In recent years, there has been a jump in the number of tourists visiting international destinations. And, each place has customs and etiquette that are unique to that region.
From the tipping culture and the way you dress, to table manners and even when and where to click images, there are new rules to follow to avoid being seen as badly behaved tourists.
Now, we get Shibani Phadkar, senior vice president — products and operations, leisure travel (outbound), Thomas Cook (India) and Karan Anand, head-relationships, Cox And Kings, along with frequent fliers Simi Sareen, Shradha Agarwalla and Supreet Kaur, to tell us some of them.
1. North America
In the US, tipping is a major issue, particularly in New York. A lot of people know about restaurant tips of 15-18 per cent. But Indians often don’t know that hotel bell boys expect a $1 tip per bag, and per coat check, and you are expected to tip cabbies too.
In Canada, don’t drink alcohol outside. It is a public offence, albeit one that authorities tend to turn a blind eye to. However, tipping is customary, and is usually 10 per cent for poor service, 15 per cent for regular, and 20 per cent for good service or while at fine-dining restaurants.
2. South America
In Brazil, the ‘okay’ gesture is deemed as obscene, and using it is a complete no-no.
In Peru, seek permission before clicking images. The country has many awe-inspiring landscapes and landmarks, and while taking pictures of most aspects of Peruvian culture is allowed, a few aren’t meant to be captured on camera.
In Argentina, the way you look speaks volumes. For this reason, it’s always best to dress relatively conservatively to avoid attention.
In Chile, while a 10 per cent service charge is added to the bill, it is expected that an extra ten per cent be paid for good service.
In China, it is considered disrespectful to stare into another person’s eyes. Also, although tipping is becoming common with younger workers, older workers still consider it an insult.
In Myanmar, think twice before accusing a taxi driver of cheating or duping you — it can land the cabbie into a lot of trouble with the authorities.
In Japan, slurping is a polite way of showing that you are enjoying your meal, unlike in western countries, where making loud noises is considered rude.
In Thailand, vacation time means dressing up the way you want. But make sure you never leave your hotel without wearing underwear. There is actually a rule that prohibits it, although how it is enforced is unclear.
In Indonesia, don’t be surprised if the dead start to walk on the streets while you go sightseeing. Funerals can be expensive, so families place bodies in temporary coffins. They are then taken out or ‘walked’ to the final resting place once funds have been collected.
In the Philippines, summoning someone with a finger is considered rude, and is punishable by arrest.
In Saudi Arabia, PDA is frowned upon, even if you are a married couple holding hands in public, while this is widely accepted in western countries.
In most of the Middle East, while waiting for the elevator, local women, especially if alone, always expect strangers to not board it with them.
In Muslim countries like Egypt, do not eat in front of the locals during their fasting period. They may not say anything, but it is seen as disrespectful.
In Kenya, after a handshake, it is the norm to ask questions about the person, their health, family and business. To skip or rush this greeting process is considered poor manners.
In Ghana, a thumbs-up gesture is considered an insult, even though it is perceived as a good luck sign in most other countries.
How bad are we?
In 2013, travel website Triposo conducted a survey to learn more about bad tourist behaviour abroad. Respondents were asked to confess to their own travel sins — which included everything from stealing to public urination — and also report on the misbehaviour of others.
They were also asked which countries behaved the worst while travelling.
While visitors from the US, UK and Russia were voted the worst-behaved, India was placed seventh in the top 10.
In the UK and Germany, breaking a queue is a big no-no. People patiently stand in line for everything — from boarding trains to entering theatres.
In the UK, there is a great respect for personal space. Standing too close to a person or pushing is considered extremely rude.
In Finland, serial conversation is the rule — i.e. listen to the speaker, wait for them to finish and then reply. Interrupting is rude.
In Italy, it is good to know about differential pricing in cafés. If you drink your coffee standing up at the bar, the price you pay will be half or less than if you were to sit down. Travellers must also brush up on their art of drinking coffee — cappuccinos, lattes or any milk-based coffee should be had during the day.
In France, condiments like ketchup aren’t placed on the tables. Also, asking for them is considered disrespectful by most restaurants, since chefs pride themselves on perfectly seasoning their dishes.
In Hungary, it is considered impolite to clink glasses when toasting. Hungarians equate clinking of glasses to war crimes, having a history of ruthless dictators, who celebrated mass murders this way. There was a 150-year ban on the custom, and it has now become a part of tradition.
In Austria, there is a strict protocol for dressing appropriately in different situations: formal wear for the theatre or a concert, and semi-formal wear for better restaurants.
In Norway, all food must be eaten using cutlery — even sandwiches. Norwegians are very particular about this.
In New Zealand, honking while driving a hired car is considered an insult to local residents.
In Australia, be mindful of seeking permission while clicking photographs, especially from Aboriginal tribes. They believe that getting clicked can make you lose a part of your soul.
(With inputs from Flight Shop and Yatra.com)