What is normal at home may be unusual or strange in another country, and vice versa. What's different and how to avoid problems.

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Tactics to avoid getting harassed by corrupt police?

In Uzbekistan I was stopped, searched and questioned six times in one day. At the border with Tajikistan, one official tried hiding my paperwork to elicit something from me. In Kyrgyzstan, I was ...
125
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9answers
24k views

OK, we are all adults here, so what is a bidet for and how do I use it?

Confession time: I am from one of these barbaric countries where the use of the bidet is not widespread. So I have no idea... Question 1: What is the bidet good for? Question 2: How do I use it? ...
106
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9answers
19k views

When and why do people clap/applause after a plane lands?

On a recent flight to Romania, the whole flight erupted with applause once we'd landed. This wasn't a "difficult" flight - no turbulence, delays, or hijackings. Just a bog standard flight. On the ...
84
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18answers
13k views

Is it rude to ask if the food contains pork or alcohol?

Some years ago, I was invited to a friend's place. The home-cooked food contained alcohol, and I don't eat or drink anything that contains alcohol (religious reasons). I was shy enough to eat it to ...
55
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10answers
11k views

Why are Chinese mountains scaled by steps? (instead of winding paths)

Question: Why are Chinese mountains mostly scaled by steps/stairs instead of winded paths? Is there something traditional / practical / religious / spiritual about it that I fail to see? When hiking ...
54
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6answers
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How to use sink with separate hot/cold taps?

I just traveled to Ireland. I was amazed to find that water sinks (at home, restaurants and public) have separate taps for hot and cold water. If you use only the cold water, your hands freeze. If ...
53
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1answer
6k views

Male using change tables in female restrooms in Japan

Next month I'll be traveling to Japan with my wife and two children. Our youngest (1yo) is still in diapers. I read a few guides about traveling in Japan, and saw mention that change tables are ...
52
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6answers
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Japanese etiquette: Most common (and offensive) mistakes?

I am aware that Japan has many unwritten rules of etiquette. What are some of the most common (and offensive) breaches of etiquette made by visitors? On the flip side, what behaviors show respect ...
51
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4answers
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I have a tattoo. Can I visit a public swimming pool in Japan?

A friend of mine is currently traveling in Japan. She has a small tattoo on her neck. Now she wanted to visit a public swimming pool but was denied entry. It was difficult to understand the reason ...
50
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9answers
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Do Russians smile at each other?

I'm planning to go to Russia. In my culture, smiling is really common even to strangers. I've heard that Russians don't smile or laugh unless it's something funny or something that makes them happy. ...
43
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5answers
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How can non-Caucasians avoid suspicious looks when traveling in the West?

Being an Arab with Arabian looks, after September 11 things have changed dramatically when Arabs or people with similar looks (Indians, Pakistanis, Turkish, Kurdish, Iranians...etc) go to the west ...
41
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9answers
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How to adapt to Western Toilets from Indian-style toilets?

I am an Indian and have been using Indian style toilets for all my life, Now that I have a knee injury, I am forced to go to Western Style toilets. I find it really hard to empty my bowels in western ...
38
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3answers
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OK we're all nerds here, so really, how on earth should I use a Japanese toilet?

OK so for anyone who's traveled to Japan you know what I'm talking about. They're devices that are a textbook example of excessive featuritis. But I want to use something other than the flush knob ...
38
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1answer
3k views

What's the proper etiquette for visiting the German Biergartens?

I passed through Munich last year and stopped at one of the biergartens. Well I tried. It was absolutely packed, it took forever to find a seat. At least one I could sit at. Seems like there's lots of ...
37
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10answers
24k views

Can I eat a beef burger in India?

I always heard that cows are holy in India. So I assumed that you can't eat any meat made of cows in India. But recently a friend told me, that it depends on the region. Not everywhere in India cows ...
36
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3answers
9k views

“No nudity” signs in changing rooms in Doha?

The changing rooms for the gym and pool at the Doha hotel I'm currently in has a sign up saying Please respect local customs, and avoid nudity whilst using this changing room However, it's laid ...
34
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5answers
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What is the purpose of this cloth in hotel?

