Foreign etiquette tips - be prepared!

19.07.2010 In: Travel tips

IF you kiss in public, forget to flush the toilet or wear a mask you may be surprised to find yourself in hot water in some countries.
Here are 15 lesser-known acts that may breach the etiquette rules of some of the most popular tourist destinations around the world.

St. Louis, Missouri, US
Propriety is important in any city, and St Louis in no exception. But girls, don't get caught out without proper clothes on in a fire - it is actually illegal for firemen to rescue women who are still in their nightdresses or other various underwear attire. Interestingly, it's also illegal to sit on the curb of any city street and drink beer from a bucket - so no drunken tourist antics here, please.

United Arab Emirates
As the two Britons who were convicted for having sex on the beach near their hotel in Dubai in 2008 will tell you, public nudity is a criminal offence in the UAE. It goes without saying, then, that if a kiss on the cheek can get you fined or imprisoned, having sex in public is an absolute no-no.

Denmark
This may sound crazy but it's true - wearing a mask in Denmark could get you arrested. Best keep those Halloween costumes in your suitcases.

Scotland
Guys, if you are gripped by the desire to don traditional Scottish dress in the form of a kilt, there are a couple of things you need to remember. Whether you decide to wear underwear under your kilt or not is entirely up to you, and wearing nothing is actually completely acceptable. What you need to remember is not to tell people about what you've decided - or show it off - unless you are invited to!

Mexico
Aside from the great level of respect reserved for elders in Mexican society, there's another important thing to know when travelling there, and it has to do with love. If you fall for a Mexican on your travels, it's actually the man's parents who ask the woman's parents for permission for their children to marry and be accepted into the family. So really, the pressure's off guys, and it's up to your parents.

Singapore
Hygiene is a top priority in Singapore, and violation of any hygiene laws can land you with big fines. Smoking in public can cost you $1000; littering up to $2000; and if you are caught not flushing the toilet, you can face a $75 fine. Speaking of toilets, make sure you take your own paper, as many Singaporean public toilets don't provide any.

England
English Pub Etiquette may sound unbelievable, but it there is such thing, and research has been done on it. It's not uncommon for heated arguments to erupt in your local English pub, but don't be frightened or remain uninvolved - according to English anthropologists, this is known as 'Pub Talk', and if you join in, you'll be part of the crowd in no time - especially if you shout the next round.

Thailand
In Thailand, never shake hands or offer anything with your left hand, as this is the 'unclean' hand - the one you use to wipe your bottom with. Also, make sure you don't touch any Thai person on their head, including babies, as the head is seen as the most important part of the body and so touching it is disrespectful. Also, criticism is seen as a form of violence, and openly expressing your anger attracts attention from evil spirits.

Afghanistan
During Ramadan all Muslims are required to fast, and while visitors to the country don't need to participate in the fasting, it is absolutely unacceptable to eat, drink, smoke or even chew gum in public.

China
In China, symbolism is everything, and there are long lists of rules related to this. The most important things to remember are to avoid white as this is the colour reserved for death, and steer clear of anything related to the number four, which is unlucky.
Also, when in conversation, try not to gesticulate too much - while this may seem silly to those having grown up doing it, Chinese people are very reserved with their emotions, and waving your hands around while trying to emphasise a point is quite offensive.

South Africa
The most important thing to remember when visiting South Africa is that the people there love to talk, and it's important you engage in conversation too! Don't try to rush greetings, pleasantries or stories - just relax and let the conversation flow, else you'll risk appearing rude and offending those you're talking with.

France
Contrary to popular belief, the French are very polite people, and expect the same from people visiting their country. Don't expect to find out a lot about any French people you meet, especially on your first meeting - they don't hate you, they are a just very private people.
The good news is that once you're a friend, you're a friend for life, and a kiss on the left cheek followed by a kiss on the right is the correct greeting. Remember the polite greetings 'bonjour' 'bonsoir' or 'au revoir' when you're in shops.

Russia
The dreaded kiss-on-the-cheek scenario is always a confusing one. When it comes to greeting etiquette in Russia, females kiss on the cheek three times, alternating cheeks and starting on the left. For men, a handshake is acceptable, or a hug and pat on the back if you know them well. When greeting someone of the opposite sex, a handshake is the safest move.

Austria
Austria has some very strict etiquette rules, especially when it comes to dining. Always remain standing at the dinner table until you are asked to sit; make sure you put your napkin on your lap; don't start eating until you are invited to; finish all your food even if you're full; let the host do the first toast and, if you are a special guest, you are expected to toast too. Oh, and it's best to get dressed up at all times - dinner parties, out to the shops, everywhere. It's probably easier to just eat alone!

India
Gift giving is essential in Indian culture, as it helps with the transition into the next life. Presents wrapped in yellow, green or red bring good luck, gifts of cash are perfectly acceptable in celebratory situations, but steer well clear of giving anyone 'funeral flowers' (white flowers or frangipanis).

Now you have no excuse if you get it wrong next time you head abroad. Got any more etiquette tips? Share them below.