Common Etiquette Mistakes |

Common Etiquette Mistakes to Avoid Around the World blog: Common Etiquette Mistakes to Avoid Around the World

In our daily routine, we engage in socially accepted practices from dawn to dusk. From a traditional English breakfast to an afternoon Spanish siesta, societies have habitual standards that locals may assume are normal worldwide. Customs vary among cultures and what may be commonplace in one society may be taboo in another. The team at suggests reviewing local practices and etiquette codes before visiting new exotic locations.

Dress Code

Many tourists can offend locals just by wearing their favorite outfit. Particularly in religious communities, displaying too much skin or wearing tight fitting clothing is not only rude but a crime. For instance, women who visit Saudi Arabia and show more than an inch of skin may face a criminal charge. Contrastingly, France and other select areas forbid head coverings and ban burqas. The team at recommends layering your outfit if you plan to visit religious buildings in a warm climate, such as in Israel, where officials will deny entry into holy places to tourists wearing shorts and midriff-baring clothing.

Public Displays of Affection & Touching

Do not give your sweetheart a kiss goodbye if you are in Qatar or India, as public displays of affection are unacceptable. When American actor Richard Gere kissed Indian actress Shilpa Shetty in New Delhi, an Indian court judge issued arrest warrants for both thespians. Correspondingly, residents of India generally keep an arm’s length of space between themselves, as they value personal space. In Japan, PDA is not illegal but is still not customary, as even immediate family members bow to one another upon greeting and departing. However, in many Latin countries cheek kissing is a social custom even between strangers. In France, the number of cheek kisses corresponds to where the kisser is from, as people from Provence typically greet with three kisses, whereas those from Nantes may kiss four or more times. 

Hand Gestures

While an extended and parted index and middle finger forming a “V” is a hand signal for peace in the U.S., presenting the gesture with the back of your hand pointed outward is an insult in Australia, England, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa. Likewise, gesticulations such as a thumbs-up, fingers crossed and a beckoning arm wave are insults in regions of Asia like Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore. The team at advises tourists to keep their hands in their pockets to avoid making an obscene sign accidentally.


When traveling abroad, most visitors enjoy documenting their travels through photos and video recordings. However, taking photos without consent is rude (and sometimes illegal) in many countries. In France, Hungry and Japan, residents have the right to privacy, and consent is a requirement before capturing a person’s image, even in a public location. Similarly, it may not be diplomatic to document each tourist attraction. By means of example, a local German artist shamed tourists who took casual selfies within Munich’s Holocaust Memorial. The team at recommends asking locals and tour guides about photography protocol before attempting to capture a moment.