Traveling opens up your world view, but different cultures around the world are so varied that just doing your thing in foreign countries may get you into a world of difficulty.
Let’s take a look at 11 surprising things you should never do in other countries.
11/ don’t step on money in Thailand.
In Thailand, it’s illegal to step on money. It’s because of one man on every note, the king. The law states anything considered demeaning to the royal family can be an offense. That means if you drop your baht at the market you won’t be able to stand on it to stop it from blowing away. The Thai government also has a lot of power. During a recent military coup, the three-finger Hunger Games salute became popular with protesters. In the end, they made the gesture illegal and five people were even arrested for doing it. There are lots more customs you should follow should you visit Thailand? For one, it’s never good to shout or make a scene in Southeast Asia. You should also avoid putting up your feet because according to Buddhist beliefs feet are the dirtiest parts of the body and it’s very offensive to point them at someone. Also, think of the smell.
10/ don’t use your left hand in India.
You never think about what hand you use for what but in India, you need to. Never pass money, food, or shake with your left hand. Your left hand is used for all things bathroom-related. So it’s very easy to see where this comes from. In India, you should also get ready for another custom, queue jumping. As queues are a Western construct, it’s jumping or be jumped in the wildly long lines of India.
9/ don’t order a white coffee after breakfast in Italy.
Italians are known for coffee and they have many rules about it. It’s poor form to order a white coffee, such as a cappuccino, after breakfast. This comes not from the sweetness of the drink but from the milk. According to Italians, milk should never be drunk after a meal, as it is said to ruin your digestion. So you should only have it at breakfast. If you’re a beach-goer, you should also beware. In Eraclea, it’s illegal to build sandcastles. According to the local government, they obstruct the passage of the beach and sand dunes for other people. Talk about the fun police. And here’s a weird one. In Torino, readjusting your crotch in public is an offense. Even though touching that part of your body is traditionally associated with good luck, courts are beginning to rule that it goes against common decency. We’re not talking about one or two gestures, but a lot of crotch-pawing. In fact, one man was convicted in 2006 for ostentatiously touching his genitals through his clothing. Keep your hands where we can see ’em.
8/ no high heels in Greece.
High-heeled shoes have been banned at Greece’s oldest monuments due to damage caused by tourists. Leave them at home. Besides, don’t you wanna be comfy when you’re walking over the old rocks? Greeks also have an intolerance to morning, the practice of bearing you naked ass in public, as well. And if you insist on this asinine behavior, you could end up with a hefty fine. So mooning on the Acropolis while wearing stilettos, you’ve got yourself a double whammy or at least a very interesting photo shoot.
7/ don’t tip in Japan.
This next one might be hard to get your head around, but you shouldn’t tip in Japan. The service may be exceptional, but Japanese people consider this standard to be typical. So offering a gratuity is not necessary. Okay, you won’t necessarily offend someone’s sensibilities if you tip, but you should definitely avoid pointing. It’s rude to point at someone in Japan as this is a gesture that is usually directed towards objects rather than people. And while on the subject of Japan, although it’s not illegal to engage in PDA on the streets, it is a faux pas to kiss amorously in public or hug for too long. So save those long goodbye kisses to the hotel room.
6/ watch your hand gestures in Turkey.
Often, hand gestures are a great way of bridging the language barrier, but just like all language sometimes they can get mistranslated. In Turkey, you should not give the okay sign. To do so implies you think the other person is a homosexual. But you should also watch where you drink your liquor. It has been made illegal to drink or be drunk in public in the province of Burdur. Even sitting in a car with alcohol can get you a 100-lira fine. If that wasn’t enough, you should never use a toothpick without covering your mouth, and you should avoid blowing your nose in public, as both of these are considered very impolite. Try dabbing at it instead.
5/ you can’t buy chewing gum in Singapore.
Despite what’s claimed, it’s not illegal to chew chewing gum in Singapore, even after 1992 a law passed which was designed to counter the amount of chewing gum being dropped in public places, the treat was not altogether outlawed. Instead, buying and selling it is illegal and punishable with a fine of up to $1,000. The Control of Manufacture Act still allows tourists to bring two packs into the country. So you’d better make it count. But if you’re looking for another foodstuff to enjoy when in Singapore, you should know that you’re also not allowed to take the pungent tropical fruit durian on public transport. Bringing the fruit, which tastes like heaven, smells like hell, on a bus or train, carries a fine of up to $5,000. This pride in public spaces mean you are also not allowed to feed pigeons. This avoids population growth and reduces the amount of poop to clean. Two men, a 62-year-old and a 68-year-old, were fined 400 and $1,500 respectively for breaking this law this year.
4/ don’t pee in the ocean in Portugal.
Hot competition for the hardest law to enforce, it’s not very polite to pee in a pool. But what about the ocean? Surely it’s the definition of a victimless crime. But nonetheless, Portugal has recently outlawed it. That means any swimmers caught short will have to come out and find a bathroom. I don’t envy the person who has to catch you doing this one.
3/ don’t feed the pigeons in San Francisco.
It may seem fun to feed the pigeons, but doing so in San Francisco can get you in trouble. It’s illegal. The law is aimed to curb their population as well as the health hazard presented by their poop. The authorities even have a hotline specifically for tips about illicit crumb-droppers. Speaking of tips, in America in general gratuities are everything. The average waiter makes between five to $12 an hour and they need any extra money they can get. So in contrast to Japan, this is often one place you ought to positively tip. You should also make sure to mind your Ps and Qs where politeness is the main order of the day. In certain states, they pride themselves on good manners as a way of life. Customs like Minnesota Nice, made famous by the film Fargo, are defined by polite friendliness, an aversion to confrontation, and a disinclination to make a fuss. So be nice even if you don’t mean it. And finally, cutting down a Saguaro cactus in Arizona is a federal crime even if it’s on your property. Doing any damage to this majestic plant is punishable with 25 years in prison, which is comparable to the amount of time you’d do for actual murder. This is because they take almost 200 years to fully mature, almost as long as the United States has been in existence. And how would you like it if someone cut you down in your prime?
2/no camouflage in the Caribbean.
The Caribbean Islands, including Barbados, Jamaica, Grenada, Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent have banned civilians from wearing camouflage patterns. That’s right, they’re policing what you wear, as in this is literally what their police force wear. So if you want to avoid a fine or jail time for impersonating an officer, leave the camouflage at home. But how will they spot you?
1/ no bikinis in Barcelona.
When on holiday in Spain, you probably want nothing more than to roll off of the beach after a long day of sunbathing, and to go and have a few cervezas at a local taverna. But in Barcelona, you’ll have to swing by your hotel to change your clothes because the city has banned people from wearing bikinis when not on the beach. The rule, which has been made to supposedly protect modesty, comes with a $650 on-the-spot fine. You may love your beach body, but you’ll have to put it away unless you want to get into trouble.