Ever given a Russian a red carnation? How about a clock to someone from China? Or have you ever asked to be passed the salt in Egypt?
If so, you’ve probably been given short shrift by the locals – so to make sure you’re up to speed next time you travel, we’ve compiled a list of seven of the stranger customs from across the globe…
Don’t talk turkey in Bolivia
If you’re away doing business in Bolivia, resist the temptation to talk shop at the dinner table or at any social function for that matter – it’s bad form to discuss business matters in a social situation.
Dinner in Bolivia is used to grow personal relationships, so even if you’re at a business lunch, wait until your host starts talking turkey before you get down to business.
Eat hands-free in Norway
The Norwegians are sticklers at the dinner table and insist on using cutlery when eating ANYTHING, even sandwiches, so don’t dive in fingers-first.
Don’t give certain gifts in China
So you’ve got a friend in China who’s celebrating a birthday, maybe you’re thinking of getting them a nice timepiece, some handkerchiefs, or maybe sending them some flowers? Think again, all of these gifts – as well as straw sandals – are associated with death and funerals in China and are considered not just inappropriate but too morbid for any other occasion.
Pass on the salt in Egypt
In Egypt, seasoning your food is frowned upon and considered an insult to the host who has prepared the meal – so instead of passing the salt, just pass on the salt completely.
Don’t split the bill in Turkey
If you’re at a business lunch in Turkey, don’t insist on paying or even splitting the bill as it’s the custom for your host to pay for the meal.
There’s no harm in offering, this is seen as a polite gesture, just don’t insist as you may rub your host up the wrong way.
And if you want to reciprocate the hospitality, arrange another meal at which you are the host and you foot the bill accordingly.
Be careful with those chopsticks in Japan
The Japanese are very polite people and proper etiquette is all-important, especially at mealtimes.
So if you’re going to immerse yourself in the culinary culture be mindful of how you use your chopsticks – don’t point or stab food with them and certainly don’t play with them. If you have to get food from a shared plate use the opposite end of the chopsticks, using the end you’ve been sticking in your mouth is considered offensive and unhygienic.
Don’t give a Russian the wrong flowers
If you’re giving flowers to a friend or business associate in Russia, take care when choosing the colour and type of bloom you’re handing out.
Red carnations are only offered to surviving war veterans or placed on the graves of the dead, while yellow flora suggests a relationship break-up or some sort of deceit – so if you ever see a Russian brandishing a bunch of sunflowers, you know what they’ve been up to.