Cultural Etiquette: Essential Tips for 20 Top Destinations

by | Jul 3, 2023 | Cultural Travel, Destinations, HelloVacay, Travel Tips | 0 comments

Embarking on a global adventure not only takes us to stunning landscapes and dazzling cities, it also introduces us to diverse cultures and customs.

As passionate travelers, we recognize the importance of respecting local traditions and practicing cultural etiquette. Join us on a journey through 20 countries, where we share a few of the “dos and don'ts” that will enhance your travel experiences and foster meaningful connections.

You’ll notice, we’ve included conversational topics to approach with care for certain destinations. Naturally, learning about other cultures by conversing with the locals is one of the most compelling reasons to travel!

And, you may wish to approach certain topics with extra sensitivity…at least until you’ve deepened your connection beyond the acquaintance stage.

Cultural Etiquette: France

France

Do: Greet people with a polite “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir,” depending on the time of day.
Do: Indulge in the local cuisine and savor each course.

Tipping: Yes, 5-10%. If you loved the service, 15%.
Drink the tap water? Yes

Don't: Rush through meals.

Conversational topics to approach with care: Sensitive topics like politics or religion unless the conversation naturally leads to it.

Brazil

Do: Embrace the vibrant culture and join in on the lively samba dance or Capoeira.
Do: Show interest in the local soccer (football) culture.

Tipping: No. It’s usually included in your bill as “servico.” If you don’t see “servico” on your bill, tip 10%.
Drink the tap water? No.

Don't: Stand too close to others, as personal space is valued.
Don’t: Refrain from discussing crime and safety issues.

Japan

Do: Bow slightly as a sign of respect when greeting someone.
Do: Remove your shoes before entering homes or certain establishments.

Tipping: Avoid tipping in restaurants, as it is not customary and can even be awkward..
Drink the tap water? Yes

Don’t: Tip in restaurants.
Don’t: Blow your nose in public.

India

Do: Greet others with a warm “Namaste” or a handshake, depending on the situation.
Do: Touch the feet of elders as a gesture of honor and respect.

Tipping: Yes, 7%
Greeting “Do”: No

Don't: Show public displays of affection.
Don’t: Use your left hand for eating or giving/receiving objects.

Cultural Etiquette: Thailand

China

Do: Use both hands to offer or receive items as a sign of respect.
Do: Engage in conversation by asking about the well-being of others and their families.

Tipping: No. It may even be considered rude.
Drink the tap water? No.

Don't: Tap chopsticks on the table.

Conversational topics to approach with care: Sensitive topics such as Taiwan or Tibet.

Thailand

Do: Greet others with a “wai,” pressing your palms together and bowing slightly.
Do: Remove your shoes before entering temples or someone's home.

Tipping: Yes, 5%
Drink the tap water? No

Don't: Touch someone's head.
Don’t: Point your feet towards people or sacred objects.

Australia

Do: Greet others with a friendly handshake or a casual “G'day.”
Do: Seek permission before entering indigenous sacred sites.

Tipping: Not mandatory, but 10-15% is appreciated.
Drink the tap water? Yes

Don’t: Be overly formal or reserved.

Conversational topics to approach with care: Sensitive topics related to Aboriginal issues.

Egypt

Do: Greet others with a warm handshake and maintain eye contact.
Do: Dress modestly when visiting religious sites.

Tipping: Yes, 10-15%
Drink the tap water? No

Don’t: Use your left hand for eating or offering items.
Don’t: Show the soles of your feet.

Cultural Etiquette: Soju, South Korea

South Korea

Do: Offer and receive items with both hands as a sign of respect.
Do: Participate in the local custom of drinking “soju” and enjoy traditional Korean meals.

Tipping: Not required or expected.
Drink the tap water? Yes

Don’t: Address someone by their first name.
Don’t: Blow your nose in public or show excessive public displays of affection.

Mexico

Do: Greet others with a warm handshake or a friendly hug.
Do: Try traditional dishes and join in on festive celebrations.

Tipping: Yes, 15%.
Drink the tap water? No

Conversational topics to approach with care: Sensitive topics such as drug-related issues.

Germany

Do: Greet others with a firm handshake and direct eye contact.
Do: Be punctual, as Germans value timeliness.

