Cultural Quirks Travelers Should Be Aware Of
The following is an article “Cultural Quirks Travelers Should Be Aware Of” by Marc Pulisci.
Few things are more eye opening than being a world traveler, but packing your suitcase and satisfying your wanderlust don’t necessarily make you a responsible one. Even in today’s modern world, many countries stick to centuries-old traditions or have their own set of idiosyncrasies, which, though different from our own, must still be respected when visiting their land.
The following is a list of typical cultural differences that, if not kept in mind, could result in an awkward situation or, worse, disrespect towards the host nation:
1. Yes means yes?
If you’ve ever been to India, you would have noticed that Indians are very expressive with their heads. In the midst of conversation, you might notice their head bobbing from side to side. In fact, while the standard nod of approval for westerners is back and forth, “yes” in India is expressed by moving the head from side to side.
2. Calls of nature
When you gotta go, you gotta go. But asking where the “restroom” is in other parts of the world is often met with confusion. With monikers ranging from “water closet” (W.C.) in Britain to “comfort room” (CR) in the Philippines, your safest bet anywhere in the world is to say “toilet”. And don’t be surprised if once you find it, you are greeted by a porcelain hole in the floor, above which you must squat to do the deed (Japan). But don’t worry, trust the Japanese to have western toilets too, complete with seat warmers, multi-pressure bidets, and sound effects to drown out the noise of you own body’s rumblings.
3. Saved by the bill
When dining out in the west, it is universally understood by waiting staff that you are ready to pay when you motion your thumb and index finger in the shape of a square or mouth the words “check please”. Not so in most Asian and Middle Eastern countries. There, the norm is to use your thumb and index finger to gesture as though you are writing in thin air. When in doubt, it’s always best to summon your server over and politely ask for the bill.
4. From head to toe
In some countries like Thailand, it is considered rude to touch another person’s head since Thais consider this to be the most esteemed part of the body. On the other hand, it is also considered an insult to point your toes toward another person as these happen to be the lowest part of the body. So always remember, noogies are a big no-no in Thailand.
5. Body language
Visit one of Brazil’s sun-soaked beaches and you’ll quickly notice that this South American nation believes that if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Nudity is not at all considered taboo; on the contrary, it is practically the norm to see scantily clad men and women, many even topless, on the fabled shores of Ipanema. However, perish the thought if your next destination happens to be the Middle East, where it is the complete opposite. Women are prohibited from showing any skin, so be mindful of this and dress appropriately as a sign of respect.
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