Every culture has their own unique customs and traditions and it’s important when we’re travelling to adhere to these as best as possible. In some countries this is even more important to pay attention to as breaking some small customs can land you in jail! Even so, it’s important to be as respectful as possible, so even though breaking some social norms might not land you in jail, it’s just good manners to respect them anyway.

On a recent Reddit thread, people were asked “What’s extremely offensive in your country, that tourists might not know about beforehand?” Here are some of the most useful answers, sorted by country and/or regions. There are also some you might think are obvious, but time and time again, visitors do them so just make sure you’re not ‘one of those’ tourists.


  • Thailand, Don’t touch people on their heads, it is the highest point of the body so therefore it’s the most respectful part. Also never point your feet at a Buddha statue, it’s considered very rude. Also, if you step on money, you’ll be thrown in jail, it has the king’s face on it and disrespecting him in anyway (like stepping on his image or saying you hate him) will get you a 1 way ticket to a not very nice prison. – KakatteKoi

United Kingdom

  • U.K. Don’t try to antoganize the Queens guards, they’re not decoration they’re serving soldiers. Have a good gawp but leave them be. – shufflebottom
  • In the UK, talking loudly on the phone in either The Tube (underground) or on a national rail service is seen as bad manners – Nobody wants to hear your conversation so we all pray the signal cuts out or the train enters a tunnel.- TheWildHorses
  • The V for Victory (or 2) sign where the palm is facing towards you, so the back of the hand is facing everyone else. That’s pretty offensive in Britain… – taekwondo_girl_lily
  • We’re serious about queuing, that’s fairly well known, but it’s taboo to even let your friends save you a space if the queue’s long or slow-moving. Your friends should join you at the back instead, if they want to wait for you. – Draculix


  • The “OK” thing americans do with their hands means ‘Shove it up your ass’. So don’t do it. Ronald Reagan committed the same mistake. – Ich_Liegen

Middle East

  • When I lived in the Middle East showing the bottom of your feet (like when your legs are crossed) was offensive, saw expats do it all the time though. – Permexpat
    • Which ties into how throwing your shoes at someone is such an insult in the Middle East. The foot is the “lowest” part of your body, and you’re throwing something that spends most of its time touching your feet. – frachris87


  • German here: doing the Hitler greeting, saying ‘Heil Hitler’, and the Swastika are illegal here. It’s very obviously very inappropriate to visit Germany and pose with your right arm raised for photos, especially when visiting a historically or culturally important place, and yet tourists keep getting into trouble because of this. – KairyuSmartie
  • There are some parts of the autobahn with no speedlimit. But mostly there is a speedlimit on the German highways. – Rafael_P_S


  • Romania: do not give someone an even number of flowers. That’s reserved for funerals. – moderatelyremarkable

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Costa Rica

  • Costa Rica: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT slam on people’s car doors. Specially taxis. Try to be gentle when getting in and out. I wouldn’t call it EXTREMELY offensive but people will definitely give you the stink eye for that. Some rude taxi drivers could even give you a bad time. – david_creek


  • Swedes have a HUGE sphere of personal space. If you’re American, and you’re talking to me, you are standing WAY too close to me. Shields up. – GryphonGuitar


  • Canada here. It’s not offensive… but very annoying when people raise a fuss about not being able to pay in US currency…. or if stores do accept it they accept it at par. Stores are not banks, and you are in another country. You have no idea how often I had to deal with this working at a gas station near a camp ground like 200 miles north of the border. – Mateo777
  • In Canada, please take your shoes off before entering someones home. – TimberBucket
  • Canadian here, don’t feed the wild animals. No matter how cute that seal looks, don’t feed it because you’re changing its natural behaviour and that can mean an untimely death. Also, that moose calf is ugly/cute but it’s mom will stomp your head in if you get too close. If you see a bear, stay far away from it. If you’re hiking please stay on the trail, and for the love of god if you go into the woods please be prepared to spend the night because you stand a good chance of dying if you get lost. – Stink_pizza


  • Ireland; if you’re in a pub/at a bar DO NOT order a ‘Black and Tan’ or an ‘Irish Car Bomb’. The former was the common name for the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve during the Irish war of independence. They’re infamous for their violent and extreme treatment towards the Irish people. Order a ‘half and half’ instead. The latter is because we don’t want to be associated with terrorists and people tend to make a mess drinking them. There are a few places where it is okay to order these but they’re more of an exception rather than the rule. – MisterDeclan


  • The Netherlands, lots of tourists think we can smoke weed everywhere we want. This is not the case, you can only smoke it in the coffee shops or at home. So don’t smoke on the street. – Pandafurlulz


  • Don’t be so damn loud in Japan. Japanese people are fairly quiet and talk in a low-tone. When Americans go to visit and you start talking loudly on a phone or even next to the person in your Italian accent, it’s extremely rude.  Source: Am full Italian, lived abroad in Japan- I was this person. – Teqnologist

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  • I’m currently studying abroad in Senegal. My second or third night with my host family, my host dad got legitimately offended that I didn’t personally greet and shake hands with everyone in the home when I got home from school. It’s common courtesy to do that here, apparently, but I never would have guessed it. – breadplane


  • Unless you are at a flea market, garage sale,car dealership, or coupon matching, we don’t haggle with prices. What you see is what you get. – veronyca73
  • American here. If you go to a State or National Park, especially Yellowstone, and you see signs saying”no smoking outside of vehicles” take them seriously. When we have droughts, smoking can be a serious hazard for the parks. Sometimes it only takes a slight cinder to set off a fire. And once started, fires in the western US become absolutely huge. If the park tells you to only smoke in your car, that means with the windows up, too. – mel_cache
  • If you are in New York City, please note that the right side of an escalator is for standing and the left side is for walking. There will always be two lanes on each escalator, regardless of whether it’s going up or down. If you stand in the middle of the escalator, you will be asked to move to the right to make way for people trying to walk it. If you don’t move out of the way, I will climb over your inconsiderate ass. – wind_stars_fireflies


  • Mexico here: We get this a lot with spring breakers, more people in Mexico speak english than most tourists realize. When you go on your Fox News/ CNN spiel on the state of affairs in our country, make comments or jokes about the narcos, getting kidnapped, mugged etc. or poke fun at Mexican stereotypes, more people than you think can understand you, and it makes you look like an ass. – angryavocadotree


  • Iceland: not much is considered extremely offensive, but blowing your nose will get you some side-eye. Be like the locals and just hork it back down to where it came from. – count_olaf_lucafont


  • Hungary: please try to start the conversation other than the Hungary/hungry joke. Every English-speaking Hungarian has heard it a million times. It’s not offensive, we’re just really tired of it. – adamd2s


  • Don’t raise three fingers in the air in Croatia. – BrunoMarin
    • thumb, index, middle finger. It was used in the Serbian Orthodox Church to symbolize the holy trinity. Now it is just a symbol for Serbia or Serbs in general. It re-emerged in the 80s as a counter-symbol to V-sign thrown at political events by Slovenians and Croatians, and became popular in the 90s to support the Serbian renewal movement. – SlothOfDoom


Australian here: If a sign says “BEWARE OF CROCODILES” do not swim there just because you cant see them. Those fuckers are sneaky and will eat you or your body parts. There are constant articles about dumb tourists taking their photos on top of croc catching cages or camping and swimming in waterholes that have warning signs around them. Australians live in a country where deadly animals are part of our everyday lives, there are snakes and spiders that’ll kill you in the suburbs. Even the dumbest Australian wont go anywhere near somewhere that says “BEWARE CROCS” – stanleymodest


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