What is Acceptable in One Culture that Maybe Offensive in Another?

All nations in the world share common drawbacks such as pollution crime economic difficulties and other related issues however each nation has unique habits that may not be applicable in another location. However, there are some things that are unique to one culture that would be totally unacceptable in another.

PLEASE HELP US ADD TO THIS LIST
Names:

In Brazil most people call other people by their first name everyone. In many Western cultures it is not acceptable to call strangers by their first name.

In Brazil many people don't know the last names of their friends. (From Quora: Some rich people have a mania to call others by surname, but this is because they are idiots who want to look like Europeans. If you meet with them (usually they are rich tourists in your guys country) don’t think they represent Brazil. )

Naming your children after your ancestors:

This is actually the reverse in Chinese culture.

My daughter’s middle name is after my husband’s mother (French). She was very happy when we told her that, and then she asked me if I had discussed it with my

mum, she thought my mum probably also wanted to be part of my daughter’s name. The thing is in China naming your children after your parents or grandparents is a big no no, instead you should try to avoid the same character sometimes even the same pronunciation. In imperial China, people also had to avoid the emperor’s name not only in naming their children but also in literature to show their respect.

Relationships

Arranged Marriage:

Arranged marriage is an integral part of Indian culture, and the majority of Indians still prefer and opt for an arranged marriage. Though this trend is slowly changing in

the big cities among youngsters, still we have a very long way to go.

In Britain their are laws against forced (arranged) marriage. Technically you could differentiate between forced and arranged marriage. But

overall, this concept of Arranged Marriage is not socially acceptable in the Western World.

Hand Gestures:

Africa:

The North American thumbs up sign is equivalent to giving someone the middle finger or “flipping the bird” in West Africa.

Australia:

The celebrated outwardly palm facing V-sign for peace or victory in North America is like flipping someone the “middle finger” when the sign is displayed or extended with the back of the hand outward in Australia.

Brazil:

In Brazil, and in Turkey, showing the North-American “OK” sign is used as a symbol of a woman’s “backside”. You got the picture?

Britain:

In the UK, two fingers up, back of the hand facing out is essentially telling someone to off. Palm facing out - peace or two.

Facial Expressions:

Korea:

A focused smile in South Korea is insulting as it indicates that the person thinks the person they are smiling at is not too bright or simply an idiot.

Display of Public Affection:

Brazil:

In Brazil you can display public affection with no problem. They are not afraid of physical contact.

Saudi Arabia:

Bans outward expressions of affections.

Arriving Late for Appointments:

Argentina:

If someone invites you for dinner in Argentina, show up an hour late. If you are too punctual, it may appear that you are being greedy.

Brazil:

When in Brazil pay special attention when making business appointments during major soccer events. Most Brazilians rather be at home watching major soccer matches live. In Brazil, if you have any meeting or date, it's totally normal and expected to be late. Not only 5 or 10 minutes late. 1 or even 2 hours late. The scheduled time is just an indication of when more or less you were arriving.

Germany:

In Germany, it is considered impolite to show up late for appointments. It is expected that everyone arrives early for appointments.

Some Other Cultural Etiquette Tips Based on Location or Nation

Africa:

In some African nations (Uganda for one!), no one is to stand with his or her head above an elder, tribal chief or leader.

It is customary for subordinates to kneel down for adults in authority as a sign of respect.

China:

In China name cards are useful tools to introduce yourself in formal situations. Name cards are associated with respectability.

Never give clocks as gifts in China. It represents death.

Don’t accept gifts too quickly in China. Kindly refuse a few times before excepting. It presents itself like a tug-of-war battle until a gift is accepted.

The color red is usually reserved for festive events like weddings so never wear red in China, Taiwan or Korea to a funeral.

Never use a red pen, pencil or marker to write a person’s name in China, Taiwan or Korea.

When in China and Taiwan don’t give a man a green hat as a present. It’s an ancient symbol for a man’s wife cheating on him.

Remember that in China, Taiwan or Singapore, it is not polite to give someone shoes. The Chinese word for “shoes” sounds like the Chinese word for “evil”.

If someone is given shoes, they should make it a business transaction by paying as little as one US penny for it.

Keep in mind that the number “four” is an unlucky number in Mandarin Chinese as it sounds like the word for “death”.

Never give sharp objects like knives or scissors as a gift in China. Cutting implements represent the cutting off or ending of a relationship or service.

People in China like receiving fruit as gifts. However, never give a pear as a gift because the Chinese word for “pear” sounds like the Chinese word for “leaving”, or “departing”.

Umbrellas are great to use for staying dry in the rain but don’t give them as gifts. This is because the Mandarin Chinese word for “umbrella” sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for “separating” or “breaking up”. Doing so isn’t a good way to begin a relationship.

