25 Cultural Faux Pas You Don’t Want To Commit While Traveling

Posted by , Updated on August 8, 2018

Believe it or not, there are a lot of things you do every day that would be considered completely disrespectful and rude in other parts of the world. Like when Richard Nixon flicked off the country of Brazil by waving the “a-ok” sign from the steps of Air Force One. Of course, you might just be an average traveler, so who will really bother you if you mess up a little bit? Well, don’t say we didn’t warn you. Although most of the items on this list are silly or laughable, not heeding others can cost you your very life. Here are 25 Cultural Faux Pas You Don’t Want To Commit While Traveling.
Note: locations are specified in general terms. Culture within countries varies significantly so when we refer to Brazil for example, it doesn’t necessarily mean all of Brazil.

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Pointing at people using your feet (Southeast Asia)

nice feet

Although we’re not sure why you would do this, if you happen to be passing through Southeast Asia, refrain from pointing your feet at other people. In some regions of Thailand and Laos, the feet are considered the “lowest” and “dirtiest” part of the body, which is also partly why you should take your shoes off before entering someone’s house.


Touching people on the head (parts of Asia)

tapping the top of the head

When in Asia, don’t pat or touch people on top of their head. Just don’t do it. In some Southeast Asian cultures, particularly in Thailand and Laos, the head is considered sacred, and you just never know what sort of faux pas you may be committing by reaching for it.


A quick handshake (Fiji)

shaking hands

When first introducing yourself in Fiji, be prepared – the handshake can be intense by western standards. After the initial firm downward motion, your hands may very well remain clasped for the duration of your conversation.


Stepping over someone (Nepal)


With feet considered dirty in much of South Asia, the Nepalese would take great offense to the act of stepping over someone, in particular, stepping over their outstretched legs. It’s best to just go around.


Shaking hands across a threshold (Russia)


In Russia, trying to shake someone’s hand across a threshold may quite literally leave you empty handed. In fact, trying to conduct any transaction at all across a threshold is probably not a good idea. Russian superstition holds that this is unlucky, and many times you will find that people either wait until they are invited in or you yourself step out.

Photo: Featured Image - Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 1. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 2. PxHere.com (Public Domain), 3. Murray Foubister, First day of the summer in the Alpine flowers of Sun Peaks...Common Red Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata)...usually red, sometimes pink or white even... (28014481550), CC BY-SA 2.0 , 4. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 5. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 6. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 7. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 8. PxHere.com (Public Domain), 9. manhhai, Bangkok 1960 - Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej in serious portrait by John Dominis, CC BY 2.0, 10. Peter Alfred Hess, #noodle, CC BY 2.0, 11. WikipediaCommons.com (Public Domain), 12. pixabay (Public Domain), 13. Pexels.com (Public Domain), 14. Italian G7 Presidency 2017, G7 Taormina Paolo Gentiloni Theresa May handshake 2017-05-26, CC BY 3.0 IT , 15. Official website of the supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei is shaking hand with his left hand, CC BY 4.0 , 16. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 17. WikipediaCommons.com (Public Domain), 18. Rod Waddington from Kergunyah, Australia, Greeting a Friend, Tigray (13622377293), CC BY-SA 2.0 , 19. RRZEicons, Peace-sign, CC BY-SA 3.0 , 20. pxhere (Public Domain), 21. Palagiri, Threshold of the house (1), CC BY-SA 3.0 , 22. Imani selemani Nsamila, Stepping on child stomach on Acrobatic show, CC BY-SA 4.0 , 23. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 24. anonymous, A man wearing a cloak (a druid ?), touching the head of a bo Wellcome V0025912, CC BY 4.0 , 25. WikipediaCommons.com (Public Domain)

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