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Is it God, or is it a rock?

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Janna White

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Insider Tips

flagUnited Kingdom

Keep your feet off the grass!

Every college at Oxford has its own unique quirks and idiosyncrasies that weed out the tourist from the genuine student. But, here's a general rule of thumb: don't ... read more

Vanessa Quirk


Don't expect to keep to yourself in a cafe

The iconic French cafe evokes certain images: tiny espressos, chain smoking, and rambling, but intelligent, conversations. Whereas we get an enormous coffee and plug in to our lab tops, the ... read more

Ali Goldstein

flagUnited Kingdom

Say sorry first

If someone steps on your foot in the tube, apologize. Brits are the first to say "sorry" even when the offense isn't theirs. read more

Ann Clark


Greet with a kiss on the cheek

Introductions and greetings between two women and between a man and woman (but not between men unless they're close family/friends) always start out with a kiss on the ... read more

Matthew Hintsa


Keep your shoes on

When entering a home, it's expected that you will keep your shoes on, rather than the typical custom of taking them off upon entry in some US homes. read more

Matthew Hintsa


Be fashionably late for parties, on-time for meetings

Social engagements may be scheduled for a certain time, but it's best to show up 30-90 minutes after the specified time. If you show up on time, there's ... read more

Matthew Hintsa


Jaywalk at your own peril

Chileans almost never jaywalk. There's a reason for this. Don't attempt it unless the coast is really, really clear. read more

Matthew Hintsa


Take your shoes off

I stood around staring at everyone’s thick wool socks, and then I looked down at my own feet in tennis shoes before scooting away to slip them off by ... read more

Patrick McCue


Kiss right

Don’t forget that Jordanian greetings, where two people touch cheeks and feign slight kisses (like the French), begin on the right side. My failure to remember this important detail ... read more

Adam Lichtenheld


Try to learn the language

To the fullest extent possible, learn the language. I was deeply alarmed by how few foreigners made any attempt to learn Luo, the local language. I’m not saying that ... read more

Pete  Muller


It's okay to carry cigarettes

In China and several other countries, cigarettes are not demonized like they are in the United States. Even if you don't smoke, it's a fairly good idea to ... read more

Jeremy Hach

flagSaudi Arabia

Saudi socialization: say salam

Saudis love socializing with people from other countries, despite prominent conceptions of Saudi culture as closed and unwelcoming. If you find yourself in Saudi Arabia, try using the word “Salam ... read more

Mubarak Alkhatnai

flagNew Zealand

Dancing with sweaty-handed grannies in church halls

The old church in Dunedin offers dancing lessons every Wednesday night for those keen to learn some new moves. A fine goal, to be sure, for any guy new to ... read more

David  Kelbe


The power of flowers

Every man knows that flowers are the way to a lady's heart. Hungarians know that flowers are also the best way to express gratitude. While most shops close at ... read more

Mandi Lindner

flagSouth Korea

Soju do's and don'ts

Life in Korea is full of kimchi, impending war threats from the North, and soju, Korea's infamous alcoholic beverage. But you'll need some practice before taking part with ... read more

Jon Wick


Just a nibble is enough

While the weather in Bangladesh may not be the most hospitable, with its monsoons and oppressively muggy subcontinental seasons, the country's people make up for it by being the ... read more

Amy Adoyzie Lam


Coffee First, Talk Later

Your first day--and every proceeding day--in Greece should end with "arazame" (a-rah-za-may), the state of complete contentment and relaxation, achieved only with good company, conversation, and coffee. When Miltos and ... read more

Kelli Mutchler


Pour a Drink, Even if You're Not Drinking

Maybe you're not a drinker. But office drinking parties are where a lot of bonding goes on in workplaces in Japan. All the juicy gossip that you think you ... read more

Saleem Reshamwala

flagDominican Republic

Fight cat calls with cat calls

Faced with the unending onslaught of unwarranted attention from Dominican men, I've learned that, though machismo is alive and well in this country, it isn't nearly as threatening ... read more

Kirah  Brouillette


Kiss on the left

When greeting a woman in Ecuador you always kiss on the left cheek and that's it. If you are more familiar with her, you can put your hand on ... read more

Jon Brandt


Don't bother waiting in line

That's right. Don't bother waiting in line because Ecuadorians certainly won't respect that you were there first. It's usually a free-for-all just about everywhere you go ... read more

Jon Brandt


Enjoy your meal

When you sit down to eat in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, do not start eating your food until you have said, "En Guete" to everyone you’re sitting with ... read more

Chantal  Panozzo


You will never figure out the Indian head wobble. ...until you do, subconsciously

When you first arrive in India, you will be boggled by the head wobble. When you ask an Indian a question, he will wobble his head--not quite a nod, not ... read more

Emily  Gorbaty


Offered a drink? Don't turn it down!

