Etiquette rules and customs vary throughout the world and even from one part of the U.S. to another. Although many people in the touristy areas understand and have a certain degree of acceptance of people who don’t know their rules, it’s a good idea to at least know and follow the basic ones. Here are some interesting customs from different parts of the world.
01 of 10
Always Say Ma'am in the American South
If any place has an edge on manners, it would be the South. At least, that’s what southern mamas have always said. Southern hospitality is a way of life when you’re in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, or any of the southern states. Some things that are accepted by people from other parts of the country are considered “downright tacky” by a southern belle or gentleman.
Here are a few southern etiquette tips you need to learn before going south of the Mason Dixon line:
- Always say “ma’am,” “sir,” “please,” and “thank you.”
- Greet strangers and friends with a firm handshake and a warm smile.
- Always be helpful when others are in need. Not doing so is considered rude and selfish in the South. Southerners will do things for others without expecting anything in return.
- A bone-in pork chop is considered finger food, so go ahead and pick it up—unless you’re at a formal dinner. Then you’ll want to follow the lead of the host or hostess.
- If you’re served grits, accept them and at least pretend to enjoy them. If you don’t care for the way they taste on their own, they’re delicious mixed with eggs or cheese.
02 of 10
Say Cheers on the Streets of Great Britain
British behavioral norms are similar to southern manners. Always be polite, regardless of the situation. If you bump into someone, apologize, even if it’s the other person’s fault. Not doing so comes across as rude. This manners habit is deeply ingrained in British children from a very early age.
You are likely to hear the word “Cheers” quite a bit when you’re in Great Britain. It’s often said in place of “Thank you” and “Goodbye.” If you’re not comfortable saying it, there’s nothing wrong with using other polite language.
Several more behavioral tips you’ll need to know before visiting Great Britain include the following:
- Don’t spit on the street.
- Don’t stare at people you don’t know.
- Don’t pick your nose with your bare fingers. Use a hanky.
Most Americans have a fairly easy time of getting around while they’re in Great Britain because the languages are basically the same. If you need directions, ask. Most people will be happy to tell you how to get to your destination if they’re familiar with it. You’ll also need to learn how to navigate bus lanes, roundabouts, and driving on the opposite side of the road.
While you may see a palace or two, don't expect to see British royalty out and about. They are very discreet and typically move about without being obvious.
03 of 10
No Cappuccino After a Meal in Italy
Don't order a cappuccino after eating a meal in Italy. Doing so would break one of the main rules of Italian cuisine. If you try to break the rule and order it after a meal at a restaurant, don't be surprised if you're turned down.
Here are more rules you shouldn't break in Italy:
- Don't place any objects in the shape of a cross.
- Dress modestly when visiting a church in Italy. No take tops, shorts, or other baring garments.
- When dining out, always ask for your check, or you may not receive it until closing time.
- You don't have to be fluent in Italian, but you should learn some basic phrases to show respect for the culture when you visit.
04 of 10
Slurp Your Noodles When Eating in Japan
Although much of Japan has been westernized, there are still some customs that Americans may find strange. It’s important to know what these are before visiting.
Here are some etiquette tips you need to know before you step foot on Japanese soil:
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- Don’t eat while you’re walking on public sidewalks, riding on trains, or hanging out anywhere in public that isn’t specifically for eating.
- Don’t be caught off-guard by designated people-pushers when you get on a crowded train or subway.
- Always bring an elaborately wrapped host or hostess gift and graciously accept any gift that is offered, even if you don’t like it.
- Go ahead and slurp your noodles. It’s a sign that you’re enjoying them.
- Remove your shoes when visiting a Japanese home.
- Bowing is a sign of respect.
05 of 10
It’s Okay to Burp in China
Many of the Chinese customs and manners are similar to other Asian countries, but there are a few differences. With China being such a powerful economic country, there’s a good chance you’ll have an opportunity to visit.
Before you go, here are some important etiquette guidelines you need to know:
- Burping is a sign that you are pleased with a meal, so go ahead and let ‘em rip.
- If you see someone sleeping on the street, walk around him. Napping is common and can be done anywhere.
- Many businesses in China consider tipping an insult. Before you receive a service you’re not sure about, ask if a tip is expected or accepted.
- Don’t point with your fingers. Instead, use your whole hand.
- Expect a gift to be rejected up to three times before it is finally accepted.
- Don’t use your chopsticks to gesture and never leave them upright in a bowl of rice.
