Be careful this time of year, as April Fool’s Day is right around the corner. Also known worldwide as All Fools Day, this day has been celebrated for centuries in countries like the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and Brazil. If you aren’t careful on April 1, this popular day could make you a “victim” of a light-hearted practical joke or hoax. While our behavior is all fun and games at home, you’ll want to be sure you aren’t fooled into thinking the following behavior is okay when you travel abroad:
- Talking Over Dinner
In America, talking over dinner is commonplace – in fact, more and more experts are encouraging it. But if you travel to China, Japan and some places in Africa talking over food is a major no-no. In these countries, the food is the star. Those who chat over dinner will likely be met with silence – dinner is meant for eating, not talking.1
Be aware that talking in places that some countries consider sacred is also off limits – churches in Europe, temples in Thailand, and saunas in Finland.
- Patting Someone’s Head
We see it all the time in America – adults patting kids on the head. Sometimes an adult pats another adult on the head. But those who do this in Buddhist countries, do so at their own risk. That’s because the head is considered the seat of the soul and touching the top of it is highly insulting, even for a child.2
Another thing that’s not okay to do in other countries? Pointing with a finger. This gesture is considered rude in Malaysia (instead they point with a closed fist, the thumb at the top indicating direction). Filipinos are even more low-key, singling out an object by shifting their eyes towards it or pursing their lips and pointing with their mouth.2
- Wearing Shoes Inside
If you plan to visit Japan, remember to remove your shoes upon entering someone’s home or entering a temple. Once your shoes are removed, you’ll likely be given slippers to take you from front door to living room, but after that, the slippers should be removed before you step on the tatami (reed mat).1
- Eating with Your Left Hand
Don’t greet a person or eat with your left hand in Hindu and Muslim countries. Why is this so offensive? Well,while eating and greeting is the duty of your right hand, the left hand takes care of all of the other “duties” – it is therefore considered unclean.1
- Looking Others in the Eye
If you live in America, chances are you think that those who do not make direct eye contact are rude, weak or indifferent. However, holding a long gaze in some Asian nations is considered rude and makes other uncomfortable.
Rules differ all over the world, however, because if you are in Germany and raising a toast to friends, your eyes better meet theirs!