Ten etiquette tips for travellers

As a frequent traveller, you're probably aware of the traditions and customs of the countries you visit often. When planning a business trip to an unfamiliar destination, however, it’s worthwhile to study up on appropriate etiquette during your trip.

Below you will find ten etiquette tips for travelling abroad.

1. Hands on your hips

When travelling through south-east Asia, don't stand with your hands on your hips, as this is perceived as aggressive body language. Try to avoid putting your hands in your pockets, too, as this nonchalant gesture is not appreciated.

2. Eating with a knife and fork

We're taught to eat with a knife and fork at a young age and it's something that is considered proper etiquette in many countries. In Brazil, however, they take it one step further. There, it is considered extremely impolite to eat with your hands, even for foods like pizza or small snacks.

3. Tie

Proper attire is extremely important in China. Men should always wear a tie to formal business meetings, even in warm weather. Women should pay close attention to the colours they wear. Red is associated with weddings and white is associated with death and mourning and should therefore be avoided.

4. Self-mockery

When you're in Australia, sport is a great conversation starter. Australians can spend hours talking about it. They are relatively direct in conversation and expect the same from others. Telling jokes is always appreciated, especially ones that poke fun at your home country and history.

5. You're killing the pasta!

The Italians have an extensive list of food guidelines and etiquette – enough to devote an entire book to and certainly too detailed to cover in this article. But one tip is worth mentioning: NEVER use a knife to eat pasta. Instead, use a fork to eat spaghetti or tagliatelle. Even a spoon is acceptable if need be, but a knife is simply not done!

6. Respect religious beliefs

This tip is short and sweet: Respect the religious beliefs of the country you are visiting. For example, don't sit down for a lengthy dinner during Ramadan and try to be respectful of prayer times.

7. Be punctual

Some cultures have a relatively loose concept of time, but not the Brits; they are extremely punctual. So make sure you're on time when you're in England. It's also important to note that the Brits tend to value their privacy. Keep a respectful distance and don't ask too many personal questions.

8. Cheers!

If you're out to dinner in Mexico and would like to make a toast, never do so with a glass of water. This is considered bad luck. If you don't drink alcohol, simply skip the toast.

9. Genuine smile

To come across as trustworthy in Russia, try not to smile or laugh at everything. Smiles should be genuine. What is considered a friendly smile in some countries can come across as insincere and disingenuous in Russia.

10. Shhhhhh!

Most people want to avoid awkward silences at all costs when talking to others. But this doesn't bother the Swedes. In Sweden, a lull in conversation is considered normal. In fact, filling silences with chitchat is considered irritating.

In addition to the tips above, there are lots more etiquette and manner tips to keep in mind when travelling for business. Adapting to local habits and customs can have a very positive effect on your interaction with others.

Bob Obers
Bob Obers
Conversation Manager
Share this article

Leave us your comment!

Name*

E-mail*

Message*