While taking a break from your food in virtually any Asian country that uses chopsticks it would be advisable not to place them upright in your rice bowl. For the most part this position is reserved for funerals and therefore would be considered extremely impolite to the host and others seniors present.
With some of the most severe lese-magesty laws in the world, Whatever you do in Thailand, don’t insult the king. In fact, it would probably be wise to not say anything about the royal family at all. As some unfortunate westerners have found out even liking a negative post about them on facebook is enough to earn you some serious jail time.
Although having certain drugs in your possession is punishable in most societies, the list of offending drugs along with their accompanying punishments varies considerably from country to country. In Southeast Asia, for example, many drugs that are available over the counter in the United States and Europe can cost you your life. In fact, with some of the toughest drug laws in the world you would be wise to avoid carrying “packages” for others and not bringing your prescription drugs with you. Numerous westerners in the past have discovered just how swift and merciless justice in this region can be.
Not only is it against the law to chew gum in Singapore, it’s against the law to bring gum into Singapore, even on accident. So unless you want to spend time in court explaining how you are not a smuggler, leave the spearmint at home.
During the month of Ramadan, if you so happen to be in Saudi Arabia, it would be in your best interest to not eat while in public. Not only will all of the locals probably hate your guts while they are fasting but it is severely punishable by law.
When talking to your friends in Brazil don’t be surprised if they regularly stop their sentence mid conversation to answer the phone. In some parts of the country it is considered ruder to ignore the call than pause the coversation.
While you may have noticed that in certain places the who, how, and when of shaking people’s hands can be a bit confusing, in some nations like Austria you are required to shake everyones hand in whatever room you enter. At least it removes the guess work.
If you ever spend time in Russia and for some reason decide you’d like to get someone some flowers, go for it but be advised – make sure you have an odd number. Even numbers of flowers are only given at funerals and your gift may be interpreted as inviting death.
While in many places finishing your meal is seen as a good thing or at least implies that you enjoyed the food, in Asia you may want to leave a little something on your plate. Licking it clean here implies that your host didn’t give you enough food and you’re still hungry – an epic insult.
As we said, leaving food on your plate in some parts of Asia is sure to insult your host, so if you’re looking to compliment them try burping. They’ll be flattered.