When in Rome…

Did you know that you might be committing major social faux pas on holiday without realising it? In this blog we have gathered some etiquette tips from around the world so you need never put your foot in it again…

In Brazil, don’t make the “OK” gesture with your thumb and forefinger – it is considered extremely offensive. Similarly giving the thumbs-up in Iran is also very rude.

Chewing gum in Singapore could lead to a fine

Chopsticks are surprisingly communicative in China – the further away you hold them from the end that picks up the food is said to indicate a higher social standing and where chopsticks are wrapped in a restaurant, you should not open the packaging until you are just about to use them. At the end of the meal they should be laid across your bowl – placing them upright is only done for offerings to the deceased.

In many parts of Asia using your left hand to eat with is seen as very unclean, and don’t offer your left hand in greeting either!

In Egypt it is considered offensive to show the soles of your feet.

Political discussion with your hosts (such as foreign policies or civil unrest in their countries) should be avoided unless the conversation naturally turns towards it and they are willing to talk. Stick to things we all have in common – food, children, the beautiful scenery or the prowess of their sports teams.

Business cards in Hong Kong are treated with a certain amount of reverence – they should be offered and received with both hands, must be carefully studied and never written upon.

Greetings can be a potential minefield, so look for a cue from the person you are meeting. In Arabic countries it would be considered inappropriate to kiss an acquaintance’s wife on the cheek, whereas in France you would be considered aloof if you didn’t.

If you are offered a wrapped gift in Japan it is considered the height of bad manners to open it in front of the giver.

Flowers are a welcome gift worldwide, but Carnations and Chrysanthemums tend only to be used for funerals in much of Europe whereas roses have a stronger romantic significance so giving them to your host’s wife might not go down too well. A chat with the tourist office might be a good idea before you head to the florist!

Tipping is something else that varies widely between countries. In the USA the tipping culture is so prevalent that the wages are set lower and staff rely on tips to supplement their income. In other countries it borders on the offensive, so do your homework.

Luckily wherever you go in the world, people have one thing in common and that is a willingness to help someone in need. For help of a different kind, be sure to take travel insurance with you. 24/7 travel insurance offers premiums starting from under a fiver* and the policy includes access to a 24 hour Emergency Medical Assistance helpline.

*Premium £4.76 includes Insurance Premium Tax; based on an individual traveller aged under 55 taking out a Standard single-trip policy for 3 days in Europe and purchased within 14 days of departure date. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press and are subject to change.