There’s no doubt that cultural differences occur throughout the world. Depending on social norms, how others were raised, and what’s considered acceptable (or unacceptable), countries expect different types of behaviors. For those who grew up in a particular country, it’s a no-brainer. They continue to act the same way they’ve always been taught. But when traveling, these differences become tricky. Whether jetting across the boarder or across an ocean, it’s important to understand the differences to avoid a serious faux pas (or an entire string of them). Some of the most glaring differences – yet unexpected ones – include:
A Lack of Tipping in Europe
In America, it’s common to leave a tip. In fact, it’s considered fairly rude not to leave one. If you leave bills on the table in another country however, you’re likely to offend. Not only for overpaying, but for creating an interaction that’s not face-to-face. Even when doing a nice gesture, you might offend (who would have thought, right?) When traveling, it’s a good idea to check in on what’s acceptable and what’s not, especially at the risk of causing ill will.
America Likes its Secrets
How much money we make, where we’ve been all day, what types of hobbies we like, who we might be related to (or who we’re in contact with) – all of these are considered somewhat private in the United States. As well as age, weight, or even biological heritage. Overseas, however, most of the above is common knowledge. People aren’t offended when asked “personal” questions, and the answers often come up in everyday communication. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked something that might catch you off guard when traveling. And if someone happens to call you old, it’s a compliment – meaning you’re wise – not worn-looking or past one’s prime, as the American understanding of the word.
Stature Negates Facts
Alongside the age factor, those who are older or hold a higher position are not called out for being wrong or having a different opinion. In other cultures, it’s flat-out rude to argue or question someone’s sources. If they’re older or of higher place, you simply don’t question them. This goes for teachers and parents as well. In the U.S., however, debates are normal, no matter who’s on which side. Pull the same maneuvers when traveling and you might create an age war you simply won’t be able to win. No matter if you do have the facts to back you up.
America is More Focused on Time and Careers
No times for breaks when there’s work to be done. America is largely known for its long working hours and lack of time off. But those facts become more noticeable when visiting a country who doesn’t give work that same precedence. In fact, appointment hours are often arbitrary, and it’s normal to show up for events 10-15 minutes late (meaning shows, etc. are often started later than they’re actually scheduled). For those who are used to being on time, even early, however, a single day of this behavior is enough to drive you nuts.
Traditional Healing Methods Are Given Praise
Here in the U.S., we have a simple system, if we’re sick, we go to the doctor, who generally prescribes a medication. It’s a setup known as Western medicine. However, other countries often rely on more natural aspects, such as herbs, massage, body adjustments, and more to heal those same sicknesses. Their practices are known as Eastern medicine. When traveling, you may become sick and it’s important to know you might not be treated in a way that you’re used to. However, that’s not to say their efforts don’t work, it’s just a different approach to a singular problem.
Greetings and Formalities
This one just may be the trickiest difference of them all, mostly because no two countries are the same. Eastern Asian countries are known to bow toward one another, while Americans shake hands, and Europeans may give head nods to avoid passing germs. Fist bumps and high-fives are also known in less formal settings. To get the gist of what should be done, it’s best to observe others and follow suit. In most locations, it’s not considered rude for newbies to take some time to get the hang of greetings (they’ll know you’ve just arrived), so long as you catch on fairly quickly.