Travel tips

Mind your manners & watch out for common cultural faux pas on holiday

In our survey of 1,000 travellers [1], 44% confessed to committing a cultural faux pas on holiday and 49% have seen someone else make a cringe-worthy slip up abroad.

The most common is using the wrong word/phrase (18%) but 1 in 10 has used the loo of the opposite sex by mistake and around the same has used the wrong language when speaking to a local person. Furthermore 16% have seen others cause offence by wearing inappropriate clothing for a formal or religious occasion.

“Getting the etiquette right for the country you are visiting can be the difference to a warm welcome or a cold shoulder” says Koko Sarkari, COO of ICE. “Pleasurable pastimes such as eating and drinking can be a minefield, not finishing your meal in France implies the food is poor, or the serving is incorrectly balanced whereas in Russia leaving a small amount on your plate suggests enough food has been provided to fill you up”.

“It’s not just food and drink that can catch out holiday makers, taking care when greeting locals, and watching those hand gestures are important to remember as interpretations vary depending on the country you’re visiting. A little research beforehand can go a long way to ensuring a smooth trip”.

“Paying for goods and services can also be fraught with uncertainty in some countries. For example in Thailand and India, the custom is to haggle rather than have a set price which can catch UK travellers’ unawares. In the US, you may be chased down the street if you forget to tip between 15% and 20% after a meal and in France and Italy an extra tip on top of the service charge is often expected.

However, savvy travellers planning their break to Europe can take advantage of the current strength of the Pound by loading up a PIN-protected prepaid currency card from ICE – the ICE pre-paid card. With rates fixed at the time the money is loaded, holidaymakers can withdraw the local currency they need at ATMs and the flexibility to pay for larger purchases in shops and for meals out as they would with a debit or credit card. The Clear Card adds some certainty for travellers tackling local customs.” concludes Koko.

Common Cultural faux pas to avoid in Europe

  • Waving your hand in front of someone’s face in Germany & Austria, is regarded as an offensive gesture
  • Don’t start eating unless everyone at the table is seated and ready to start their meal in France
  • Take shoes off when entering somebody’s home in Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic & Poland
  • In Bulgaria, if asked if you like something, make sure you shake your head for yes. The gesture is reversed the other way, so remember to nod for no
  • Displaying too much flesh could see you ejected from churches in Italy and Greece, so dress modestly if you intend to visit.
  • Flashing the thumbs up sign in parts of Italy and France is regarded as an insult
  • Showing your palm of your hand to a Greek is regarded as highly offensive
  • Don’t sit down at a dinner table until you’re asked to in Austria, as you may be met with disapproving looks.
  • Putting a piece of bread on one’s plate in France is poor etiquette. Leave it on the table beside the plate as bread is not considered part of a meal
  • Failing to make eye contact while clinking glasses with Germans is considered bad luck
  • In some parts of Italy and France tips are expected even when service has been added to the bill

Cross cultural faux pas to avoid in the USA

  • Urinating in public is not socially acceptable anywhere, but in the USA it could land you with a fine
  • Asking where the toilet is in the USA is likely to result in a frown; call it a restroom or bathroom to avoid appearing rude.
  • Don’t steal another’s cab whilst in the Big Apple
  • Try and ensure you have change or a metro card ready when stepping up to get on a bus or approaching a turnstile for the metro in New York
  • Not to tip in the USA is considered rude, and tipping is customary in restaurants, bars, hotels and taxis.

All cultural information in this release sourced from the following websites:





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