Last Name/First Impression
In Singapore, always remember to greet someone by his or her surname first, and given name last (for example: “Hello, Mr. Shatner William”).
Who Made Your Necklace, Calvin Klein?
In Togo, beads that are strung together are not worn around the neck. They are used to hold up a sort of undergarment beneath a skirt. So, if you wear a necklace, it’s basically like have a pair of boxers hanging around your neck.
Produce for Poltergeists
The Chinese put plates of fresh fruit on graves. The restless spirits of the Chinese undead far prefer this to wilted flowers (the act of haunting gives one quite an appetite).
War and Eats
Many Russian restaurants aren’t rushing to feed potential customers at lunch, it seems. They actually close so that the help can go eat lunch (where, we’re not certain). It also may be two hours before a waiter or waitress even thinks to attend to you. Two large bottles are placed on every table: mineral water and vodka. Russian menus are often long, Tolstoy-esque affairs, listing dozens and dozens of dishes. But be prepared for a lot of “nyets” as they don’t really serve as much as they claim to offer.
The Redundant Tourist
The English don’t say you’re welcome. They answer a thank you with a thank you.
Waving good-bye American-style means “Come back here!” in Argentina.
Don’t Bungle in Bangladesh
The “thumbs up” gesture is incredibly offensive in Bangladesh. The Fonz would not make a lot of friends.
The Land of the Setting Eyelids
The Japanese commonly show concentration and attentiveness by closing their eyes in contemplation and nodding. They aren’t nodding off with boredom; it’s respect…unless they are snoring.
Modesty is in the Hand of the Beholder
If you barge in on a Sumatran woman while she’s showering, she will cover her knees. A Samoan will cover her navel.
Talking Cheek to Cheek
South Americans try to establish intimacy and intensity by getting nose-to-nose. If you step backwards, they will again try to attain close proximity. If you back away you are viewed as a snob or are indicating that the person is not nice to be near.
Working Nine to …?
In Britain, when the workday is done, it is rude to discuss work matters over drinks or dinner. In Japan, business is done both day and night in any possible situation.
We Are Family
In Eastern cultures, family ties are extremely important (not the Michael J. Fox sitcom, but familial attachments) and for those who come from a less family-oriented part of the world, it does not hurt to refer to your warm home life — or make one up on the fly.
The French are appalled by the way anyone else speaks their language, including other Frenchmen. What doesn’t tick off the French?!
Never Look a Gift Camel in the Mouth
Don’t openly admire an Arab’s possessions because he may feel obligated to give you the object as a gift, and will then expect a gift in return.
Do You Really Want to Taste the Snails?
Many French people are offended by dinner guests who begin a meal with hard liquor, as it numbs the palate and renders the subsequent meal under-appreciated.
Better Late Than Ever
Panamanians hold punctuality in very little regard. It is impolite to set a time for meetings to end.
It’s Not the Arms I’m Worried About
Do not be alarmed if a strange Salvadoran puts his arm around you.
Sorry I’m On Time. The Traffic Was Wonderful.
In Brazil, it is customary to arrive ten or fifteen minutes late for an appointment. Never start right into business discussion unless your host does so first.
Point them Toward the Floor
Avoid pointing your legs toward the center of the room in Samoa.
It’s All in the Inflection
Every Chinese word has many meanings, depending on the tone. The word to indicate a question also means horse, scold, sesame seed and mother. Good luck trying to scold a horse for not bringing a sesame seed to your mom.
Pay Me Now or I’ll Arch Them Again
To raise your eyebrows in Peru means “money” or “pay me.”
What About the Bearded Lady?
Arabs grasp their beards when they see an attractive woman. If you don’t have a beard, you will never see an attractive woman.
More Proof That Women are Always Right
In Germany, gentlemen walk and sit to the left of all ladies.
Turn the Other Cheek
The Flemish kiss cheeks three times, alternating cheeks. Facial cheeks, that is.