Chinese etiquette toward visitors is pretty much the same all over China. When a visitor arrives at your house, business, etc. it is customary to offer them a drink. Usually ... read more

Colin Jones


People might call you fat

In the United States, it's not appropriate to mention someone's weight in a negative context at parties. However, in China, this seems to be perfectly okay. I have ... read more

Katrina Klett


Don't forget your kata!

If you are spending a lot of time around Tibetans, and especially if you are meeting important religious or political leaders, it is a good idea to always carry a ... read more

Emily Strasser


Kiss just once

I learned this the hard way: In Spain, everyone greets each other with two kisses – but in Argentina, it’s just one. If you are leaning in for that second ... read more

Julie Turkewitz


Insist on paying

People will say they cannot accept any money for their services and goods in Iran – don’t take this literally. It’s an elaborate form of politeness, known as taa ... read more

Mimi Hanaoka


Taking your place at the table

The next time you are invited to a large Chinese holiday gathering or dinner party, do not simply sit at the table. Where you sit has significance and you should ... read more

Katrina Klett


If you're late, you smell bad

I was once absurdly late for a morning meeting at school. I ducked my head apologetically and quietly slipped into my seat. Later in the day, I greeted one of ... read more

Saleem Reshamwala


Don't pass food with chopsticks

In Japan, you're never supposed to pass food to someone with chopsticks. I had learned this in college, and had seen many Japanese parents teach this rule to their ... read more

Michael  Lynch


Okinawa Time

While Americans and Japanese try to keep appointments and be prompt and on time, in Okinawa, things are done a little differently. We have what's known as Okinawan time ... read more

Michael  Lynch


Turning in a lost wallet can kill your afternoon

My teenage son and I once found a wallet in a parking lot in Japan. It contained a young Japanese girl's ID and money, so we did the right ... read more

Michael  Lynch


Drinking mate like a local

Mate is a hot drink that serves as Argentina’s social glue. Want to sip like a local? When the mate is passed to you, sip until you have finished ... read more

Julie Turkewitz


Sorry, no 'thanks' here!

In the United States, "thank you" and "sorry" are important components of our etiquette. Whether the statement is sincere or not, most people expect to hear these during appropriate times ... read more

Alex Potter


Shake it like a Swazi

The Swazi handshake is an everyday way to show respect. Swazis shake with their right hands. To show respect, which you must do whenever greeting someone older than you, a ... read more

Mallory Primm


Recycling in Switzerland is something to behold!

I was never so conscientious of my recycling habits before living in Switzerland. It is pure habit for the Swiss to compost anything biodegradable and to carry their recyclables down ... read more

Marissa Moran


They aren't as angry as you think

All too often when I am in Germany, I am quickly taken aback by the directness of the German people. In North America, we pride ourselves on skirting around issues ... read more

Helen Appleby


In Paris, two kisses; in Montpellier, three

In Paris, two kisses -- one on each cheek -- will suffice as a greeting. Any more and you're pushing it, no matter how much the Parisians love public displays of ... read more

Lola Pak


Don't ask people how they are doing

In American English, we're always asking total strangers how they are. "How are you?" I'll say to the cashier. "Very well," she'll say. "And you?" But in ... read more

Robert Isenberg


Don't shake hands in the doorway

Russians have many superstitions. One that I tend to forget is that when being welcomed into a home, it is considered bad luck to shake hands or offer a gift ... read more

Brendan Wilson


Right cheek kisses everywhere

In Buenos Aires, the right cheek-kiss is everywhere. Everyone does it to say both hello and goodbye. At the gym, big muscly guys greet each other with a kiss. It ... read more

Gillian Gutenberg


Wait for the other person to lean forward

After a month in Venezuela, I had finally mastered the kiss-on-cheek greeting. Upon being introduced to a highly respected professor from the local university, I shook his hand and gave ... read more

Kristen Dennison


Hand height is very important, hugs are off limits!

