Americans are generally quite easy-going about most things, but there are still some certified ways to ruffle up their feathers. If you commit certain social blunders in the United States, such as slurping your soup or arriving late, you may be perceived as rude.
But in other cultures across the world, those same things might be thought of as normal. It can be very confusing to keep up with the different standards of manners when you travel, so a little research always helps. Check out these 10 things that are rude in North America but normal in other cultures.
Arriving late to an event is considered the height of rudeness in the United States. While it’s okay to be fashionably late depending on where you’re going, that shouldn’t keep you for longer than a few minutes. Arriving up to an hour late is likely to win you lots of death stares and a reprimanding.
But in other cultures, turning up late is considered the norm. In Mexico, for example, it’s almost a given that people will be late arriving at most events. In fact, turning up early is considered rude, because it involves arriving before your hosts are ready.
Most Americans know not to sniff their noses too loudly in public. This is seen as a sign of rudeness and irks the people around them. If you need to blow your nose, then just blow it, right? But in some cultures, sniffing your nose is perfectly acceptable. It’s actually much politer than blowing it.
In Japan, blowing your nose in public is a serious blunder. It’s also considered rude to blow your nose during a meal. To do this, you should excuse yourself and head to somewhere private, such as the bathroom.
There are certain questions that are deemed inappropriate by most Americans. Asking people how old they are, what their marital status is, when they are having children, and how much money they make is often seen as confronting and impolite. In other cultures around the world, though, personal questions are much more acceptable.
If you venture to the rural parts of Italy, particularly in the South of the country, you might find that people are bolder with their questions. People may ask how old you are and, if you’re not married, why you’re still single.
This is one of the first things that Americans learn as children. Food should be eaten with forks and spoons, not your hands. While there are some foods that just need to be eaten with the hands, like burgers and ribs, most of the time a knife and fork is required.
Yet in many cultures in the Middle East, eating with your hands is much more commonplace. There’s nothing rude about reaching into a communal bowl of food with your hand (provided you use the right hand and not the left hand).
Another staple table manner that many American children learn is not to slurp. If you’re eating food that is easy to slurp, such as spaghetti, noodles, or soup, you should refrain from doing this if you’re eating with other people. But in many Asian cultures, slurping is the done thing.
Head to noodle bars in destinations such as Japan and you’ll find that people often slurp up their noodles and soup. While there are some behaviors that are considered very rude in Asian cultures, this isn’t one of them!
As a child, you might have been taught to finish everything on your plate. This is a common American practice instilled in children from a young age. If most children don’t finish what’s on their plate, then they don’t get dessert after. But in some cultures, leaving food on your plate is actually polite. Eating it all is considered rude.
At a Chinese banquet, eating everything on your plate leaves the impression that you’re still hungry. This is offensive to the host, who might feel like they haven’t provided you with enough.
Saying please and thank you is another part of American culture that is ingrained in children from a young age. You probably don’t think twice before saying please before asking for something and thanking people after you receive something. Forgetting to say thank you is the ultimate sign of rudeness.
In Japanese culture, it’s much politer to deny any compliment given to you than to say thank you and accept it. Saying thank you can come across as arrogant when it comes to compliments and praise.
Different cultures tend to have different views on eye contact. In the United States, for example, failing to make eye contact when someone is speaking to you can be considered rude. This is especially true if you’re being told off for something. The polite thing to do is to look that person in the eye and give them respect.
Things are a little different in some cultures across Asia, the Middle East, and Hispanic areas. Eye contact is what’s considered rude, and failing to give it does not show a lack of respect.
Americans tend to relate to time differently than many other cultures. In the United States, being on time is important, and it’s considered rude to waste people’s time. That’s why in a restaurant situation, most customers expect the bill to be brought to them right away.
It’s different in other cultures, including Mexican culture, where bringing the bill right away would actually be seen as rude. This would be the same as rushing the diners out of the restaurant. Failing to bring the bill would be polite, as it allows the diners to carry on their conversation at their leisure.
The standards between customer service in the United States and other countries tend to vary quite a bit. Stellar customer service is seen as a right in America, so wait staff and retail workers are typically friendly and welcoming. If they’re good at their jobs, they go out of their way to help the customer. Anything less would be worth complaining about.
In Europe, customer service tends to be more reserved. In France, for example, it is up to the customer to greet the shop assistant and not the other way around.