Avoid giving presents that are overly black or white. These colors are the primary colors in somber events like funerals. On the flip side, red is the primary color when celebrating festive events like weddings.

It is acceptable to etiquette to ask people about their marital status income and other personal information.

The concept of taking care of ones’ parents in their old age is highly regarded.

Columbia:

Listen gentleman, if you happen to be in a Salsa night club and you want to invite a girl from another table to dance, wait and see if it is ok with her and her group of friends. You should do so in case she has a boyfriend or admirer who may perceive your actions as flirting and therefore become irritated.

Some Colombians say that are very impatient drivers, so if you have the chance to drive Colombia and your reaction time is a little bit slow, you might be the target of some offensive gestures.

When visiting Columbia, your appearance or way of speaking will convey to locals that you are a foreigner. Some locals may assume that you are an outsider who has a lot of money to spend. Expect local street vendors to request more money from you. Vendors may get offended if you complain about the price they offer you. It maybe a good idea to ask a local friend to accompany you to assist you in getting better deals and avoid any price biases.

Denmark:

Danes are known for being very formal and paying a lot of attention to punctuality for business meetings and other formal gatherings.

Dress formally for business gatherings in Denmark.

In Denmark, gifts are commonly opened immediately.

Ecuador:

Opening your mouth widely to yawn in public in Ecuador is considered rude.

In Ecuador, it is considered polite to lightly kiss good friends once on the cheek.

When arriving at formal dinners, guest usually don’t arrive on-time because arriving too early for dinners displays that a person is trying to be greedy. However, if you are an expat, you should be punctual.

France:

Remember when at business events in France to shake the hands of everyone attending upon arriving and departing.

When in France, remember to use the proper titles and last names in formal environments unless advised to use first names by the party you are conversing with.

When drinking alcoholic beverages in France remember to say “cheers” to everyone. It’s polite, OK?

If a French person positions his or her cheek facing you, it’s for initiating a “la bise”. A “la bise” is a light kiss on the cheek initiating a greeting. It is unclear how many kisses a person should give. Don’t to add the special effect sound for the kisses.

Keep it mind, if you are from an English speaking country, don’t expect a French person to speak English. I dare you to ask me why.

Finland

In casual conversations, many North Americans casually say things like "Looking forward to seeing you again soon “ When in Finland, locals may expect the person saying this to follow up and make plans to see them again.

  1. Don’t say things that you really don’t mean.
  2. Don’t be afraid of remaining silent.
  3. Order and eat all the food you ordered. No waste here.
  4. Take the time to “enjoy” your coffee. No “on the go” coffee. (Do the Finns really consume almost twice as much of the lovely brown stuff than Americans?)
  5. Finns feel great wearing only their “birthday suits”?

Germany:

When at someone’s home for dinner in Germany, always wait for the host to announce the start of dinning.

Korea:

In South Korea, remain quiet on public transportation. Making loud noises is considered rude.

India:

When in India, never order beef as a meal as cows are considered sacred animals.

When doing business in India, it is considered impolite to directly say no too business propositions. It is better to say something is inconvenient to do at the present time.

In India asking direct personal questions are usually answered without hesitation. In the west asking personal questions may raise eyebrows.

It is common for many generations of Indians to live under one roof.

Indians and food:

Nothing is wasted at an Indian dinner. It is considered almost sacrilegious toys food.

Indians usually eat with their hands which is usually seen as dirty in other cultures.

If anyone burps while eating no one gets surprised it's a compliment to the cook.

Licking your fingers after a good meal in India is also a compliment to the cook.

Two Indians eating food with your fingers is an extension of the five elements (space, air, fire ,water and the earth).

Indians and children:

Elder Indians are fond praising the cuteness of little children to a level Westerners aren't used to.

Japan:

In Japan, loudly slurping up your noodles is considered a compliment to the chef or cook.

Because sushi is raw, it is considered rude to place anything like a wallet or cellphone near as these items as they may spread germs to the dishes.

Never bring your own drinks into a bar in Japan. If you need to, keep them unseen.

In Japan, When you want to enter a room to meet someone, knock on the door no more than twice. Otherwise, it may appear that you are rushing the person on the other side of the door. Oh, and just don’t turn the door knob or handle. That’s just rude!

Where a mask when you’re sick in Japan, China or Taiwan. Keep your germs to yourself.

Unlike in the United States, black cats are seen as symbols of good luck and fortune in Japan. Black cats represent good fortune and prosperity in business, which is called “fufu neko” in Japanese.

Never complain that a line is too long in Japan. Don’t be a cry baby!

