Etiquette: World Travel

Many Persephoneers, including myself, love travel. Or at least they love the idea of travel, for those of us who don’t get to do much traveling.  Some of the social rules I talk about are US-centric, though I like to think much of it is generally applicable. That having been said, I hereby present you with a short list of etiquette norms in other countries.

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  • Spain: Kiss kiss, my friends. When I traveled here, I knew this would happen. However, when the time came to meet my host mother and she immediately went for the face, my American brain went, “TOO CLOSE! TOO CLOSE! DANGER WILL ROBINSON!” Nevertheless, between women/women and men/women kiss on the cheek. Twice. Left to right. Even if you’ve never met. So pucker up, and get ready for besos.
  • Australia: Tipping is optional. I found this concept hard, but in many countries, tipping is considered simply part of the service offered, and may even be seen as patronizing. It is acceptable to tip for exceptional service, but never face-to-face. Rather, add a small amount to the bill and don’t make a big deal out of it. You also might tell a cabbie to keep the change, or throw a couple coins that you don’t want in your pocket in a tip jar.
  • Japan: Mom always told me never to slurp my soup. Mom was clearly not Japanese. In fact, making slurping noises when you eat noodles in Japan is a desirable behavior. This is polite behavior and shows that you are enjoying your food.
  • Egypt: Greetings are based on class, religion, and sex. But let me make it simple. Handshakes are common between men, they won’t be the firm handshake that you may be used to, and it’ll probably take longer than you’re used to. And the other person will be staring deeply into your eyes. Between men and women, the woman must initiate the handshake, otherwise the man should just bow his head in greeting. Between women, handshakes, kisses, or hugs are all possible.


This is my dog, Daisy.
The new love of my life, Daisy. Her anxiety at being in a new place is….time consuming.

Full disclosure: I just chose four places I wanted to go, learned about them, and shared the knowledge with you. Also, I’ve been very focused on the new love of my life this week, so I am cheating just a little bit and I’m putting the onus of this article back on you.

Where do you live? What customs might someone else find “strange”? Do you disagree with anything I’ve written above? Comment below!



By amandamarieg

Amandamarieg is a lawyer who does not work as a lawyer. She once wrote up a plan to take over the world and turned it in as a paper for a college course. She only received an A-, because she forgot that she would need tech geeks to pull off her scheme.

8 replies on “Etiquette: World Travel”

SlayBelle’s husband here. Funny story about the bisou…I am in Pakistan now and have been since last year (this is an important detail). Last month my university awarded me a grant to do some archival research at the French overseas archive in Aix-en-Provence. I made plans to stay with a host in Aix, whom I didn’t know. He picked me up at the train station and took me back to his place, where he told me several of his friends were hanging out waiting to meet me. I entered his flat and several men rose to greet me, shake my hand, etc. After the men were finished a lovely woman who had been sitting on the couch seemingly jumped up and rushed over, arms extended, and attempted the bisou greeting: two times, left to right, just as you say. Having just spent 6 months in an extremely conservative Muslim country I automatically and viscerally recoiled, dropped my head to avoid making eye contact, and threw my hands up to ward off male-female contact. I think I might even have sort of raised one knee in a semi-Heisman trophy stance.

In any event, the look on her face was…something else. It was mortifying, but on the plus side by embarrassing myself so thoroughly and so quickly but immediately being able to laugh about it all the weird host/stranger dynamics were completely shattered.

I have been to Egypt. I think I was just really blessed to have an amazing Egyptian family as my guide. Never ask how much or start to bargain if you are not interested in really buying the item. Also, expect to discuss pleasantries before business. Nothing runs on an American timer over there. They have a different pace to doing things and in Cairo, at least, businesses shut down from 3-5.

In Thailand, don’t pat the tops of people’s head because that’s considered the top of their bodies both spiritually and physically. No insulting the royal family in public (even online – this was an issue: and also, wear long sleeves – or at least conservative clothing when visiting temples as a show of respect. Oh, and no pointing to things in public with your feet. I’ve never visited Thailand, nor have I left the country (I’m working on it!) but my Geography professor this semester showed us this video: and it’s from, which she half-recommended for information on such things in different countries (she feels the standards have declined a little but all the same).

I just don’t understand the tipping thing, but I guess that’s just U.S. in me. It’s so widespread too! I read the hilarious book, The Ridiculous Race by Steve Hely and Vali Chandrasekaran and it popped up in Egypt as well. It’s so confusing to me. But it sounds common. I wonder why it’s a thing?

Loved this! I want to travel the whole world one day, so thank you!

Oh, this is my kind of post.

Dutch people kiss thrice, but if you’re just going to be a tourist and don’t mingle; don’t worry about that. They’re not a touchy people. DO worry about where you halt to look up/around you. Especially the bigger cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht) are ruled by cyclists and they will launch into tirades (or run you over, which is even less nice).

Only tip when you’re with a big group and/or when the service and or food was amazing. They get a solid salary and society (tries to) use tips as educating them on good and bad behaviour.
If you have an ATM card that you can use internationally, you can add a tip to your electric payment.
Check if food places mind about split bills. I’ve never experienced one who was really against it, but it can always happen.

Awwww…. *pats dog on head*

I’m sorry, you were saying? ;)

Yeah, the tipping thing is definitely something that seems to be different from country to country. Mostly I’m curious about tipping bartenders, so give a shout, people who have drank in other countries.

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