Beware the foreign faux pas, says Holiday Which?We can help you brush up on local etiquette

22 February 2008

Bucket and spade

Tourists can avoid social gaffes when abroad by checking out local customs and traditions before they travel, says a new report from Holiday Which?.

It warns that some gestures that are perfectly acceptable in the UK could be seen as an insult abroad.

Even something as simple as eating fruit on an underground train can be illegal in other countries.

For example, in Egypt travellers should not expose the soles of their feet as this is seen as an insult.

Chewing gum

Chewing gum in Singapore could lead to a fine, and eating the notoriously smelly durian fruit on the public train system there is illegal.

Taking photographs of local people in Nepal is also a no-no as it's viewed as taking away the spirit.

To signal the end of a meal in China, diners should balance chopsticks together on the side of the bowl - placing them vertically in the bowl is only done for offerings to the dead.

In Finland, bread and shrimp are the only foods not eaten with a knife and fork, while if someone tells you they like your shirt in Venezuela, it’s customary to give it to them.

Local customs

Holiday Which? Editor Lorna Cowan said: ‘Although tourists might be conscious of watching what they say and do when they're on holiday, sometimes there are customs and etiquettes that would be impossible to guess at unless you knew. 

'Depending on where you are, something as simple as eating dinner with the wrong hand or drinking cappuccino after breakfast can be seen as a terrible faux pas.

‘If in doubt, make sure you read up on local customs before you travel, or observe how the locals behave.  As the old adage goes – when in Rome, do as the Romans do!’