What is the purpose of the cloth across the bed? I see it at many hotels and it does not seem to serve any purpose other than make it look nice. Any idea what it can be used for? Ps. The purplish ...
33
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3answers
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What do locals call San Francisco?

I heard that San Franciscans hate nicknames like "San Fran" or "Frisco". If I want to travel around San Francisco without sounding like a rube, what should I call it?
33
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2answers
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Are there any cultures in which the “thumbs up” hand gesture is offensive?

In the USA it's common to give a thumbs up to say "Yes, this is good" or "Thanks" or convey another appropriate positive meaning. Are there cultures in which the "thumbs up" gesture a) would not be ...
32
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3answers
4k views

Saving leftovers from restaurants in Paris

Doggy bags for saving leftovers in restaurants are extremely common in the USA, especially as portions sizes are usually too large to consume in one meal. But I have read in various forums that it ...
32
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3answers
3k views

Stuck without toilet paper while travelling - what is the best approach?

Well, this has happened to everyone at some point - you find out there is no toilet paper just after you need it the most. Usually it's not a big deal, even in public toilet room you can wait until ...
30
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3answers
2k views

Breast feeding in Iran

We are considering a trip to Iran with a 5-month old. What is the local attitude to breast-feeding in public places? Is it legal? Are there any severe consequences? Do you need to use some special ...
26
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4answers
6k views

How should I wash clothes in Japan?

I'm going backpacking for a month in Japan and I plan to pack lightly. So I have couple of questions about how I can wash my clothes in Japan. I expect laundromats to be quite common in big cities ...
26
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5answers
12k views

Why are prices published without tax in the US?

On a recent trip to San Francisco it was always a surprise to see what to pay in stores. It was never as simple as just adding all the published prizes. There was always a surplus of taxes. Sometimes ...
25
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7answers
2k views

How can I get people to speak the local language to me?

I went to Paris 2 years ago. When I was there, I was learning the language by talking and listening to the local people. But, while I was trying to speak French with them, they would speak English to ...
23
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4answers
9k views

Is it rude to tell the ice cream man in Istanbul not to mess with me?

I have never been to Istanbul but I am planning to go there with the kids. A friend of mine showed me yesterday a video of him buying ice cream from a traditional ice cream shop in Istanbul. He ...
23
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2answers
2k views

If you go to the pool and find all the sunbeds have towels on and you have nowhere to sit, what do you do?

When I've been staying in a hotels in Spain I often go down to the pool in the morning and find that there are no sunbeds to sit on because people have reserved them with towels. I'm never 100% if a ...
23
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2answers
1k views

What to do with the water served with hot chocolate in Italy?

I was in Italy recently, and whenever I ordered hot chocolate, it came with a small shot-glass of water. The water appeared to be normal tap water, and wasn't particularly hot or cold. What is one ...
22
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4answers
3k views

When to hug, kiss, shake hands, or even “fist bump” in Europe?

I have to ask this because I'm Asian and we don't do any of these things there. I have been living in the UK and Germany for a while and I still can't understand how to do all of that in Europe. If I ...
22
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2answers
10k views

Dealing with the 'unclean hand' when travelling (if you're left-handed)

"Among Muslims, the left hand is reserved for bodily hygiene and considered unclean. Thus, the right hand should be used for eating. Shaking hands or handing over an item with one's left hand is ...
22
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2answers
2k views

Vomitorium: Only common in the German-speaking world?

The first time I saw something like this in a Swiss Restaurant in Zurich I was really confused. What should it be used for? (photo by TheoPB, available under CC-by-sa) Then I was told that you ...
21
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7answers
2k views

What kind of hat to wear for business in India?

I'm soon going to be travelling from the UK to India on business. India being pretty hot, I'll clearly need some kind of a hat to protect my head and face from sunburn when I'm outdoors (I have pale ...
21
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5answers
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OK we are all adults here, so really, how on earth should I live without bidet?

