20 American Behaviors That Are Considered Rude in Other Countries

There are many simple behaviors that Americans exhibit that may not be so welcome in other countries and could even be considered rude. This could be something as simple as crossing your fingers or even whistling. Make sure to keep these in mind if you ever visit countries outside of the US.

Whistling

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Whistling is considered rude in Haiti, especially if it’s coming from a child. This is supported by Mental Floss which writes that kids in Haiti should be seen and not heard, whether you agree with this or not. Whistling means having little self-awareness and even has an element of disrespect, especially around elders. 

Sitting in the Back of a Taxi

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Don’t sit in the back of a taxi in New Zealand or Australia, as to some, it’s considered rude. A person should always sit next to the driver so that they don’t appear snobbish. This is a huge contrast to America, where it’s common practice to sit in the back of a taxi. 

Showing Up On Time

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It may be hard to believe but showing up on time can actually be considered rude. In Argentina, it’s acceptable to be late to certain functions, depending on the social setting. This certainly isn’t the case in America, where a person should always aim to be on time. Although sometimes it is acceptable to be fashionably late, depending on the function.

Wearing Shoes Indoors

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In certain parts of Asia and Europe, shoes should not be worn indoors. Real Simple backs this up by writing, “Wearing shoes in a person’s house is seen as a sign of disrespect.” Sometimes, guests will be offered slippers to wear or they may even bring socks. It’s linked to sanitation reasons, as people don’t want dirt trodden into their homes. 

Blowing Your Nose in Public

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In Japan, blowing your nose in public is considered rude. They believe it’s something that should be done privately, either in your own home or a restroom. This is completely different to Americans, who can blow their nose wherever they please; however, it is easy to see the Japanese’s reasoning behind it. 

Requesting Condiments or Salt for Your Meal

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This is considered rude in Portugal, as it can be seen as insulting the skills of the chef. It’s also frowned upon in France, although it isn’t seen to be as rude as in Portugal. It’s always best to research dining etiquette if visiting other countries; otherwise, it becomes easy for mishaps like these to occur. 

Tipping

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Tipping is considered rude in Japan and South Korea. For example, Boutique Japan explains, “Tipping in Japan is not expected, and attempts to leave a tip will almost certainly be turned down.” Excellent service is expected in Japan and South Korea without any incentive; however, sometimes it may be accepted in more touristy areas. 

Opening a Gift in the Presence of the Giver

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If someone gives a gift in certain Asian countries, such as China and Japan, it shouldn’t be opened until the receiver is away from the giver. This is different to US norms, where gifts are commonly opened as soon as they’re placed in a person’s hands.  

Not Finishing Your Food

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A large appetite is needed in India and Japan as it’s seen as rude if any form of food is left on a plate. Best Life supports this by saying it’s not only considered wasteful but also an indication that you didn’t enjoy the food you were served. While parents in the US may encourage their children to eat all their food, India and Japan just take it one step further. 

Thumbs Up Gesture

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The thumbs-up gesture is offensive in Greece, Western Africa, the Middle East and Russia. These countries see it as being an obscene gesture, close to how Americans view the middle finger. This is a complete contrast to the US where the thumbs-up gesture is seen as being a positive response to something. 

Crossing Your Fingers

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This is rude in Vietnam and is seen to be a rude gesture. This is backed up by Culture Trip which writes “There are horror stories about foreign speakers doing this gesture in front of esteemed crowds in Vietnam.” As crossing your fingers symbolizes good luck in America, it can cause a cultural misunderstanding. 

Running Late

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Sometimes, in America, you can be fashionably late. However, in Germany, it’s considered extremely rude and not something that should ever happen. Punctuality is highly valued in Germany, something Emerald Technology explains “It’s not on you to waste other people’s time, and the Germans take that belief to heart.”

Beckoning with Your Hand

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This is seen as a rude gesture in the Philippines. It’s associated with calling a dog, so certainly not a gesture to perform to a human! It’s a different interpretation in the US as it’s considered a way to ask a person to come closer.  

Laughing with Your Mouth Open

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Laughing with your mouth open is something that’s seen as rude in Japan. While a mouth does need to be open to actually laugh, in Japan it should only open slightly. This is supported by the Times of India which writes “In Japan, laughing with your mouth wide open, where you show your pearly whites, is considered impolite.” 

Sipping Alcohol

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Russia and Georgia believe that alcohol should be drunk quickly and should not be sipped. When it comes to alcohol, sipping is seen as improper. This is completely different to etiquette in America where you’re supposed to sip alcohol, particularly glasses of wine or whiskey. 

Using the “Rock On” Gesture

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This can be completely misunderstood in some countries and even show signs of infidelity. It’s a culturally misunderstood gesture as in America it’s used at concerts to show a fan’s excitement. It’s sometimes used in everyday life to show that a person is excited about something that’s just about to happen. 

Using Your Left Hand

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Yahoo writes that not all countries have toilet paper, so sometimes the left hand is used instead, making it unclean. It’s seen to be rude if you use your left hand for eating and accepting gifts. As using your left hand isn’t considered rude in America, there can be some confusion over it, which may lead to offense.  

Showing the Soles of Your Feet

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This is seen as disrespectful in many Arab, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist countries. The soles of the feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest part of the body, so not something anyone wants to see. It can be avoided by sitting cross-legged, with the feet placed snugly underneath the legs. 

Peace Sign with Palm Facing You

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This gesture is seen as rude in the U.K. and is similar to the middle finger gesture. It’s also considered rude in Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The gesture has a historical context and originates from archers. It can lead to misinterpretation, particularly in photographs, where people may think they’re doing the peace sign. 

Making Excessive Noise While Eating

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Noisy eating is seen as having bad manners in Canada. Not only this, but it can also be incredibly annoying hearing someone else eat. Noisy eating includes any loud chewing or slurping. It’s a contrast to America’s eating etiquette which is usually very relaxed.

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