Tipping: Yes, 7.5%. Round up the bill in restaurants between 5-10%.
Drink the tap water? Yes

Don’t: Address someone by their first name unless invited.

Conversational topics to approach with care: Sensitive topics related to Germany's history.

Morocco

Do: Greet others with a handshake and a warm “Salam alaykum.”
Do: Dress modestly, particularly in religious areas.

Tipping: Yes, round up the bill or leave 5%
Drink the tap water? No

Don’t: Show public displays of affection.
Don’t: Eat, drink, or smoke in public during Ramadan.

Cultural Etiquette: Canada

Canada

Do: Embrace the friendly Canadian culture with a warm smile and a polite greeting.
Do: Be inclusive and open-minded, respecting the multicultural fabric.

Tipping: Yes, 15%
Drink the tap water? Yes

Don’t: Invade personal space.
Don’t: Stereotype or make assumptions about different ethnic or cultural groups in conversation.

Italy

Do: Greet others with a friendly handshake or a kiss on both cheeks.
Do: Savor the local cuisine and wine.

Tipping: Only for exceptional service. 10-15%.
Drink the tap water? No

Don't: Order cappuccino after a meal.

Conversational topics to approach with care: Sensitive topics such as politics or religion.

United Arab Emirates

Do: Greet others with a handshake and a polite greeting.
Do: Dress modestly in public areas.

Tipping: Not required or expected in general. 10-15% in restaurants.
Drink the tap water? No

Don't: Show public displays of affection.
Don’t: Consume food or drinks in public during Ramadan.

Portugal

Do: Greet others with a handshake or a kiss on each cheek, depending on the region.
Do: Embrace the relaxed and friendly atmosphere while enjoying the local cuisine.

Tipping: Is not expected, but is always appreciated. In restaurants, round up the bill or leave 10%.
Drink the tap water? Yes

Don't: Be overly punctual, as Portuguese culture is more relaxed when it comes to time.
Conversational topics to approach with care: Politics; past colonial history.

Croatia

Do: Greet others with a handshake, direct eye contact, and a smile.
Do: Show appreciation for the local customs, music, and traditional folklore.

Tipping: Not expected and always appreciated. 10-20%.
Drink the tap water? Yes

Don't: Address someone by their first name unless invited to do so.

Conversational topics to approach with care: Sensitive topics related to the Yugoslav Wars.

Malaysia

Do: Greet others with a warm handshake and a slight bow.
Do: Respect the multicultural society by being mindful of different religious customs.

Tipping: Tip drivers 10%. Tip 10-15% in restaurants.
Drink the tap water? Yes

Don't: Point with your index finger; instead, use an open hand or your thumb.
Don’t: Use your left hand for giving/receiving objects or eating.

South Africa

Do: Greet others with a handshake and maintain friendly eye contact.
Do: Show respect for the diverse cultures by learning and using common greetings in different languages.

Tipping: Yes, though unusual to tip over 10%.
Drink the tap water? Yes, in urban areas.

Don't: Make assumptions or generalizations based on race or ethnicity.

Conversational topics to approach with care: Sensitive topics such as apartheid or racial tensions.

Turkey

Do: Greet others with a handshake, direct eye contact, and a warm smile.
Do: Show respect for Islamic customs by dressing modestly, particularly when visiting mosques.

Tipping: Yes, 10-15% in restaurants. Rounding up the fare for taxis is appreciated.
Drink the tap water? Yes, and it is reported to have a chlorinated taste. Tourists often opt for bottled water.

Don't: Use excessive hand gestures, as they can be seen as impolite.

Conversational topics to approach with care: Sensitive political topics such as Kurdistan

As global travelers, it is essential to familiarize ourselves with the cultural nuances and etiquettes of the countries we visit. By observing and respecting local customs, we forge genuine connections, gain deeper insights into different cultures, and create lasting memories. Let’s embrace diversity with open minds, celebrating the richness that comes from understanding and appreciating the world's myriad traditions.

Stay tuned for more travel tips, destination recommendations, and exciting adventures to inspire your wanderlust. Happy travels, and may your cultural adventures be filled with grace, understanding, and appreciation!

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