(Photo by Paul Rysz)
UK – Don’t try to antoganize the Queens Guards.They are not purely ceremonial, despite tourist perceptions to the contrary. The Queen’s Guard are highly-trained, operational-duty soldiers armed with functional firearms loaded with live ammunition.
At a pub in the UK there is a precise queue. It might not look like it but the barman or lady knows exactly what order to serve people in, based upon when they arrived at the bar. You will not be served quicker by trying to catch their attention or fluttering money, that will actually move you to the back of the unknown queue. However, they may serve a local before you. That is their prerogative and you should not kick up a fuss. Maybe old Derek has seen some shit or maybe he once saved the bar from robbery. Either way, it’s their choice.
We’re serious about queuing, that’s fairly well known, but it’s taboo to even let your friends save you a space if the queue’s long or slow-moving. Your friends should join you at the back instead, if they want to wait for you.
Germany – Doing the Hitler greeting, saying ‘Heil Hitler’, and the Swastika are illegal here. It’s very obviously very inappropriate to visit Germany and pose with your right arm raised for photos, especially when visiting a historically or culturally important place, and yet tourists keep getting into trouble because of this.
Sweden – Swedes have a HUGE sphere of personal space. If you’re American, and you’re talking to me, you are standing WAY too close to me. Shields up. And when you’re riding the bus, DO NOT sit next to us unless there are no other empty seats left. We will go into panic mode.
United States – It’s considered very rude not to tip your waiter/waitress if you eat at a restaurant with wait service. 15%-20% is the standard amount. Although you can tip less for poor service or more if the service was exceptionally good.
Ireland – If you’re in a pub/at a bar DO NOT order a ‘Black and Tan’ or an ‘Irish Car Bomb’. The former was the common name for the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve during the Irish war of independence. They’re infamous for their violent and extreme treatment towards the Irish people. Order a ‘half and half’ instead. The latter is because we don’t want to be associated with terrorists and people tend to make a mess drinking them.
Canada – It’s not offensive… but very annoying when people raise a fuss about not being able to pay in US currency…. or if stores do accept it they accept it at par. Stores are not banks, and you are in another country. You have no idea how often I had to deal with this working at a gas station near a camp ground like 200 miles north of the border.
Calling the Inuit, Inuvialuit (or any of the other far north aboriginal nations) Eskimos is seen as really ignorant and offensive if not downright racist. It means “eater of raw meat” and was a name given to them by non-Inuit people
Thailand – Don’t touch people on their heads, it is the highest point of the body so therefore it’s the most respectful part. Also never point your feet at a Buddha statue, it’s considered very rude. Also, if you step on money, you’ll be thrown in jail, it has the king’s face on it and disrespecting him in anyway (like stepping on his image or saying you hate him) will get you a 1 way ticket to a not very nice prison.
Middle East – Eat the food we offer you. All of it. Eat the seconds the matriarch of the house is putting on your plate. Eat the fruit they give you, drink the tea, eat more. Eat it all. If you refuse more food, the matriarch will assume you are lying and either hate the food, or lying because you’re shy. And if you annoy the matriarch of the household, everyone In the family is obligated to take her side, even if they don’t really give a shit.
So if you are ever visiting an Arab (or Italian, or Greek) family, be as hungry as possible.
Hong Kong – Many of us really hate people treating Hong Kong as China, some of us even loath being addressed as a Chinese. Though Hong Kong is being ruled (in some eyes, colonized) by China, we have different lifestyle, local culture, language, political and law system than China.
And for the foreigners who speak or are learning Mandarin/Putonghua, though we appreciate the effort you try to speak in one of the spoken Chinese languages, Cantonese is the mother tongue of most of us. Though many of us understand Mandarin, I’d say you better off speak in English instead.
Australia – Don’t call people ‘cunts’. It’s still an offensive word here, maybe not so much as in other countries but it definitely is. I could count the number of times I’ve used it on one hand (ok, maybe two).
France – Hearing “praying for you” after hearing about someone having trouble is pretty much like hearing “I won’t move a finger to help you in any way but it would be rude to say it like that”. We mostly are not very religious people and most people think that praying is a convenient way to not be helpful while pretending you do something.
Costa Rica – Do not, I repeat, DO NOT slam on people’s car doors. Specially taxis. Try to be gentle when getting in and out. I wouldn’t call it EXTREMELY offensive but people will definitely give you the stink eye for that. Some rude taxi drivers could even give you a bad time.
Brazil – If you are going to eat, it is considered very unpolite if you don’t offer some of your food to the person you are talking to. If you go to a restaurant, everybody in the table asks if people want a bite before starting eating. Even if you just have one chewing gum and it’s the first time you met that person – you must offer it, unless you want to come off rude. To be fair, everyone understands that this is a social stigma, so most people just say “no, thanks” because the other person may not want to really split their food. But sometimes, when it is a very close friend’s family, they may take you as unpolite if you do not accept the food. It is complicated because sometimes you don’t know if you should accept or decline. It is VERY common to eat a whole meal while you’re not hungry just to please your hosts. Sometimes you just offer food to the person standing next to you, even though you’ve never met and probably never will.
Vietnam – Commit to crossing the road. I know it looks scary due to the endless scooter stampede but if you just cross at a steady pace, they’ll avoid you. Do not try to dodge or make sudden movements, you will get your ass hit and there will be no sympathy.
Korea – People are going to touch / gently push / bump into you in public places, without saying anything like “excuse me” or the Korean equivalent – this is a crowded place, get used to it