Destination Directory

How (Not) to Behave

Common courtesy isn’t always common, and may differ by location. Encourage travelers to learn about customs and etiquette. (Even better, offer a basic travel etiquette manual.) Here are some etiquette odds and ends.

BRAZIL
Don’t eat with your hands. Don’t tip at restaurants. Don’t tip cab drivers. Don’t make the “OK” sign; it’s a rude gesture. Don’t ask personal questions. Don’t wear street clothes at the beach.

CANADA
Say “please” and “thank you.” Holding the door for others is polite and expected. Don’t throw down payment for purchases. Don’t use “Indian” when referring to First Nations, Native, or Aboriginal people. In French-speaking areas, your language efforts are appreciated.

CHINA
Learn simple greetings and phrases. Don’t wear revealing outfits. Don’t put milk or sugar in your tea. Don’t take the last of the food on a serving plate; leave a bit of food on your plate. Don’t snap your fingers or whistle. Don’t greet with hugs or kisses. Don’t immediately open gifts.

FRANCE
Be apologetic about your inability to speak French. Greet with “bonjour” or “bonsoir”; say “au revoir” at parting; shake hands when meeting and leaving. Maintain eye contact during conversations. Keep your arms above the table during dinner. Don’t eat with your fingers. Learn when, where, and what to tip.

GERMANY
Don’t wear “bling.” Don’t eat with your fingers or with elbows on the table. Tip if you appreciate your service. Nude beaches are labeled FKK, although topless or fully nude sunbathing isn’t uncommon elsewhere. Giving a “Nazi salute,” saying “Heil Hitler,” and showing Third Reich symbols are criminal offenses.

ITALY
Shake hands upon meeting someone. Don’t be offended by a hug. Don’t leave the table during dinner. Don’t eat with your fingers. Don’t point with both index and pinky fingers; it’s considered vulgar. Don’t wear shorts or tank tops at church.

MEXICO
Be fashionably late! Dress casually for social events. Don’t wear shorts; you’ll be pegged as a tourist. Remove hats and sunglasses when entering a church. Say “¡Salud!” if someone sneezes. Know that only men offer toasts. Leave a bit of food on your plate.

SPAIN
Dress stylishly, yet modestly, even for casual events. Don’t wear shorts to churches or museums. Shake hands when meeting people, from oldest to youngest. Dinner starts closer to 9 or 10 p.m. Rest your wrists on the table edge when dining. Tipping isn’t customary.

SWITZERLAND
Dress conservatively and neatly. Maintain proper posture. Don’t chew gum or speak loudly in public. Don’t have your hands in your pockets when talking to others. Don’t ask personal questions. Keep your hands on the table during a meal. Don’t ask for salt and pepper if not on the table. Tipping isn’t required.

UNITED KINGDOM
Order drinks and food at the bar, but don’t tip in pubs. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Making the victory “V” sign with your palm facing you is a rude gesture. Be aware of personal space; don’t touch others in public. Shake hands when meeting someone.

The above is excerpted from the original version of this article by Amy L Charles, Groups Today editorial director.