Different cultures can have very different ideas about what is considered rude. Many of the behaviors that are considered to be normal and even polite in the United States, can actually be extremely offensive in other cultures. Even something as simple as giving someone the thumbs up can be taken the wrong way.
To avoid awkward moments, it’s best to brush up on etiquette in different cultures and what’s considered rude. Remember, just because something is okay at home doesn’t mean it’s okay abroad. Keep reading to find out what 10 things are rude in other cultures, even though they are normal in North America.
10 Finishing All The Food On Your Plate
Most Americans wouldn’t think twice about finishing all the food on their plates. After all, in the United States, this is something that is taught to children from an early age. To avoid waste, we should be finishing all the food we’re given.
But in some Asian cultures, this is actually seen as impolite. If you finish all the food on your plate, it implies that you are still hungry. Therefore, if you’re at a dinner party, it makes your host feel like they haven’t given you enough food and is considered offensive.
9 Eating With Your Left Hand
There are no rules about which hand to eat within American culture. That’s why it may shock many Americans to know that eating with your left hand can be considered very rude in some Arabic cultures. The reason for this is that the left hand was traditionally used for bathroom duties.
In countries like Egypt or Morocco, you might be invited to eat out of a communal bowl. In this situation, it would be the height of rudeness to use your left hand to eat, even if you’re left-handed.
8 Accepting Compliments
Accepting compliments can be a little awkward for some, even in the United States. While the overly humble deny compliments, most people definitely wouldn’t think it’s rude to thank someone and accept the compliment. But in certain cultures around the world, this is considered rude.
In some places, such as Japan, accepting a compliment is seen as arrogance. It’s like tooting your own horn. Instead, compliments should always be denied. This way, you’ll avoid coming across as egotistical. Whether the compliment is true or not, based on looks or something else, this still applies.
7 Referring To The United States as “America”
It’s pretty common to refer to the United States as America, especially if you’re from the United States. But this may be rude and offensive to those coming from South American countries. It suggests that the only nation in both North and South America that is worthy of the broad title “America” is the United States.
While those who aren’t from the American continent at all might not even notice a problem with this terminology, there is a chance that it could offend those from South America.
6 Showing Up Late Or On Time
In the United States, showing up on time is the polite thing to do. You might arrive a few minutes late and call it fashionable, but any more lateness than this is considered rude. It’s normal to either arrive on time or even a few minutes early. But showing up on time or early is perceived as rude in certain cultures around the world.
In Mexico, for example, most people expect you to be late. This is known as running on Mexican time. If you arrive on time, or early, it is considered rude because you haven’t given the host or the other parties enough time to prepare.
5 The Dress Code
The typical American dress code varies across the United States. But typically, Americans tend to dress more casually than those in Europe. While wearing athleisure clothes out in public is considered normal in many areas of the United States, whether you’ve been exercising or not, this would probably be thought of as rude in countries where the dress code tends to be a little more glam.
In many European nations, stepping outside your house in sweat pants is pretty uncommon. Most people go for jeans at the very least.
4 Keeping Your Shoes On Indoors
The majority of people in the United States probably don’t think twice about leaving their shoes on indoors. But in many Asian cultures, this is thought to be dirty. So if you leave your shoes on while going into someone’s house, you’ll probably be seen as rude.
In countries like Japan and South Korea, you will find provided slippers that you can wear instead of your shoes inside someone’s house. If no footwear is provided, the best thing to do is go barefoot. Wearing shoes indoors is seen as the ultimate dirty act.
3 Talking On Public Transport
For some people, getting to chat with others on public transport is the best part of it. Many survive long hours commuting this way. While you’re traveling on public transport in many Asian countries, though, you’ll have to be as quiet as possible. If not, you’ll be thought of as rude and disruptive.
This means not only limiting the conversations you do have, but also turning your phone on silent. Phone calls should wait until you’ve gotten off the train or bus, otherwise, they could disturb your fellow passengers.
2 Blowing Your Nose In Public
Blowing your nose in public isn’t exactly the most charming thing to do, even in the United States. But it’s more acceptable here. Many people do it all the time and don’t think anything of it. You wouldn’t want to try this in many Asian countries, though, were blowing your nose in public is perceived as extremely rude.
The best thing to do if you have to blow your nose in a country like Japan is excusing yourself and heading to the bathroom. Taking care of it in front of others is usually frowned upon.
1 Giving Someone The Thumbs Up
Giving someone the thumbs up is a positive thing in the United States. It’s a sign of encouragement or that all is well. It may come as a surprise to hear that in some countries a thumbs-up sign is just as offensive as a middle finger. This is the case in some parts of Greece, West Africa, Iran, and Russia.
It’s always important to research a destination before you arrive and learn what is considered rude or offensive. You never know who you might be offending, even if you have the best intentions.