Don’t just touch dried fish or shiitake mushrooms when at a Tsukjii fish market in Japan if you’re not buying. It’s food dude not a puppy!

In Japan, if you see someone wearing a Kimono, don’t try to touch it or, for Heavens sake, don’t pull on it. Many Kimonos are very expensive or have been passed down from generations.

It is considered extremely impolite to block others when taking selfies in Japan.

To some Japanese, putting their name card in your back pocket is offensive. Handle name cards with care.

Blowing your nose in public in Japan is considered extremely low class and outright disgusting.

If you like the service, don’t tip in Japan. It is seen as demeaning. If at a bar, buy the bar tender a few drinks instead.

Never fill your own glass in Japan. You should fill the glass of someone beside you, instead.

Italy:

In Italy, plucking or flicking someone's ear is considered a homosexual act.

Latvia:

In most western nations, a red rose is considered a sign of love and romance. However and in Latvia it symbolizes funerals.

Mongolia

Never touch a Mongolian’s head, hat or horse!

Morocco:

When in Morocco, dress conservatively. Avoid clothing that may expose your knees, armpits or undergarments.

Nepal

In Nepal, don’t share food from the same with anyone plate as it is considered disgusting to do so.

Philippines:

In the Philippines, don’t call someone over to you by curling your fingers at them upwards. To the locals, it’s like you are classifying them in the category of a dog.

When arriving at formal gatherings, greet the eldest, more important or senior person or representative first.

Greet a person with a handshake and a simple greeting.

When at academic or professional gatherings or events, use professional titles or surnames until you are requested to use a person’s first name.

If you are invited to someone’s home in the Philippines, bring the host fruit, flowers or sweets. If you bring flowers, never give white lilies or chrysanthemums as these flowers are mainly displayed at somber events like funerals.

If you want to send flowers or a fruit basket, only send them after the event. Sending these types of items before or during an event could appear that you think the host will not offer adequate hospitality.

Remember to have any gifts being offered wrapped eloquently. Presentation is of great importance.

When you are invited to a Filipino home, dress well and compliment the host’s wife on the house and never refer to the host’s wife as “hostess” as it has a very different meaning in the Philippines.

Portugal:

Never confuse the Portuguese with the Spanish. Not the same, ok!

Remember you’ll be very unpopular if you diss Portuguese food.

Romania:

When in Romania, remember to remove your gloves when shaking someone’s hands as it is considered rude not to do so.

Never address anyone in Romania as a gypsy. It’s a very disrespectful derogatory term.

Chocolates, fresh flowers and popular name brand liquors make great gifts when invited to a Romanian friend’s home. Remember to give an odd number of flowers. Even numbers are used for funerals. Gifts are usually opened on the spot.

Russia

Never offer anyone an even number of roses as a gift. “Odd” in this case is good as an even numbers are used for sad events like funerals.

When in Russia, remove your shoes before entering someone’s home.

You shouldn’t whistle indoors in Russia. It’s thought that whistling indoors may cause the homeowner to lose money.

When going out for dinner in Russia people don’t go Dutch! (Ha Ha…got it? Ok…) People in Russia rather pay for personally for what they have ordered.

When in the presence of a Russian, don’t insult religion or brag about your pro or con beliefs.

It is usually fine for a Russian to criticize their own government but a foreigner should never do so, ever.

Never hug or kiss someone while passing an object or a threshold like a door or window. Your relationship will be over before it’s started.

Never interrupt a Russian while he or she is toasting someone. Toasting in Russia can take a long time.

Remember in Russia not to clink glasses when drinking to someone who has passed away.

When you empty a bottle or container in Russia, remember to place it under the table and never on it.

Never give knives or empty wallets as gifts in Russia.

In Russia, it is rude to offer a tie as a gift to a man.

Many Russians tend to dress up for everything, even grocery shopping. Sometimes Russians get offended with others for dressing too casually. They expect others to put effort into their appearance.

Even as kids, Russians love going mushroom picking.

There are many edible delicious mushrooms in the forests in Russia forests and the Russians love to go mushroom hunting. It's their thing. Try it! You may like it. 

South Africa:

When in South Africa remember to be in a state of good dental hygiene. Don't be surprised at a social gathering that you get kissed by a stranger on the lips as as a greeting.

Spain

When meeting a Spaniard you should greet them by saying “buenos dias” ( meaning “good day”) or “buenos trades” (meaning “good evening”) and offer a simple hand shake open arriving and departing.

Male and female friends lightly kiss one another on both cheeks.

Spaniards are known for being well groomed and fashionable. In formal situations, Spaniards usually dress conservatively. Outside of formal environments, Spaniards dress casually.

When arranging at a meeting with a Spaniard, don’t expect the he or she to arrive exactly on time. Don’t be surprised if the person or parties arrive fifteen to twenty minutes late.