06 of 10
Don’t Rush a Meal in France
A trip to France is a very special event, so don’t forget to learn what to do—or not do—before you step foot on the plane.
Here are some interesting manners tips you should learn before visiting France:
- Being a dinner guest is more than just stopping by for a meal. It’s an event that will take much longer than the American meal. Don’t eat too much of the first course because there will probably be more courses to follow.
- Asking for a doggy bag is rude and makes you appear cheap.
- Greet salespeople with, “Bonjour,” before asking for assistance.
- Don’t be insulted by gestures and insults of others while driving. It’s all part of the experience.
- Don’t be insulted when a French man helps you with your jacket or offers to let you go first. This is considered French gallantry.
- A kiss is a typical greeting.
- Don’t rush a meal or coffee. The French prefer to take their time and savor the experience.
07 of 10
Cover Your Shoulders in the Middle East
Many of the Middle Eastern customs may seem peculiar to Americans, so spend some extra time learning what they are. You don’t want to appear crass or uneducated.
Here are some of the highlights of Middle Eastern manners:
- Don’t be insulted when asked about your religion. It’s more of a matter of curiosity than an affront. Often people in the Middle East will use religion as a conversation starter to share some of their own faith and find commonalities rather than differences.
- Dress modestly. Women should keep their shoulders and knees covered.
- Kissing in public is not the norm.
- Don’t handle food with your left hand, even if you’re left-handed.
When visiting the home of someone in the Middle East, follow these etiquette guidelines:
- Bring a small gift, such as flowers, chocolates, or fruit.
- Sit where the host or hostess asks you to sit. Don’t ask to be moved.
- Accept whatever food is offered. Not doing so is insulting.
- Always leave a little bit of food on your plate, or your host will think you didn’t have enough to eat.
- It’s okay to pick your teeth after a meal. Many hosts and restaurants provide toothpicks.
08 of 10
Embrace the Warmth of Mexico
Don’t be upset if someone from Mexico pulls you in for a hug or kisses you on the cheek. Mexicans are warm, friendly people as a whole, and it’s a compliment to be greeted with a physical gesture.
Here are a few more manners guidelines you need to learn before going south of the border:
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- Don’t be offended if someone doesn’t meet your gaze. In some parts of Mexico, it’s considered rude to look someone in the eyes.
- Feel free to ask about foods and customs unique to each area of Mexico. It shows that you’re interested in the person you’re speaking to.
- Expect to leave with a full belly after being a guest in someone’s home. If you’re offered food to take home, accept it and enjoy it.
- Don’t lose your temper or be pushy in any business or personal dealings. Doing so makes you appear rude. Use a friendlier, subtler approach, and you’ll have much better results.
09 of 10
Keep Your Hands off the Produce in a European Market
Although there are many different countries in Europe, each with their own customs, there are some common things most of them share. Before your next trip to Europe, learn some important tips on expected manners.
Here are some basic manners tips when in Europe:
- Speak softly when visiting any public monument, tourist attraction, or restaurant.
- Be respectful and kind to your server. They are professionals who deserve to be treated as such.
- Don’t handle the produce when visiting a market.
- Learn a few phrases in the language of the place you’re visiting and don’t expect everyone to speak English.
- Don’t over-tip. Find out the custom of the country before you dine out and follow the rules, or you risk insulting the server.
- If you attend a wedding in Greece, don’t be surprised when people spit on the bride. It’s a superstitious act to ward off evil.
10 of 10
Embrace and Respect the Spirit of Aloha From Hawaii
As laid back as Hawaiian natives are, they still have certain etiquette guidelines that are important to follow when visiting any of the islands. The “aloha spirit” starts when you get off the plane or ship and may even stay with you long after you return to the mainland or wherever you came from.
Here are some manners tips to learn before visiting Hawaii:
- If someone offers you a lei, accept it and wear it as long as you’re in the presence of that person.
- Never desecrate or trash any of the sacred sites on the islands. And don’t remove any nature as a souvenir.
- Hawaiians respect their elders and often add an extra gesture of kindness toward their seniors.
- Respect the variety of cultures that make up the Hawaiian population.
- Always say, “Thank you,” or “Mahalo” when someone gives you something or provides a service.
- Many Hawaiians take off their shoes when they’re home. If you see shoes lined up at the door, that’s a sign that you need to remove yours.
Manners are Essential in Every Society
Learning the customs and manners from each area before you visit will make you seem like a seasoned traveler. It's fun and educational, so study before you leave the house, and you'll have a much better time.