25 American Customs That May Be Offensive In Other Countries

Posted by , Updated on October 15, 2022

Americans are known for the “ugly tourist” stereotype. It’s relatively pervasive. The loudness, the complaining, the lack of cultural understanding…that’s what we’re known for. But it is not always that way. There are plenty of Americans who have learned to adapt to their surroundings. They walk the walk and talk the talk. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even know they were American unless you stopped them. This list is for those of you who want to be like that…traveling ninjas. You blend into every environment and nobody would know where you’re from unless they saw your passport. Of course, you’ll probably have to learn some other languages, but if you’re dedicated then that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Get ready to check out some American customs that may be offensive in other countries.

To better clarify, don’t take this list as an assault on American culture. It’s fine, as long as it’s in America. Other cultures do things differently. Sometimes “better”, sometimes “worse”. That doesn’t matter as much though. What matters is that you try to understand it. That’s the secret. So, whether you are about to leave on a trip or you are still in the planning stages, these are 25 American customs that may be offensive in other countries.

Featured Image: pexels


Blowing your nose in public

Blowing your nose in publicSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

This is a big no-no in Japan.


Putting your legs up

Putting your legs upSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

In Arabic countries, you should be very wary of exposing the bottoms of your feet.


Asking someone you just met what they do for a living

Asking someone you just met what they do for a livingSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

In the US, this is normal. In many countries, it’s equivalent to asking about someone’s salary.


Handing someone the bill at a restaurant before they've asked for it

Handing someone the bill at a restaurant before you've asked for itSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

In Europe, this means you want that customer out of your pub…now.


Asking people how they are doing

Asking people how they are doingSource: reddit, Image: wikipedia

The typical American greeting of “How are you?” is taken quite literally in most countries. It may be ok to ask every now and then, but be prepared for an honest answer. And if you ask too much, people will think you are just faking it.


Tipping servers

Tipping serversSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

This may actually be seen as offensive in some countries like Japan


Eating everything on your plate

Eating everything on your plateSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

In some Asian cultures this is seen as rude. It implies that the host was incapable of providing you with enough to eat.


Talking to strangers

Talking to strangersSource: reddit

Although randomly complimenting a complete stranger on their awesome t-shirt is a perfectly normal thing to do in the US…that can come across as quite odd in some reserved European societies.


Walking into someone's home with your shoes on

Walking into someone's home with your shoes onSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

Although in America taking your shoes off would come across as a sign of familiarity (making yourself at home), in many other cultures this is a must for everybody.


Complaining about service

Complaining about serviceSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

The phrase “The Customer Is King” doesn’t exist in Europe. For the Europeans, both customers and employees are on equal footing both culturally and legally. So don’t expect to get very far with “bad service” complaints.



patriotismSource: reddit

In many European countries, being overly proud of your nationality or country often carries strong reminders of nationalism and fascism. At best, it is considered a strange thing to be proud of.


Peace signs

Peace signsSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

In the UK, just make sure your palm is facing away from you, otherwise you’re flipping the bird.


Not offering your guests something

Not offering your guests somethingSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

In most parts of the world, it is commonplace to offer people some form of drink when they enter your home. Yes, even the plumber.


Saying thank you

Saying thank youSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

In many parts of Asia, saying thank you to close friends or family can be quite awkward. It comes across as too formal and makes it sound like they wouldn’t have done their good deed otherwise.



JaywalkingSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

In northern Europe, even if there is not a single car coming, prepare to wait for the crossing signal. Not doing so can earn you some fierce stares.


Being fashionably late

Being fashionably lateSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

In Germany, if you tell someone you will be at someone’s place at 3, you should strive to arrive at exactly 3. There is no concept of being fashionably late.


Saying you're from America (while in South America)

Saying you're from America (while in South America)Source: reddit

This pertains exclusively to South America. Don’t go around telling people you’re from America because that makes it seem like South Americans aren’t. You’re from the United States.


Refusing food

Refusing foodSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

Although in the US this is done to not inconvenience the host, in many Arab countries this would be seen as incredibly rude.


Not declining gifts

Not declining giftsSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

In some Asian cultures it is expected of you to decline a gift/favor several times before accepting it. Failing to do this makes it seem like you don’t respect the other person


Eating in places where food is not served

Eating in places where food is not servedSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

In many countries it is rude to eat on public transport and in some places (like Japan), it is even rude to eat while walking down the street.


Excessive use of superlatives

Excessive use of superlativesSource: reddit

Americans have a tendency to describe everything as the “greatest ever”. In many places this will at best make you seem fake, and at worst, dishonest.


Having one hand in your pocket

Having one hand in your pocketSource: reddit, Image: Elvert Barnes via flickr

In places like Turkey and South Korea this can be considered rude or arrogant.


Opening presents immediately

Opening presents immediatelySource: reddit, Image: pixabay

In some Asian countries (China, Japan), this will make you look greedy.


Seasoning your food

Seasoning your foodSource: reddit, Image: pixabay

In many parts of southern Europe this is considered rude. It is sort of like saying “you didn’t prepare the food well”. Before eating at a restaurant it is good to check if there are condiments on the table. If not, don’t ask for them.


Talking big

Talking bigSource: reddit

In many cultures, it is considered good form to be a little self-deprecating, which Americans don’t tend to be. This can come across as being stuck up.

SEE ALSO: 25 Richest Celebrities With The Highest Net Worth »


Show Us Your Love
Join Over 2 Million+ List25 Fans