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

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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Not realizing you are being complimented (India)


India is one of those places with so much diversity that even the locals could get confused over what’s taboo and what isn’t. One thing you should be aware of though is that in some regions, body language, especially during an introduction, can be fairly involved. If someone approaches you with their tongue between their teeth all while waving the air around you onto themselves, don’t panic…they’re just complimenting you on your beauty.


Throwing up the “peace sign” (United Kingdom and other Commmonwealth Nations)

peace sign

This one has managed to instigate its fair share of trouble. What most people in the United States would consider being the peace sign is, in fact, the equivalent of giving someone the finger in the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa. Just remember that this only applies should your palm be facing you. If your palm is facing outwards, then you’re in the clear.


A quick hello (Morocco)


In Morocco, it is considered impolite to see someone you know, say “Hi,” and keep walking. So whenever you see your friends on the street, be prepared to discuss your family, children, and health. Strangely enough in some cases, these inquiries are made by both parties simultaneously without either side waiting for the other to respond.


Shaking your head up and down to signify “yes” (Bulgaria)


This one is probably going to throw you off a bit. While visiting Bulgaria, it would behoove you to remember that yes means no and no means yes…at least to outsiders. What do we mean? Well let’s just say if your host asks you whether you enjoyed their meal, you had better shake your head from left to right, meaning yes. Shake your head up and down and you may well find yourself eating out for the rest of your trip.


Giving someone a thumbs up (Iran)

thumbs up

Generally speaking, while it would be safe to assume that giving someone a thumbs up is a fairly positive gesture, we would suggest you not jump to any conclusions, especially in Iran and several other Middle Eastern countries. In these countries, it traditionally translates as the foulest of insults and is definitely something worth avoiding.

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