Familiarising yourself with local cultures is one of the best ways to avoid causing offence or getting into trouble when you travel. While some codes of conduct are made clear in laws and rules, there are other unspoken rules of etiquette that you should also follow to avoid making these 11 tourist faux pas that go beyond covering up, or what you wear.

1. Not taking off your shoes before entering houses or temples in China

wearing your shoes in people’s homes or inside a temple is considered taboo in China (and also in Japan). Make sure to take them off outside and try not to show the bottoms of your feet to others.

2. Don’t pronounce the “G” at the end of “Edinburgh”. 

The “-burgh” is actually pronounced “-burra,” as in “Edinburra,” not “Edinberg,” and saying it this way is sure to annoy locals.

Edinburgh City View
Don’t pronounce the “G” at the end of “Edinburgh”
3. Annoying the royal guards in London

The stoic guards posted outside Buckingham Palace in London are serving soldiers, and it’s extremely rude to antagonise them to try and get a reaction.

4. Wearing a full suit in San Francisco 

San Francisco is an extremely chilled out city, so much so that wearing a full suit immediately sets you apart as not being a local. Most employees and even many executives prefer a much more casual look for day-to-day office wear.

5. Eat everything offered to you in the Middle East

If you’re visiting the house of a middle eastern family, make sure to go there hungry, as if you don’t finish your food, or refuse seconds, the host will assume you didn’t like it, or that you’re too shy to ask for more (and will serve you some anyway).

Buckingham palace royal guard
Don’t annoy the royal guards posted outside Buckingham Palace
6. Use your right hand to eat and give money in India

Indians usually use their right hands to eat and give or receive items, even if they are left-handed. The left hand is reserved for things that are considered “unclean” such as touching things on the ground or wiping after using the bathroom.

7. Eating lunch before 1 pm in Spain

Spaniards are known for eating meals at unusual times and most schools and businesses don’t break for lunch until 1 pm, and even that’s considered early.

8. Wearing a swimsuit to an onsen in Japan

Many Japanese people consider it weird to don swimwear in onsens (hot springs). Bathers should have a quick wash before getting in the water as the hot springs are mostly meant for relaxing and socialising. However, do try to cover up tattoos, as they can be associated with the Yakuza.

Japanese spa Onsen
Japanese people consider it weird to wear swimsuits in onsens
9. Don’t pat someone on the head in Thailand

In many Buddhist countries, the head is considered sacred and the seat of the soul. So touching someone on the head without their permission, even a child, is considered to be a real insult.

10. Leaving a large tip in the UK  

While it may seem like a nice gesture, avoid leaving a large tip for your server at a pub or restaurant in the UK. A tip is expected, but as restaurant workers are paid a regular salary, unusually large tips merely set you apart as a tourist.

11. Ordering a cappuccino after 10 am in Italy

Milk is considered filling and is only consumed at breakfast in Italy. To avoid standing out, switch to espresso in the afternoon or evening.

Do you know of any more unspoken rules of etiquette that may become tourist faux pas?


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