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Random American Habits and Phrases That Are Rude in Other Countries

  • Touching Someone's Head on Random American Habits and Phrases That Are Rude in Other Countries

    (#8) Touching Someone's Head

    You might not have cause to touch many heads while traveling, but be careful. Even an act as innocent as patting a cute child on his head is considered taboo in countries like Sri Lanka, Thailand, and China. Buddhist cultures see the head as the most sacred part of the body - to touch it uninvited is a major social intrusion.

  • Using the 'A-OK' Sign on Random American Habits and Phrases That Are Rude in Other Countries

    (#10) Using the 'A-OK' Sign

    Apparently, making a circle with your fingers is all sorts of not okay. In France, it means "worthless," it's offensive to gay people in Turkey, and in some other places, it's a stand-in for a butt. Luckily, it's no longer 1985, so you probably won't have to worry about this one.

  • Asking Someone's Occupation on Random American Habits and Phrases That Are Rude in Other Countries

    (#15) Asking Someone's Occupation

    Most Americans can agree that discussing a yearly salary is a bit boorish - but to refrain from asking what someone does for a living? Why, that's how we get to know each other! Yet in the Netherlands, asking about someone's profession is akin to asking how much money they make. The Dutch view it as a classist question that ties a person's worth to his or her income. Try more neutral questions, like what they do for fun or where the best neighborhood haunts are located.

  • Saying You're from 'America' on Random American Habits and Phrases That Are Rude in Other Countries

    (#5) Saying You're from 'America'

    Our cultural vanity is such that we've co-opted the name of not one but two entire continents and assigned it to ourselves. That's right - the very word "America" is offensive in most (if not all) South American countries. Don't refer to yourself as an American when you're visiting South America - just tell people you're from the United States.

  • Giving a Peace Sign on Random American Habits and Phrases That Are Rude in Other Countries

    (#6) Giving a Peace Sign

    How could a peace sign be seen as rude? Though most people in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia will know what you mean (provided they know you're American), it's probably better to leave this gesture at home while you're visiting. To them, it's the same as flipping someone off (especially when the hand is held with its knuckles facing the person you're trying to give peace to). 

  • Eating in Public on Random American Habits and Phrases That Are Rude in Other Countries

    (#14) Eating in Public

    Americans don't think twice about having a snack outside. Walking down the sidewalk with an ice cream cone or enjoying a piece of fruit on the subway is a way of life. But in Japan, eating anywhere that's not a restaurant (or your home) is seen as extremely weird and impolite. Keep the snack packs stowed safely out of sight.

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About This Tool

When traveling in a foreign country, all of us should note that not all American habits and phrases can be accepted by foreigners, and some are considered rude behaviors, you may get into trouble or maybe expelled sometimes. Due to differences in culture, even if the language is accurate, misunderstandings will occur. For different people and occasions, the same word or the same expression can have different meanings.

Cultures and languages are diverse, getting to know each other is not an easy task, and communication between different cultures often encounters difficulties. It is necessary for us to know some American habits and phrases which are rude in other countries.

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