Essential Customs to Learn and Observe When Travelling Around the World

When travelling the world and coming into contact with new cultures on a regular basis, it is hard to know how customs dictate you should behave. From the moment you arrive, you will be confronted many uncertainties as to what is culturally acceptable. Should I tip the taxi driver? How do I greet people? What is the right way to eat here? For the avoidance of doubt and to ensure you don’t trip up on any huge cultural and customary faux pas, read our guide for these big 5 for all you need to know.


Handshakes are the most common form of greetings with foreigners and the oldest person should always be greeted first. The Chinese prefer to entertain in public places, rather than their homes, especially with foreigners. When dining, wait to be told where to sit, let the host begin eating first, never take the last piece from the serving tray and learn to use chopsticks! Tipping is generally seen as an insult and avoid being late, it’s seen as incredibly rude.

South Africa

On the contrary, the South African have two time scales, now (meaning in a little while) and now now (meaning right now). Shops open when the doors are open and shut when the doors are shut. The same rule goes for restaurants. Dining tends to be a fairly casual affair and tipping is expected in cities. When speaking, South Africans do not like to be interrupted.


Greetings are fairly casual in the USA with a simple handshake or wave acknowledgement of the hand. Table manners are more relaxed than in many other countries and eating in a continental manner will not offend anyone. Food is generally served in large dishes and passed round for everyone to serve themselves; refusing a dish rarely causes offence. Americans tend to be direct in their communication. Adopting a ‘tell it like it is’ attitude is compulsory.


Greetings are informal in Brazil with hugging and backslapping common among friends, however, if a woman wishes to shake a man’s hand, she should offer it first. Time keeping is liberal in Brazil and it is common to turn up an hour late to an agreed time of meeting. The Brazilians dress with flair and you would do well to err on the side of over, rather than under dressing.


Religion, education and social class all influence greeting in India. Shaking hands is a common way to greet, but seldom to woman and men shake hands unless one offers the other. It is customary to address every person in a group when bidding farewell and the eldest person should always be addressed first. Although Indians are not always punctual themselves, they would expect a guest to be on time. If visiting a home in India, dress conservatively and remove your shoes before entering. Politely decline the first offer of tea – you will be asked again and again, saying no to the first invitation is protocol.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the cultures of these countries, but they are the basics, and should cover plenty of destinations you might wish to include in a round the world flight itinerary. But, if in doubt, do some research before you go and follow the lead of others.

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