Questions tagged [local-customs]

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

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
186
votes
11answers
17k views

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 ...
149
votes
11answers
105k 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? ...
114
votes
9answers
24k 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 ...
106
votes
17answers
16k 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 ...
99
votes
12answers
36k views

Is it offensive to use 'Saigon' instead of 'Ho Chi Minh City'?

I've heard some people talking about Saigon instead of Ho Chi Minh City. Besides the fact that those people usually were French (I'm French myself as well) I was wondering if that could be considered ...
73
votes
6answers
9k views

With the passing of Thai King Bhumibol, are there any customs/etiquette as a traveler I should be aware of?

Even with the news that the King of Thailand passed away, I had already scheduled a trip a year ago to visit Thailand in a week or so. I understand that most of the country is in mourning -- should ...
69
votes
7answers
29k views

How to use sinks 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 ...
64
votes
6answers
32k views

Japanese etiquette: Most common (and offensive) mistakes? [closed]

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 ...
62
votes
5answers
17k views

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 ...
60
votes
10answers
12k 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 ...
59
votes
9answers
19k views

Is it rude to speak Swedish in Norway?

I speak Swedish quite well, but my active Norwegian is very basic, although I can understand most of it if I concentrate. I'm aware Norwegians can usually/always understand Swedish. I'm told ...
59
votes
6answers
124k views

Why do public toilets in the US have large gaps (no privacy)?

Most public toilets in the US are very low in privacy, the bottom gap in the door is so big (around 15-20% of the door), the side gaps are too big as well. This will make the toilet experience so ...
59
votes
1answer
7k 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 ...
57
votes
8answers
32k views

What is the tipping process in restaurants in the US?

I'm supposed to write down something on the bill I get? Do I hand the waiter my credit card after doing so? Since I need a receipt, do I wait for the waiter to bring things back? What's the process, ...
56
votes
9answers
16k views

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. ...
55
votes
13answers
20k views

What is way to eat rice with hands in front of westerners such that it doesn't appear to be yucky?

In India, we eat rice using our fingers. Generally in the West, a fork or spoon is used. I have tried eating rice with spoon but I don't feel satisfied with it. We eat dry rice but we mix curry and ...
53
votes
5answers
7k views

How much to tip in the United States?

Tipping customs in the United States can be surprising for people who travel there for the first time. It happened to me when I used a shuttle van service out of LAX a few years ago. To sum up the ...
50
votes
14answers
30k views

Is tap water in Munich safe to drink? If so, why do locals buy bottled water?

Before moving to Munich I did some research about the water. According to different sources, the water quality in Munich is very good and there is no problem drinking it. But every time I'm in a ...
50
votes
6answers
34k views

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 ...
49
votes
3answers
8k views

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 ...
46
votes
9answers
53k views

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 ...
46
votes
5answers
4k views

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 ...
44
votes
7answers
52k 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 prices. There was always the addition of taxes. ...
43
votes
5answers
13k 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 ...
43
votes
10answers
34k 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 ...
43
votes
3answers
11k views

Is 'wai' greeting a serious thing? Is it inappropriate to 'over-wai'?

This morning I had to go to Phnom Penh and Giant Ibis bus company had all the seats booked. Normally there was always space, but due to high season, the bus was full. However, they were very nice and ...
43
votes
1answer
5k 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 ...
42
votes
6answers
19k views

How to use toilet paper

If someone who has never used toilet paper ever travels to countries where only toilet paper is used - how could one learn to use toilet paper? One of my (Asian) colleagues who is more of a friend ...
41
votes
5answers
20k views

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?
40
votes
3answers
42k views

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 ...
39
votes
4answers
13k views

Should I declare chocolate as “food” when entering the US?

It is being customary we bring a few authentic Russian chocolate bars/sweets to the US but we are always struggling whether we should check that "food" checkbox in the "Customs Declaration" form? It ...
39
votes
3answers
9k views

Should I put toilet paper in airplane toilets?

During a recent international flight my 4 year old daughter informed me that I shouldn't put toilet paper in the toilet but should instead use the bin provided. My gut told me she was wrong, however ...
38
votes
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 ...
37
votes
7answers
11k 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 ...
37
votes
4answers
6k views

Is cheek kissing appropriate when being introduced to a woman in Latin America?

In Southern Europe it is common to give two kisses (one in each cheek) when being introduced to a woman. So when woman A meets person B (no matter if B is a he or a she), they will kiss in almost all ...
36
votes
3answers
4k 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 ...
35
votes
5answers
12k views

How to deal with other tourists taking pictures of my children?

Disclaimer: I am not sure if this question belongs to this site or to interpersonal.SE. However, I only lived the situations described below when traveling and people taking photos were for sure also ...
35
votes
3answers
3k 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 ...
34
votes
4answers
6k views

Large shelves with food in US hotels; shops or free amenity?

While booking hotels in the US (Dallas, TX specifically) I found that many hotels have an area that features shelves with food, fridges and freezers. I see no price tags with the products. Does this ...
34
votes
4answers
5k 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 ...
29
votes
4answers
15k 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 ...
28
votes
3answers
17k views

Why am I not allowed to buy alcohol at the store after 11pm in Russia?

While in Moscow, I went to the store around 11:30pm to buy some beer, and the cashier checked her watch and said no. Why am I not allowed to buy alcohol at the store after 11pm in Russia?
28
votes
6answers
12k views

In a restaurant in Italy, should I be seated when my food arrives?

I sat at the table, ordered the pizza. While it was being prepared, I decided to go to the bathroom for a short visit. An employee came (the griller) and while I was in the middle of my business, he ...
28
votes
3answers
10k views

4 people in a cab in London? Is that allowed?

I have found that different cities have different regulations and I have been in places where 4 persons can travel in any cab (3 in back seat, one in front seat) while other cities don't allow front ...
28
votes
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 ...
27
votes
8answers
8k views

Attire in Iran for male travelers

Are there any attire requirements for male travelers in Iran? There are many reports and much advice that women should dress conservatively and we have a related question about headwear for women. But ...
27
votes
2answers
19k 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 ...
26
votes
2answers
10k 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 ...
25
votes
6answers
8k 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 ...
25
votes
1answer
2k 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-...