When invited to a Spaniards home, bring sweets or flowers. If you give flowers, only give an odd number of flowers. However, the number thirteen is an exception as this number is considered bad luck. Also, make sure any gift that you bring is eloquently wrapped.

In Spain, stretching and yawning in public is considered vulgar.

Switzerland

Being outwardly “flashy” isn’t a generally acceptable in Switzerland.

In Switzerland, people constantly greet people, even strangers, in a friendly fashion.

It’s common for people in Switzerland to generally take their time to drink their coffee before heading to the office. Enjoying one's “break time” (i.e.: coffee time) is of great value to the Swiss.

In Switzerland, it is better to maintain a clam demeanor and not raise your voice.

In Switzerland, avoid telling civil servant that you want or need something done. Rather take the time to explain your problem and ask if they can assist you in solving your problem.

In Switzerland people generally don’t line up in informal situations. However, they do keep an attentive eye on others and wait their turn.

In Switzerland, don’t cut your grass on Sundays.

Thailand

Never speak badly about the Thai King or the royal family. Show respect for the King and any image of the Thai King at all times. Anyone showing disrespect for the King can be imprisoned for up to fifteen years. Insulting the Thai King is a sure way to get black listed or booted out of the country.

In Thailand people generally don't show their affections in public. Beyond holding hands it is important not to display too much public affection.

Thai greet each other in an interesting way. Men say “Sawatdee” and women say “Sawatdee-kah”. It is impolite not to return the greeting. While greeting someone, press your palms together at chest level and bow slightly. If you are a man , in most situations, you can shake the hand of another man or just nod or smile to a woman.

Thailand is a conservative nation so dress accordingly. Men shouldn’t wear shirts that show off their chest and women mustn't wear low-cut shirts or blouses nor anything that may expose their knees or shoulders. Keep in mind that black is a color mainly worn at somber events like funerals.

Show respect when visiting temples and at locations that are regarded as holy. Dress properly and avoid touching religious artifacts.

Avoid touching a person's head as the head is considered holy. Even a child’s head.

Remember to remove your shoes when entering someone’s home, temples, religious sites and some shops. This custom also applies to many hotels.

Avoid showing people the bottom of your feet. Never place or rest your feet on tables and chair. To do so is considered rude and simply impolite as the feet is considered dirty.

Never cross or step over someone’s feet or legs. It is viewed as rude to cross or step over another person’s feet or legs. Remember to walk around a person’s feet or legs.

Thai people smile all the time so remember to keep your smile on display. A smile can help you when you are not familiar with your Thai environment.

United States

In the US, the number “13” is an unlucky number.

Vietnam:

In Vietnam, using your finger in a pulling action to get someone’s attention positions that person to being a member of a lower class.

In Vietnam, it is common to have to go through a lot of government “red tape” as an expat or tourist.

Remember when in Vietnam to always wrap the gifts you give in wrapping paper. It is considered impolite not to. Remember, no naked gifts!

In North America, crossing your fingers is assigned to encourage good luck. However, in Vietnam it is an offensive gesture as it signifies a woman's lower private parts.

Grouped Nations:

The popular sign for okay in North America is interpreted in Brazil and Turkey as calling someone another name for a donkey.

In some Muslim nations as well as Australian Aborigines and Native North Americans, taking the picture of someone of these cultures is considered taking away part of their soul.

In Indonesia and Thailand, when people of the same sex hold hands or are in close physical contact, it signifies a close friendship and not sexual preference.

In most Asian nations, pointed and prolonged eye contact is a sign that may promote intimidation.

In Latin America, it is considered bad luck to use your left hand to pour drinks.

In France, Saudi Arabia, China, Taiwan and Japan, it is considered disgusting to blow your nose in public. Especially in a social or public gathering.

Causally complimenting someone by saying some like “Your bag looks wonderful” may make the person getting the compliment feel oblige to give it to you in some Arab and African nations.

Asian Nations:

In many Asian countries, avoid touching people, especially children on the head. The head is considered a direct link to the “soul”.

In most Asian nations, it is considered impolite to use your finger to point at another person. It may be better to use your whole hand with your palms up to direct someone’s attention. Never use your finger.

Islamic Nations:

Keep in mind that drinking alcohol is prohibited in many Islamic nations.

When presenting your name card in Japan, present your name card with two hands as it considered disrespectful to present your name card with one hand.

In many Arabic cultures, never use your left hand when doing almost everything as the left hand is the hand that is used to accommodate bodily exertions.

As the sole of the feet and shoe comes into contact with dirt on the ground, in Muslim countries it is rude to point the sole of your feet or shoe at anyone.