It’s OK to be late in Mexico

If someone invites you round for dinner, you arrive on time, right? You’d think so – but do this in Mexico and you might find yourself forced to head to a nearby fast-food joint instead. According to the guide to global etiquette from travel experts Expedia, it’s actually considered rude to arrive at a person’s home early or on time in Mexico – it’s much better to turn up around 30 minutes late. Oh, and it’s also considered polite to leave a little food on the plate when you’re finished. Not so good if you’re ravenous, but it’ll keep your Mexican counterparts happy.

‘Over here, waiter’ – dining in the USA

In many countries, raising your hand or index finger to get a waiter’s attention is a practice that went out of fashion some years ago. While it’s nowhere near as bad as clicking your fingers, some do see it as rude and offensive. But in the US it’s pretty much standard practice to use this method when you want to call a waiter over. And given that it’s customary to tip up to 20%, they’re unlikely to mind too much…

Don’t forget your slippers in Japan

The Japanese are a people known for their customs and traditions. And one of the places where such customs are held in high regard is in the Japanese home. If you are ever invited to a Japanese house, there are a number of foot etiquette guidelines you need to know about. First, when arriving at the front door of the house, take off your shoes and leave them pointing away from the doorway. Then, you’ll see a pair of slippers left out for you by your host – put these on. Once inside, if you use the bathroom you’ll need to change footwear again – the Japanese have toilet slippers specifically for use in the bathroom.

Thumbs up in Iran? No thanks

While some think the thumbs up gesture is a universally recognised symbol of approval, there’s actually nothing very universal about it at all. In some countries, including Iran, Italy and Greece, the thumbs up gesture is extremely offensive and is the equivalent of giving someone the middle finger. So while you might think you’re saying ‘well done!’, you’re actually about to land yourself in some seriously hot water. 

Be careful when smiling in Korea

Smiling is another sign that many take to be universally connected with happiness. But in Korea, smiling is a complicated emotional gesture that you have to be very careful with. Some Koreans see being smiled at as offensive. Rather than appearing friendly and approachable, it’s seen as being mocking, as if you might think the person is a little stupid. While it is ridiculous to say Koreans never smile and laugh – of course they do – it is a much more nuanced, complex gesture than in other countries. It is also associated with shame or embarrassment – a Korean might smile when they make a mistake, for example.

Do you know of any quirky etiquette rules around the world? Let us know.