How to Keep Out of Trouble When Traveling Overseas.
Traveling overseas is a very exciting thing to do especially if you’re young and on a gap year, or if you have just finished university. However, the group of (mostly European) young men and women who stripped off when they reached the summit of Malaysia’s sacred Mount Kinabalu forgot to do a most important piece of homework – research.
Their behaviour was a display of their of their total ignorance about Malaya’s customs and traditions. How reckless can any traveller be!
One of the best things about traveling is meeting people with different cultural backgrounds, habits and standards to your own, but it is these very differences that can get you into trouble.
When people go traveling overseas they are at risk of offending the host nation by behaving inappropriately, and ignorance is absolutely no excuse. Those young people in Malaysia were clearly terrified and bewildered to be arrested and find themselves in court!
Here are some examples of the kind of taboos that are very particular to certain countries. Being unaware of these may not get you thrown in jail, but they will cause great embarrassment:
- If you’re in Thailand never touch a person’s head. An innocent pat on a child’s head, for example, will be read as sacrilegious because the head is regarded as the home of the soul. And while we’re in Thailand, criticize their royal family at your peril – don’t even think about doing it!
- Watch out – your hand gestures can be offensive in some countries. For example a thumbs up sign is extremely offensive in Bangladesh and Iran, and a V sign (with the palm turned inwards) is swearing in the UK. The OK sign is also shocking in many parts of the world. So, my advice is simple, try very hard not to speak with your hands!
- The left hand is considered unclean in many Asian and Arabic countries, so if you’re in a place that does not use cutlery, always eat with your right hand, even if you’re left handed.
- No open kissing or cuddling on beaches, or any other public place in Middle Eastern countries. You will be arrested and be in BIG trouble.
- Remove your shoes before entering a mosque, no matter what country you are in.
- In Japan it is illegal to wear purple unless you are mourning a death. Yes illegal!
- In Italy it’s very rude to turn up without a small gift, usually food, if you’re invited to someone’s home.
- In China do not stick your chopsticks upright in your rice bowl; it is a very bad omen because it reminds Chinese people of the incense they burn in shrines.
Of course every country has its own customs – these are just a few examples. All the information you’ll need about any country in the world is on Wikitravel or Google – so take a minute to do some research before you are offline, then you won’t be have to say, ‘oh I’m so sorry, but I didn’t know!’
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