5 things that don’t mean the same around the world

Learn through travel…

One of the amazing things about teaching English around the world is that it opens your eyes to assumptions that you never even knew you’d made. Like gestures you use without thinking twice actually might be quite offensive in a different country…

To help you navigate this minefield, here’s a few more things that don’t mean the same around the world. You’ve been warned!

1. Shaking your head

If you shake your head from side to side, you’re clearly saying “no”, right? Well… In Sri Lanka a shake of the head means yes. Or it might mean maybe. Or it could show that you’re thinking about how to reply. Ok, so the Sri Lankan head wobble can mean pretty much anything – but rarely an outright no.

2. Eating noisily

Eat your food noisily in the USA or UK and you’ll probably earn a few glares from your fellow diners. But in Japan it’s eating quietly that’s actually quite offensive. Here, the louder you slurp your noodles, the more you’re showing your appreciation of their deliciousness. So let go of your inhibitions and get stuck in!

3. Having one hand in your pocket

You might think putting your hand in your pocket is pretty uncontroversial. Think again. In South Korea it’s considered both arrogant and rude – particularly if you’re greeting someone. As Bill Gates found out to his cost on a trip to the country a few years ago (Google it, if you want to know!).

4. Tipping

Surely it’s hard to find fault with leaving a tip. It simply shows that you value good service, doesn’t it? Maybe not. In Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea a tip can be taken as an insult. It implies that the workers need an extra incentive to do their job well rather than taking pride in their work.

5. Blowing your nose

Blowing your nose is such a straightforward act. Except in China. Here, blowing your nose in public is considered the height of rudeness. And never, NEVER put a used handkerchief into your pocket.


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