In Thailand, there is very little physical contact. Typically, people greet one another by placing their hands together as if praying, and the height of the hands is very important ... read more

Jeff Brown


The angle of your bow indicates respect

Bowing is nothing less than an art form in Japan. The duration and inclination of the bow is proportionate to the elevation of the person you’re addressing. For example ... read more

Turner  Wright


Kisses are actually cheek-touches

When I started the Spanish "double kiss" greeting I was sure to actually do a little cheek kiss or at least that little "muah" sound. And then I realized that ... read more

Lindsy Glick


Rude and not rude in Rwanda

Not Rude: Clamoring for a place in line when trying to buy something. I realize this is in the "not rude" category for a lot of countries but I think ... read more

John DeRiggi


How to exchange business cards

Begin with the standard semi-formal bow and introductions. Reach into your pocket for the well-protected (hard plastic or metal case) business card that is as dear to you as your ... read more

Turner  Wright


Greeting In Germany

In Germany, people greet either by handshake (between two men or for formal/business introductions), or a kiss on each cheek. read more

Jennifer Young

flagUnited Kingdom

London: A kiss? A handshake? A hug?

Greeting people in London can be one of the more awkward rituals to navigate, if only because the city is such a diverse place! Rules governing greetings are similar to ... read more

Jeff Knezovich


Make eye contact when toasting

Make sure that you make eye contact with whomever you are toasting. It's considered disrespectful if you don't. And be forewarned: Slovaks will toast an average of 5 ... read more


Don't eat or drink while walking

In Japan, people do not eat or drink while walking. If anything, you stop at the side -- making sure you don't block other people's path -- and eat or ... read more

Nhu Phan


Watch your feet!

In most of Asia but specifically in Thailand, you must take your shoes off when entering a home. Also, when it comes to feet, do not prop them up on ... read more

Anna Schwaber


Don't worry about "usted"

For the Spanish speakers: don't fret over whether to address someone casually (tú) or formally (usted) in Spain. Pretty much everyone uses the "tú" form with everyone else. By ... read more

Mike Mian

flagCosta Rica

Bon appetit, Costa Rican style

When dining with locals in Costa Rica, you will frequently hear the phrase, "buen provecho," equivalent to "bon appetit." To fit right in with the impeccably gracious Costa Ricans, declare ... read more

Janelle Little


Perfect the cheek kiss

Used to living in a very formal environment, my way of greeting new people was offering my right hand to shake. I continued doing this when I first arrived in ... read more

Margherita Bandini


Bargaining with street vendors

When you're shopping on the street or in a store that lacks glass displays, it's almost always okay to bargain. Usually, the rule is to cut the vendor ... read more

sara roger


Keep those hands above the table

According to French etiquette, you should have both arms placed on the table when you eat. Some historians believe that this originally a way of showing that no weapons were ... read more

Elyse Rodriguez


Keep your voice down

It's considered rude to talk loudly on public transportation, especially on your cell phone. Whenever my study abroad group commuted somewhere together, we were always stared at for being ... read more

Jessica Cross


Keep an eye on your feet

Bathroom slippers, bedroom slippers, hotel slippers, house slippers... Most people know that you take off your shoes when you walk into a Japanese home. But this rule also extends to ... read more

Saleem Reshamwala


When in doubt, talk about the weather

Back home, talking about the weather might be seen as the lamest of all possible conversational gambits. But in Japan, it's often used as a way of greeting. Especially ... read more

Saleem Reshamwala


It isn't rude to spit

The Chinese spit -- everywhere! It's a pretty common practice in China and Southeast Asia. Despite any initial disgust, you will no doubt get used to it. read more

Tricia Reville


At least take a sip

If you are in Armenia and you are invited to a party, more than likely it is going to involve drinking. Armenians are fond of drinking. And they drink a ... read more

Matthew Hamilton


Don't forget "hello" and "goodbye"

Many say that the French can be rude, but that's probably because they feel like others are being rude to them. Whenever entering any store, bakery, or cafe, you ... read more

