all your wishes come true.


1. India
How you use your hands in India is a hot topic, and getting it wrong leaves you at risk of disgusting your new local friends. The left hand is considered to be unclean as it’s used to perform tasks such as going to the bathroom. And India’s residents may have a point, as the use of toilet paper is rare there. Instead, water and the left hand are used to, erm, clean up oneself after a trip to the bathroom. And yes, I’m talking number two as well as number one. Because of this, you will never see an Indian person eat with their left hand. You should also never pass anything to another person using your left hand, as you’ll come across as being pretty gross if you do. There’s also a long-standing joke that it’s ok to pee in public in India, but not kiss in public. So if you’re a fan of PDA you might want to get it all out of your system on the plane ride over.


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