Thinking of traveling? Make sure you know these travel etiquette rules!
Along with breathtaking vistas and life-changing expeditions, one of the purest and most beautiful elements of travelling is the people you meet along the way. Friendships formed over weeks, days or even just hours can create bonds that last a lifetime. But when cultures collide, there’s one vital detail you’ll need to keep in mind to best relate to your newfound companions: etiquette.
While the magic of the internet makes the world a smaller place, and though we can spot the same coffee chain on street corners from London to Shanghai, our cultural quirks continue to highlight how different we are. But they needn’t divide us. With this list of travel etiquette rules, you’ll be free to navigate business meetings, six-hour banquets, intimate dates and spur-of-the-moment street dancing with equal finesse.
First things first: a top tip in Argentina is to know your way around wine. According to the world etiquette guide by travel experts Expedia, there are lots of complicated etiquette rules about the country’s favourite tipple, including the fact that pouring a glass backhanded or with your left hand could be considered disrespectful. Another tip to remember is that sipping your drink before a toast has been given is a bit of a no-no. If in doubt, let your host do the pouring to avoid making the wrong impression. The Argentinians tend to leave a little food on their plate at the end of meals as a sign of respect; you want your host to feel that not only have they sated your hunger, but they’ve offered you even more than you needed. Even if you’re tempted to lick the plate clean (which probably goes against the etiquette rules of more than a few nations), you’ll be winning politeness points if you opt not to leave a little bit of your meal on your plate.
If you’re thinking of taking a trip to sunny Spain, you’re guaranteed to eat well. But there are a few thoughts to keep in mind if you want to fit in with the Spanish way of life. Unlike other cultures, these polite mediterranean folk prefer to eat everything with a knife and fork – even fruit. Keep your hands visible throughout meal times, and avoid controversial conversation topics like religion. After dinner, to show you’ve finished, place your cutlery together on your plate, pointing right. It’s not a good idea to rush off straight after eating; make sure you leave plenty of time to enjoy the Spanish ‘sobremesa’ – a long and lazy post-dinner chat where guests sit around and let their food digest.
The Turkish are known for their hospitality. Warm welcomes, ten-course dinners, hours of talking and introductions to all the family are par for the course. And while all this feels wonderful, it’s good to keep in mind that personal space might not be top priority for many of the friends and relatives you’ll meet. Be prepared to get up close to people, even at the first meeting. While for shyer nationalities, leaving plenty of space feels like the norm, don’t be intimidated if someone you’ve hardly met is chatting away just inches from your face. Rather than backing away, embrace it, and enjoy how much faster you’ll bond with new friends when you’re up quite this close. Other great Turkish tips to remember are that the oldest male should always be the first to take a bite at mealtimes. As for the bill, it’s up to whoever organised the meal to pay for things, so if you were invited, smile politely and relax as your host picks up the tab. When it’s your turn, you’ll foot the bill for everyone.
When you’re welcomed into the home of a Thai family, get ready to feel the kind of love you’ll treasure for a lifetime. In order to respect your hosts’ living space, there are rules to follow that will help you along. Removing your shoes is very important when entering a Thai home, and it’s key to let your elders walk through doorways before you do, whether in the house or out in public. Acknowledge your elders politely by using the traditional ‘wai’ greeting, where you place your palms together as if you’re praying and hold them to your chest.
Another country where shoes must come off in the doorway is Japan. This etiquette tip is easy to remember, as guests will be provided with slippers to put on when they get inside. When you’re dining out, you should wait to be directed to your seat, but feel free to try a bit of everything, and don’t hold back if something you try doesn’t quite hit the spot. It’s perfectly natural in Japan to make a face if a bite of food isn’t what you expected. At the end of a restaurant meal, there’s no need to leave a tip. In fact, the Japanese consider it rude, so avoid doing this at all costs.
The most respected guest at a meal in Egypt will sit at the head of the table. One way to fit in at dinner time is to avoid eating anything with your left hand. As in many cultures, the serving and accepting of food between host and guest holds great importance. You might come across the typical interaction of ‘uzooma’ where the host offers more food, the guest refuses and the host offers again, repeated a few times until finally the guest agrees to another helping.
The stereotype of the warm, gregarious Italian is not so far from the truth. A firm, friendly handshake and plenty of eye-contact starts off any interaction in style. Be sure to dress sharply as sense of style in Italy is prized highly. To make a good impression, wrinkled clothing, torn fabric, the smallest of stains and unbrushed hair are best avoided. When it comes to food with the Italians, there is always more. Don’t overload on the first dish, there’s pasta to come, and that’s not to mention the main course. A great way to form bonds is accepting seconds (and thirds) of every course, making sure to pick up cheese with a knife and never your fingers. Once you’re fit to burst it’ll be time for dessert.