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Etiquette in your suitcase – because no man is an island

Apr 8, 2021

We all dream about travelling the world – discovering new gems, getting to know and experience cultures and people. Certain cultural practices and etiquette are obvious while we are totally in the dark about others.

So, we decided to give you some tips on other countries’ cultures and practices before booking your next plane ticket. Whether you are travelling abroad on business or vacation, you will be dealing with that country’s culture and customs.

France

France is a well-known tourist destination that we dream of visiting one day – from the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris to the macaroons and cobblestone alleys. Here are some things you need to know before leaving for the country of romance.

Kiss

Some of us love to kiss our family and friends; with others, we shake hands or wave to them. The French greet by leaning forward, touching the person’s cheeks and making kissing noises with their lips. This practice is called La Bise and is encouraged in children from an early age.

Slow but sure

  • Don’t get angry if someone pushes in front of you while queueing in France; it is not considered abnormal or rude, but rather the everyday norm.
  • In general, service in France is slow. Sales agents in shops won’t help you right away, and waiters in restaurants will also give you plenty of time before they take your order. The French believe it is important that you have enough time to think things through calmly.

India

India definitely has more to offer than spices and Bollywood. The country is rich in culture, traditions and religions. Here are some things to know before you visit this colourful country.

Body etiquette

  • Greet with namaste: Place your palms against each other and bend slightly to show respect. Indian men greet each other with a handshake, but women do not. Indian women may give Western women a handshake but not shake hands with men.
  • Touch people with your right hand only and hand over money or pick up merchandise with the right hand too; the left hand is considered unclean.
  • Do not touch anyone’s head; the head is considered sensitive.

For business

  • Always present your business card when you are introduced. English is suitable for business cards.
  • During a meeting, you may be offered sweet, milky tea; do not refuse it.
  • Business in India is difficult and slow. Don’t get impatient or angry; instead, repeat a request politely and firm.

Japan

Japan, the land of the rising sun, is not only known for its centuries-old culture and traditions but also for being at the forefront of continuous modernisation and development. Therefore, it isn’t easy to understand their culture and habits. Here are some things to know before leaving for the country of volcanos, geishas, samurai swords, sumo wrestling and cherry blossoms.

Table manners

  • Guzzling your noodles loudly is not considered rude but rather a sign that you really enjoy your meal!
  • Hold your cup of tea with both hands, and don’t make noises while drinking. If your tea is too hot, don’t blow over it; rather wait for it to cool – but don’t wait too long as it is considered rude.
  • Don’t eat or drink while walking around in public; it is considered rude.

Clothing

  • When deciding on what to pack, keep in mind that the Japanese dress relatively conservative. Women should preferably wear blouses that close their shoulders. For business, long pants with a blouse are ideal. Japanese women also don’t wear nail polish. A dark suit with a blue or white shirt is suitable for men on a business trip.
  • Take off your shoes before entering anyone’s home; it is considered well-mannered.

Texas

Howdy, partners! Texas is one of the largest American states and is synonymous with cowboys, boots, barbeques, rodeos and line dances. Here are some things you need to know before shouting “yee-haw”.

First impressions count!

  • In Texas, first impressions are not based on your appearance or accent but your handshake; so, practice if you have a strong grip.
  • Texans are generally kind and friendly people, and they like to keep doors open for strangers. Don’t forget your manners – keep doors open and say please and thank you.

Don’t mess with Texas!

Although Texans are generally speaking friendly, rather avoid the following:

  • “Do you have a gun with you?” Most Texans do carry a gun but don’t generalise.
  • “It’s hot outside.” Summer temperatures in Texas can be unbearable, but it doesn’t help to complain; everyone is hot and sweaty. Some Texans even prefer that kind of weather.

Ethiopia

Welcome to the land of coffee and honey! Ethiopia is usually not one of the first places one would consider for a vacation, but the country offers beautiful scenery, interesting culture and world-famous coffee. Here are some things you need to know before leaving for this African country.

Clothing

  • Women attending religious gatherings must cover their heads, shoulders and knees.
  • Women should pack the following: Long blouses made of light material, trousers, sarong and light hiking shoes.
  • Men should pack trousers and shirts.

No photos!

  • Don’t take photos of government buildings or embassies; it is forbidden.
  • Don’t take photos of people without their permission; it is considered “theft”.

Whether you travel north or east, remember, you’re a guest in someone else’s country just like you’re a guest in someone else’s house when you visit them!

About the author

Nikkie Kriel

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