cultural-taboos

There are many things in this world that we find weird or strange, but these so called weird things are a part of someone’s culture or customs that they follow religiously. While you may laugh at certain customs or rituals, please do not forget that you are hurting somebody else’s feelings or emotions.

Let us go on this exploratory journey on cultural taboos around the world and the reason why they are made or followed:

1. Do not touch a Thai person’s head in Thailand

Thai people consider the head as a sacred or the purest part of the body, so it is considered offensive or insulting to touch a Thai persons head or hair. Hence please do apologize immediately if you by chance touch a Thai person’s head or hair. Don’t worry as the Thais will quickly forgive you for it.

2. Do not tip a waiter in South Korea

In South Korea tipping a waiter or a public servant is considered rude or unacceptable. So it is best to avoid such situations unless you find a signboard that states it is fine to do so.

3. Do not wear your shoes to a Japanese home

Avoid wearing shoes to a Japanese home as Japanese traditionally use tatami mats to sit instead of chairs. They also prefer having their tea or their meals sitting on the floor. As the Japanese has a floor based dining and seating arrangement, it is better not to wear shoes to Japanese homes as it may dirty the floor.

4. Do not forget to Thank

It is compulsory to thank your host for the lunch or dinner they have served in Norwegian homes. When you finish eating, make sure to say the phrase “Takk for maten” which means “Thanks for the food”. This is the perfect way to express gratitude to the cook for the effort she or he has taken to cook the meal. In Scandinavian countries, it is mandatory for children to say this.

5. Do not stand and eat

It is considered inappropriate to stand and eat in Indonesia. Even if you purchase food from street vendors make sure that you find a place to sit and finish your food. Scientifically speaking, eating while standing will lead to overeating, you feel more hungry, bloated and gassy. As the Indonesian culture is all about honour and respect, it is mandatory to sit and eat as a mark of respect for the food.

6. Do not wear red or write in red

Avoid wearing a red color dress to a Chinese funeral as red is considered as the color of happiness and merriment. White or yellow color dresses are appreciated as they signify grief or lamentation.

In Korea it is considered a death threat if you write a person’s name in Red colour. Writing someone’s name in red is when they had either passed away or if you are wishing harm or death upon them.

7. Do not chew gum in public

In many European countries like Austria, Italy and Germany it is considered impolite and disrespectful to chew gum in public whereas in countries like Belgium and France it is considered vulgar to chew gum.

8. Do not point with your chopsticks

According to the Japanese chopstick etiquette pointing with your chopsticks is considered rude and impolite, more like pointing finger at someone else.

9. Do not Gift Wine

According to the French wine etiquettes, do not bring wine as a gift as the host would have chosen the wine to accompany the evening meal. At the same time if you wish to get a gift, you can always opt for a special French dessert wine or high quality liquor.

10. Sunday Rules of Switzerland

According to the Sunday Rules in Switzerland, one has to keep themselves from doing noisy jobs on Sundays like mowing the lawn, Vacuuming, Laundry or Car Washing. Sundays in Switzerland are meant to be spending quietly, which is why one has to adhere to these rules. Sunday is a day for rest and relaxation whether you like it or not.

11. No Even Number of Roses as Gift in Russia

In Russia, an odd number represents a happy occasion and the even numbers signify funeral and sad occasions. So when you are gifting roses to someone in Russia, make sure it is in odd number.

12. Do not yawn or stretch in public in Spain

In Spain when you yawn or stretch in public, it actually means that you are bored with the person talking to you. So even if you feel like yawning, please make sure to cover your mouth or hide your teeth so that you do not offend anyone.

13. Do not wear a hat while seated at a table

In Europe it is considered disrespectful or rude to wear a hat at the dining table. It makes others uncomfortable and implies that you are preparing to leave.

14. Do not touch a Mongolian’s head, hat or horse

As Hats are the most important part in Mongolian’s culture, make sure you never touch another person’s hat even if you are sliding it out of the way. Since the head is considered as the most sacred part of the body by the Mongolians, it is not appropriate to touch their head as well.

In Mongolia, horses are considered to have spiritual powers and many believe that their horse would transport them to the afterlife. This is the reason why one should not touch a Mongolian’s horse.

15. Do not take a photo of 3 in Cambodia

Do not click a photo comprising of 3 people in Cambodia as they believe that this will bring ill luck to the person standing in the middle.

16. 13th floor in United States and 4th floor in China is unlucky

In China the number 4 is considered unlucky and signifies death which is why the chinese avoid having 4th floor in their buildings. Similarly buildings in the United States avoid having the 13th floor as a part of a phobia of the number 13 which is known as triskaidekaphobia.

17. Do not eat from the same plate in Nepal

In Nepal it is considered rude and disgusting to eat from the same plate. A food, once it is touched by someone else would not be eaten by another person. A food touched by someone else is considered impure and is termed as “Jutho” in the Nepalese culture.

18. Do not place your footwear or sandals upside down in Nepal and India

In India and Nepal, do not place your footwear or sandals in the upside down position as it is considered bad luck.

19. Do not Transfer Sharp Objects from one person’s hand to another person’s hand

Few places in India follow this cultural taboo where you are not supposed to give or take sharp objects like knife, blade, saw etc from another person. Instead you can ask that person to place the object somewhere from where you can take it. As per this tradition, transferring of sharp objects develops enmity or hostility among the two people.

20. Leave little food on your plate in China, Afghanistan and India

In China, do not wipe your meal plate clean as this is will offend the host, because it implies that you did not get enough food.  Also in places like Afghanistan and India, you should leave a little food on your plate as empty plates will be refilled again.

21. Only half a cup of tea in Kazakstan

In Kazakstan you will only be served half a cup of tea, as a full cup denotes that the hosts want you to leave. Also after you finish your tea or broth make sure to turn your cup to show that you are done with your meal.

22. Do not to hand your umbrella to your date in China

In China do not let your date borrow your umbrella as this signifies that you will break up with your love. Instead walk your girlfriend or date to the door with you holding the umbrella throughout.

23. Pineapple to ward off evil spirits

In Malaysia, Pineapples are planted under the house to ward off evil spirits that hover in the country’s jungle, air and water which disturbs the pregnant woman of the house. The Malaysian household believes that the pineapple spikes would keep the evil spirits away from the pregnant lady of the house.

24. Do not gift a Clock in Latin America

Avoid gifting a clock in Latin American countries as clock refers to “to go for a funeral”, however you can balance the effect of this taboo by including a coin with the gift.

25. Do not point fingers at the moon in Taiwan

According to the people in Taiwan, the moon is referred to as a goddess and is name as Chang’e. Hence pointing fingers at the moon means you are offending the goddess.

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