This is the part four in the interesting series: "OK we are all X here, so really". You can find the past episodes here: OK we're all adults here, so really, how on earth should I use a squat toilet?...
21
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6answers
1k views

Attire in Iran for male travelers

Are there any attire requirements for male travelers in Iran? There are many reports and advises that women should dress conservatively and we have a related question about headwear for women. But ...
21
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1answer
1k views

Is it rude to refuse to eat from the same plate in parts of the Middle East?

I recently visited parts of North Africa and the Middle East and had to attend several social events. I found the people extremely friendly, hospitable and generous. However I was invited time-and-...
20
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10answers
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As we are all adults here, how do I politely indicate that I need the toilet?

I am from an area where people just say they need the loo to pee or poo. In formal situations, when meeting just strangers, we are a bit less open and call it 'need the toilet' but I know that in ...
20
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6answers
3k views

Tipping in Poland: saying “thank you” when the waiter collects your money

I read that while tipping in Poland is standard, you should not say "thank you" to the waiter when he takes the cash if you are expecting change. Otherwise, he will assume that the amount overpaid is ...
19
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9answers
3k views

Are there any man-only places in the world?

I know it is forbidden to enter to Muslim's mosques/shrines without proper Islamic cover or having your shoes during walking through temples/tombs/shrines in India and some other Hindu countries or ...
19
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4answers
6k views

Why has this dress been met with surprise at the Oktoberfest in Munich?

We are Brazilians and we have been in Oktoberfest, so my wife made a dress here in Brazil trying to do something close to the Dirndl dress, but during the entire party the people looked a lot to her ...
18
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4answers
2k views

What was the meaning of this Indian gesture/greeting?

While on a business trip to India last week I saw two different gestures of greeting. Most people greeted me with the traditional Namaste greeting, with the hands held together, as below. However, ...
18
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4answers
2k views

Etiquette for talking to others on public transport in Turkey

Beyond asking for directions and skipping sensitive topics like religion, politics, regional conflicts, is it considered rude to talk to strangers on Turkish public transport (trains, buses) ? Is ...
18
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3answers
2k views

Will I get in trouble if I drink beer in public in Dubai?

As far as I know, Dubai is a Muslim country. And as far as I know, it is forbidden to drink alcohol in Muslim countries. Is this also true for Dubai and tourists? So as a tourist can I drink alcohol ...
17
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8answers
7k views

How should I tip for food in a UK pub? At the bar, or at my table?

I'm in a pub in England. I went up to the bar and asked for a plate of fish and chips (to be served to my table) and a pint (handed to me on the spot). My money was collected at the bar. I would like ...
17
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2answers
2k views

Travelling to Latin America to take hallucinogenic drugs: how does one do it safely?

Prompted by this... Thousands of international backpackers are flocking to the Peruvian Amazon rainforest to drink ayahuasca tea, a plant mixture made by shamans and taken as part of a ...
17
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4answers
905 views

Does one tip in the US/Canada for bad service?

In Aus/NZ you don't tip, it's not generally part of the culture. In the US/Canada you seem to tip for almost everything, but it's meant to be for a good job. However I've also found some workers ...
16
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3answers
6k views

When you bring someone to a restaurant in Russia

I am curious how it works in Russia when someone invites you to a restaurant. Will the man order for both or will the parties order individually? Do you tip the waiter/waitress at a resturant and how ...
16
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7answers
3k views

How do I safely navigate a two-lane roundabout?

In a two-lane roundabout, drivers may be expected to use the outer lane for a ΒΌ circle (right turn in right traffic) and the inner lane in all other circumstances. Using the inner lane requires: ...
16
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4answers
12k views

What are the rules surounding alcohol in Morocco

I will be in Morocco for New Year's: what are the rules surrounding alcohol? Firstly is alcohol even available? If so do I need a permit or is it just a case of showing your passport at the store? ...
16
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1answer
148 views

Where in Sweden can I celebrate midsommar with the locals?

I live in Copenhagen and I would like to attend a midsommar celebration in Sweden on the 24th. Do you have any suggestion on where to go? Ideally, it should be in a small place, reachable using public ...
15
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5answers
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Are women required to wear skirts to get into some tourist sites?

There is mention of not wearing short skirts; does that mean skirts are required for women when wanting to visit places like churches, the Vatican, etc.