Francesca R


How to avoid a fistfight in Greece

You take your open palm and push it in the direction of a Greek person's face. It's like you're going for a high five, but all you ... read more

Christopher Duffy


Men greet men, women greet women

In Kuwait, men and women rarely socialize in public. Greetings are therefore between members of the same sex. They greet each other with a kiss on the cheek, and they ... read more

Parimita Barooah Bora


Don't split the bananas

“What are you doing? Who said you could touch the bananas? I’m right here! Tell me! Tell me!” In Israel produce is cheap, but none of it goes to ... read more

Jonathan Amerikaner


Keep your feet flat on the ground

While visiting or sitting with your Kuwaiti friend, never show the soles of your shoes -- it's highly offensive! It implies that you think of the other person as "dirt." read more

Parimita Barooah Bora


Serbian monasteries: Cover up & watch out for construction

Scantily-clad tourists are warned not to enter places of worship in most parts of the world. Eastern Orthodox monks in Serbia have a few additional requests: beard, babushka, and neutral ... read more

danielle hayes


Give your seat to grandma

If you're riding the UB bus system, at times you may feel like a sardine in a can. If you're lucky you can grab a seat and ride ... read more

Lindsay Myron


Everyone is fine, but you'd better ask anyway

“How are you?” “Fine, and you?” “Fine, and you?” Circular, yes. Optional, no. No matter how rushed you feel, do not omit the simple salutation. The greeting is perfunctory to ... read more

Rebecca Jacobson


No touching?

Some Jews actively practice "Shomer Negiya" (guarding touch or protective touch). At its core is the idea that men and women should not touch unnecessarily or affectionately, until marriage. But ... read more

Jonathan Amerikaner


Get in the habit of greeting -- all the time

"Buenos días." "¡Hola!" "¿Cómo estás?" Get used to hearing and using these phrases multiple times every day, because Peruvians believe in greeting each and every person they encounter -- from the ... read more

Courtney Ng


Haggling 101

1. Know your price before you start. Stay firm! 2. Work in a pair or team, a la good cop/bad cop. After all, the vendors are doing the same ... read more

Delia Harrington

flagCosta Rica

Careful with your compliments in Costa Rica

Invading the lives of our (not well-off) host families, my friends and I were overflowing with gratitude and friendliness. Trying to be nice, I complimented my host mom's shoes ... read more

Jessica Goldkind


Paying in zloty? Don’t forget the groszy!

I was warned ahead of time that Polish storekeepers prefer exact "groszy" (change) when paying for an item in "zloty" (cash), but I seriously underestimated just how much! Poles will ... read more


It's not only polite, it will save you money

To avoid being ripped off by merchants or taxi drivers, start your conversation with "Salam Alekum" ("Peace be on you"). This will help prevent you from being charged 10 times ... read more

Syed Adeel Hussain Shah


Prosze, More Groszy!

Please forgive my poor attempt at rhyming in Polish, but my title is a motto worth remembering. Most cashiers at smaller stores appreciate receiving exact change for most transactions. For ... read more

C. Joelle Groshek

flagCosta Rica


I had wanted to go WWOOFING for many months, but upon contacting many of the farms, I realized that the program was changing. Many of the farms now charged visitors ... read more

Michelle Saltis


Keep your volume on low

It's likely that, at some point on your trip to Laos, something won't go your way. If you are unable to just let the problem go, it's ... read more

Gabriel Shaya


Okinawan or Japanese?

"Technically Japanese, ethnically Okinawan." Try not to call Okinawans Japanese. Although the territory today belongs to Japan, the Okinawans were once an independent country, the Ryukyu Kingdom. Then they were ... read more

Teodora Vegh


Come hungry!

French meals can last for a very long time (we once had dinner for three hours) and are made up of multiple "little" courses. Make sure to eat everything, because ... read more

Michelle Saltis

flagEl Salvador

Don't leave voicemails, no one will listen to them

Since most people in El Salvador have prepaid cell phones, no one bothers to use precious saldo (prepaid balance) to check voice messages. Instead of leaving messages, it is normal ... read more

Caitlin Quigley


Balkan hospitality: Drinks come in rounds

Balkan hospitality is the real deal. Expect to be well fed, and with a drink in hand, whenever in the company of locals. When it comes to paying, your hosts ... read more

danielle hayes


Pass the bread, please

Every Azerbaijani meal has a running theme: bread. Considered a sacred staple, bread shows up everywhere and with everything. Just be careful to treat your loaf right as the ultimate ... read more

Löki Gale Tobin


Sick? Strap on a mask.

