Traveling Abroad: Four Cultural Customs to Remember
Many a traveler has accidentally committed a faux pas after neglecting to respect an important custom or practice of a particular place or group of people. Respecting traditions abroad shows respect to the people of the country you are visiting. Listed below are four cultural customs from around the world.
1. Driving on the left
US travelers can avoid confusion, embarrassment and possibly injury by ensuring that they drive their rented vehicles on the left hand side of the road in Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa and many other countries, which somewhat ironically includes the US Virgin Islands!
2. Bowing in Japan
Known as ojigi, the practice of greeting people with a bow in is deeply symbolic in Japan. If a person in Japan bows to an American traveler, he or she should be sure to bow back unless he or she intends to cause offense.
There are multiple types of bows used to greet people in Japan. Generally speaking, it is advisable to bow longer and deeper when greeting people of an older age or higher social status. Casual bowing for more informal greetings can stop at around 15 degrees, whereas the most formal bows require a 45-degree bend.
3. Noodle slurping
In the US and most other Western cultures, it is rude to slurp at the dinner table. In Japan, however, the practice of slurping noodles in an animated fashion is regarded as polite. It may seem odd to western travelers, but slurping soba noodles loudly offers a means to express gratitude and respect.
5. Hands in lap
Finally, when in Rome it is worth remembering that table manners are not exactly the same as they are in the States. In most parts of Italy, for instance, it is considered rude and disrespectful for a dinner guest to sit with his hands in his lap.