25 Astonishing Socially Acceptable Behaviors Worldwide

Posted by , Updated on March 23, 2024

If you’ve been fortunate enough to travel, you’re likely aware that cultural norms and behaviors we consider typical can be frowned upon or misinterpreted internationally. Some of the socially acceptable customs mentioned in this list might even strike you as downright foolish. This is a common initial reaction, but should exploring the globe be on your agenda, paying attention to these differences is well worth your while.

Let’s take something as simple as pointing. In the United States, you just use your index finger to indicate whatever it is that you are drawing attention to. There is a reason, however, that Disney employees are taught to not point with one finger. In some cultures, it is considered rude. Instead, the employees are taught to point with two fingers. Another thing that can cause conflict is tipping. In some cultures it is expected (United States); in some cultures it isn’t (Europe); and in some it can even be seen as rude (Japan).

So wherever you plan on traveling, just make sure to read up about the local customs and traditions. If you want a quick overview though, we’re here to help. These are 25 Astonishing Socially Acceptable Behaviors From Around The World.



tissueSource: wikitravel, Image: pixabay

In some countries, like Japan, sniffing is acceptable, while blowing your nose is frowned upon. In many western countries, this would be reversed.


Not inviting everyone

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In South America, Asia, and Africa, if you’re holding a party, even the bus driver gets an invite. In Europe and North America, this would be strange.



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In Finland, being naked in a tiny sauna with strangers is perfectly acceptable, while making conversation at the bus stop is strange. In many other places, this would be the other way around.


Asking age

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In South Korea, one of the first things you would ask somebody (even a woman) is their age. This is so that you know how to formally speak with them.


Giving wine to kids

wineSource: wikitravel, Image: pixabay

Welcome to southern Europe. Alcohol doesn’t have the same negative stigma in many countries as it does in the US. Having a beer on your lunch break is also normal, while in places like the US, it could get you in big trouble if your boss finds out and is seen as an alcoholic tendency. 


Right on red

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And in Boston, they have left on red.


Sitting in the front seat of a taxi when you are alone

taxiSource: wikitravel, Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxicab

In some places this is acceptable, in others it isn’t. It’s really hit or miss.


Living with parents

boomerang kidsSource: wikitravel

In many non-western cultures (and southern Europe) it is normal to live with your parents for your entire life. Up until marriage they support you, and after marriage you support them.


Not finishing the food on your plate

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In some places, finishing everything means you want more. Not finishing enough means you didn’t like it.



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In most countries, tipping isn’t a thing. Only in North America is it so pervasive.


If you think this is strange restaurant behavior, wait until you see #5!


Calling the police on your neighbors about petty issues rather than confronting them first

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In Switzerland this is the norm. Too loud past 10pm? Expect a visit from the police.


Pledging allegiance to the flag

pledgeSource: wikitravel, Image: public domain

There aren’t many developed countries outside of the United States that actively do this. In Europe, for example, this would be considered a very strange thing to do indeed (given the history of nationalistic political movements).


Leaving your baby outside in its carriage while you sip on some coffee in the cafe

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Although this freaks foreigners out, apparently nobody steals babies in Denmark.


Eating vegemite

vegemiteSource: wikitravel, Image: pixabay

Only in Australia.



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Introduced by the northern Europeans, most of the world doesn’t do this. You just push to the front.


Guys holding hands

soldiersSource: wikitravel, Image: Geordie Mott via flickr

This is normal in Arabic culture and isn’t related to their sexuality. In many Western places, this only happens if people are in a romantic relationship. 


Contributing money to a political campaign

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People in developed non-America might find this strange.


Thanking the driver when getting off the bus

busSource: wikitravel, Image: Lord Alpha via wikimedia

In Ireland, this is so ingrained that when they added a second door for people to leave through, they still only used the front door.


Throwing litter on the floor

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In Spanish pubs, for example, this is how they do it.


Clapping when the plane lands

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This is a thing in some places.


Calling your waiter with a kissing noise

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In countries like Burma, this is how you do it.


Taking a siesta

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In southern Europe, you can expect nearly everything to close down for a few hours around noon.


Pointing with one finger

fingerSource: wikitravel, Image: freestockphotos.biz

This is considered rude in many places. Use two fingers and you should be safe.



strawSource: wikitravel, Image: Simon Welsh via flickr

In parts of Asia, if you don’t slurp, the food wasn’t good.


If you have enjoyed this list, check out 25 Strange Habits, Customs, and Behaviors That Society Accepts As Normal.


Giving a thumbs up

thumbs upSource: wikitravel, Image: pixabay

In the US this means “great,” while in some other places it means “up yours.” This isn’t the only hand signal that has various meanings. Generally speaking, when you go to a new country, you should investigate which hand signals are “great” and which ones could get you in a fight.