In Japan, if you're sick-but-not-too-sick, you'll be expected to go to work. But it would be rude of you to cough all over everyone and make them ill ... read more

Saleem Reshamwala


Good luck refusing food

In any gathering of more than two people in Cyprus, there is always food. Not just a box of crackers to share, but Mother's leftover lamb, Grandmother's preserved ... read more

Madeline Blount

flagUnited Kingdom

Queue is king

“Hey mate. C’mon! There’s a queue here!” shouted the man standing next to me. It was just after midnight, and our train from London had arrived in 35-degree ... read more

Marshall Worsham


Don't share a plate

Sharing a meal with a friend is apparently unacceptable in Italy. When out with friends, we shared a plate of pasta because we were not very hungry. The waiters pointed ... read more

Michelle Saltis


Finger food: North v. South

In India, people traditionally eat with their hands. I thought I had mastered the technique when I traveled to the south, where they eat rice and mix their food together ... read more

Valerie Hohman


Bracelet for Watch: The Consequences of Paying Compliments in Egypt

Last week I went to an engagement party in Ain Shams. When the party was over, I tried to think of something nice to say to my host Yasmin. She ... read more

Franziska Kabelitz


Un besito

Though I had been living with my host family for nearly a month, as I came back from class one day, I greeted my host mother with a cheery hello ... read more

Brett Bralley


Napkin does not go in your lap

If you'll be dining with Chileans, though it isn't offensive, they might find it odd that you place your napkin on your lap. Napkins, or servillatas, are to ... read more

Brett Bralley

flagSouth Korea

Drinking in Korea

Korea is a land of subtleties and unique culture. This is in part due to it’s centuries isolation from the rest of the world. Very few Korean backpackers are ... read more

Tyler Ray


How to Wait in Line in Egypt

Lines in Egypt do not always operate in the same front-to-back order we’re used to. They are quick, messy, and often frustratingly three-dimensional. This is not meant to be ... read more

Ian Bassingthwaighte


Be A Good Houseguest

When you go to a national park, you’re entering an area that’s been set aside especially for wildlife, as a home free from the dangers they face in ... read more

Cara Giaimo


Sniffles Can Stifle the Room

As Americans we tend to not carry tissue around when we have a cold or allergy. Remember sitting in a quiet classroom taking a test and hearing the *sniff*sniff ... read more

Jessica Felix


Tea time, any time

"Tsai okh," the hostess says. Drink tea. It is not really a question. "Ahhh... zugeer, egchee. Nadad tsai heregui," I reply, hoping to avoid the day's eighth cup of ... read more

Andrew Cullen


Do the Right Thing—Don’t Use Your Left Hand

“The Indian digestive system is the simplest in the world. It begins with the right hand and ends with the left.” Indeed, most Indians eat with their right hand, not ... read more

Rohan Radhakrishna


The Hand Holding Thing

The first time a Ugandan man held my hand for what seemed like an eternity, I didn't know what to do. Was he making a move on me? Was ... read more


Take Time to Sit, to Talk

Coming from the US, I know all too well how to eat on the run; how to wave hello to a friend from across the street and mime 'Call me ... read more


Do the Right Thing—Don’t Use Your Left Hand

“The Indian digestive system is the simplest in the world. It begins with the right hand and ends with the left.” Indeed, most Indians eat with their right hand, not ... read more

Rohan Radhakrishna


Basic Need-to-Know Arabic

Egypt is fairly easy to navigate with English. But there are some key words that will go a long way to reducing the gap between you and the locals. Insha ... read more

Ian Bassingthwaighte


Can I go into a mosque in Egypt even if I'm not Muslim?

The easy answer to this question is yes. But always be conservative: wear long, loose-fitting clothing, be willing to take your shoes off before you enter, and in some of ... read more

Ian Bassingthwaighte


No, I don’t want the rest (of your impure leftovers)

Once, my cooking teacher gave me a chunk of jaggery to try. I had taken one bite when her sweet-toothed son appeared out of nowhere and grabbed it off the ... read more

Janna White

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