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10 Unusual International Customs You Never Knew
Gift-giving, table manners: what’s acceptable at home doesn’t necessarily apply in other countries. Here are 10 distinctive customs to use as your passport to new experiences and friendships.
When traveling, it’s important to brush up on the customs and etiquette of the global village.
1. Avoid giving certain flowers in Russia.
Be careful when presenting flowers to a friend or business associate in Russia. Yellow blooms signify deceit or a relationship break-up. Skip red carnations, too. Traditionally, red carnations are placed on the graves of the dead.
2. Don’t expect a “Thank You” card for these gifts in China.
Clocks, straw sandals are all associated with death and funerals in China. Deemed inappropriate and morbid, you’ll risk damaging the relationship if you present these gifts—for any occasion—to someone in China.
3. Skip the salt in Egypt.
When tucking into a meal in Egypt, by-pass the saltshaker. It’s insulting to your host to sprinkle salt on your food. If you have to season your plate, it means that you find the meal’s taste repulsive.
4. Don’t show up on time in Venezuela.
Here’s one place where being early or on time is viewed as being rude. In Venezuela if you are invited over to someone’s home for a meal, it’s recommended that you arrive 10 to 15 minutes later than the requested time. Early or on time guests are viewed as being too eager, even greedy.
5. Always use a knife and fork in Norway.
In Norway, table manners are extremely important. Most meals, including sandwiches, are eaten using utensils.
6. Be “blunt” in the Netherlands.
Gift giving should be a happy, positive experience. When selecting a present for someone in the Netherlands, don’t purchase fancy kitchen knives or scissors. Giving sharp, pointy objects as gifts is considered unlucky.
7. Don’t clink and drink in Hungary.
Clinking glasses and swigging beer is a scene played out of many pubs around the world, but don’t expect to see such merriment in Hungary. This old custom dates back to the 1849 war with Austria. After defeating Hungarian forces and savagely killing thirteen of their military’s leaders, Austrian generals were celebrating by smugly clinking glasses and drinking beer. While consuming beer was never forbidden, Hungarians did pledge to refrain from clinking glasses for a period of 150 years.
8. Skip the tab in Turkey.
When doing business in Turkey, it’s the custom for your host to pay for your meal. Requests to split the bill will be viewed as a polite gesture, but won’t be accepted. If you would like to pay your fair share, Turks recommend inviting your host to a follow-up meal. At that time, you can reciprocate the host.
9. Red equals dead in Korea.
Writing a lot of cards or notes while visiting South Korea? Be mindful of your pen’s ink color. Scrawling a person’s name in red ink traditionally signifies that the person is deceased–an important point to remember when giving a birthday card.
10. Stick to the sauna in Finland.
In Finland, saunas are a preferred way to relax and socialize with family and friends. Don’t be surprised if your business meeting is followed up with an invite to let off some steam in a local sauna. If you receive such a request, rest assured that your business meeting went well.