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30 Foreign Customs That Don't Make Sense to Americans

Eating Salad After the Main Course

In America, we eat our salads at the beginning of a meal. In Italy, it is served after the main course just before cheese and fruit or dessert.

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Eating With a Fork in Your Left Hand

Europeans don't switch the fork back to the right hand after cutting a bite of steak. Even right-handed people continue to hold their forks in their left hands, why?

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Serving Tongue for Breakfast

While most Americans can't even imagine eating beef tongue for dinner, in Russia, you may find it offered for breakfast. Don't like that? Perhaps you'll want to opt for the salted herring.

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Removing Your Shoes at Home

In Japan, Korea, and Turkey, it is customary to remove your shoes before walking into a home. You'll often find a shoe cabinet just inside the door, which is sometimes filled with slippers.

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Removing Your Shoes in a Store

Malaysia takes shoe removal a step further. Not only is it customary to remove your shoes at home, you'll also leave them outside at the doctor's office and on the second story of the store SFF.

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Burping to Express Appreciation

If you enjoy your garam masala or tandoori chicken, you'll want to be sure to burp loudly. While that might be considered rude in the US, it will be seen as a compliment in India.

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Using a Squatting Toilet

Squatting toilets are common in Taiwan and Iran. They feature a bowl or pan at floor level, requiring the user to squat rather than sit. 

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Driving on the Left Side

The US may have started as 13 British colonies, but driving on the left side of the road just doesn't feel natural! 

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Men Wearing Kilts

In Scotland, it's not uncommon to see a man wearing a kilt. While many reserve this attire for celebrations or holidays, no one turns a head if one is worn on a regular workday.

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Shaking Your Head for Yes

In Bulgaria, you shake your head left to right to indicate yes and up once to indicate no. Try it. If you've been raised in America, it will be really hard to do.

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Reading from Right to Left

Afghanistan's variety of the Persian language, Dari, is read right to left. This is also true of Farsi, Arabic, Aramaic, Azeri, Hebrew, Kurdish, Maldivian, and Urdu.

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Two-cheek Social Kissing

A handshake, fist bump, or hug will usually do it in the states. However, if you venture south to Latin America, expect to be greeted with a two cheek kiss on a regular basis.

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Formal Business Card Presentations

In Japan, a business card is considered an extension of the person. It is presented facing a certain direction and the recipient is expected to take time to read & memorize pertinent information.

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Baby Naming Laws

If your chosen baby name is not on the German registry of accepted names, you must pay a fee and present a compelling reason for the office of vital statistics to allow it.

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Flexible Meeting Times

Take your time getting ready when you're invited to dinner in Brazil, because no one expects you to arrive on time. It's considered normal to just show up whenever you are ready.

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Pointing with Your Lips

Finger pointing seems to be such a cultural minefield that some people have done away with it entirely. In Nicaragua, you'll frequently see people pointing with their lips, especially when they want to point something out close up. It takes a little getting used to, but you'll be puckering up and pointing in no time!

(Image via Pinterest)
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Spitting at the Bride

If you want to spit at a bride, you better do it in Greece because it's not likely people anywhere else will appreciate what you're doing. Spitting at a wedding (among other places) has long been considered a sign of good luck in Greece--although these days, people mostly pantomime spitting instead of actually doing it. 

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Pointing with Your Thumb

Of all the different cultural customs, pointing seems to be the one that's most confusing to navigate. For example, in Malaysia, it's considered rude to point with your index finger, so they point with their thumbs instead. What's more polite about a thumb than any other finger is beyond us, though. 

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Slurping Noodles

In the United States, eating loudly (including slurping noodles) is considered rude and gross, but that's not the case everywhere else. In Japan, they seem to have conceded that noodles are difficult to eat politely, so slurping is much more common there. In fact, it can even been seen as a sign that you're really enjoying what you're eating. 

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Kneeling as a Greeting

Most Americans have never been in a situation that required kneeling to someone and would probably balk at the idea. However, some places do this commonly--and for more than just royalty. In Nigeria, young people are typically expected to kneel or even lie prostrate when gretting an elder of the community. 

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Using Your Left Hand Only for Certain Things

Without getting into all the disgusting details, there are several countries (especially in the Middle East) where the left hand is only used in the bathroom--if you get my drift. Therefore, eating with your left hand in these countries is a major faux pas, as it's considered highly unsanitary. 

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Baby Jumping

People across the world have ceremonies that are meant to bring luck and good fortune to a newborn, but none are quite as unique as what's found in Castrillo de Murcia, Spain. Here, they jump over babies...literally. This event, known as El Colacho, involves people jumping over infants to purify them from sin. 

(Image via Pinterest)
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Eating Everything with Utensils

Americans aren't afraid to get a little messy when eating, and there are plenty of foods we eat with our hands. That's not the case in Norway. Here, they use utensils for almost everything--including items like sandwiches. 

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Setting Wedding Dates with Entrails

If you're an anxious, American bride, you probably spent a lot of time and energy into picking the perfect date for your wedding. However, the Daur people of China have no such struggle. To determine the date of a wedding, the couple kills a chicken and chooses a date based on the chicken's liver. 

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Weighing the Mayor

If you've ever publicly weighed your town's mayor, there's a good chance you're not an American. In fact, we'd wager that you're probably from Wycombe in the United Kingdom. Here, they have a yearly tradition of weighing their mayor to determine how well he's done his job. If you're thin and incompetent, this has got to be a pretty sweet set up. 

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Showing Up Fashionably Late

When Americans show up late, it's because we're bad at time management. However, in Venezuela, showing up on time is actually a faux pas. If you want to be "on time" there, be sure to show up 15 minutes late. 

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Conception Day

There were declining birth rates in Russia, and to solve this problem, they came up with a truly bizarre solution--Conception Day. Every year on September 12th, Russian couples are encouraged to try and make a baby. And couples who do have a child nine months later are eligible to win prizes from the government for their "civic duty." 

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Polterabend

Fine China is a nice wedding gift in the USA, and folks in Germany agree...kind of. Here, they have the wedding tradition of polterabend--where well-wishers break plates on the bride's front door the night before the wedding. Then, the couple cleans up the mess together to allegedly learn the value of teamwork. 

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Monkey Buffett

Monkeys in Thailand have it way better than American monkeys. Here, the celebrate the annual Monkey Buffet Festival--an event where citizens leave food out for over 2,000 crab-eating macaques. This allegedly brings good luck to the area, but honestly we'd love to see thousands of monkeys eating people food regardless of the luck involved. 

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Neck Rings

Neck rings are found in some cultures throughout Africa and Asia. While it looks as if the wearer's neck is elongated, this is actually an illusion. Instead, the rings actually slowly deform the wearer's collarbone, giving the impression of a longer neck. 

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