When in Rome: 10 Cultural Do’s and Don’ts

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ColosseumWhen in Rome, do as the Romans do, right? Well, after bad tourist behaviour and strict laws saw Dubai hit the press in June for all the wrong reasons, it would appear not. In fact, not respecting a nation’s customs and rules while you’re off on your travels can get you into jail, let alone a bit of hot water. Whilst Dubai responded by issuing a list of Do’s and Don’ts for tourists outlining acceptable behaviour, other countries have not been so helpful. So, before you go donning your hot pink shorts in Victoria after midday on a Sunday or leaving the hotel room commando in Thailand on your touring holidays, why not familiarise yourself with these wacky and serious combination of cultural do’s and don’ts.

1. Don’t wear hot pink shorts – Victoria, Australia

It’s a little bizarre, but if you’re planning on wearing hot pink shorts in Victoria after midday on a Sunday, think again – it’s apparently illegal. Sorry Louis Spence.

2. Don’t take photos of people without permission – South America

Getting a few snaps of your surroundings, including native folk, all adds to the successful capture of a country or culture for your album back at home, but before you take a photo of people in South America, think again, especially if of indigenous people. This applies less so to performers in public (think street tango dancers in Buenos Aires for example) or people incidental to the surroundings (i.e. crowds in a city), but if in doubt always ask first or restrain. If you are taking a photo of a street performer, it’s usually courtesy to throw a little change their way.

3. Don’t leave the house without underwear – Thailand

We’ve all fallen victim to a wardrobe malfunction, but no matter how bad the VPL, do not forego your undercrackers in Thailand at any cost. Going commando is illegal so if you leave home without them, you could be in trouble.

4. Do respect Ramadan – Muslim Countries

Do your research if booking a holiday to a Muslim country during Ramadan. During this time (the ninth month of the Islamic calendar), a strict fast is observed from sunrise to sunset so it’s respectful not to be seen eating or drinking in public during daylight hours – in fact, in some countries it’s illegal altogether. If holidaying during Ramadan, bear in mind that some restaurants will close or operate amended opening hours. Children are an exception to the fasting and in places like Abu Dhabi and even more commercial Dubai, food courts will only stay open to cater for them. Check the Foreign Commonwealth Office for advice before travelling.

5. Don’t flag down a taxi with the plague – London, England

Heralding from the days of the plague, indeed, it is illegal to flag down a London taxi if you have the plague. If it comes to you on the other hand…

6. Do mind your body language – Asia

In Asia the foot is spiritually considered the lowest part of the body, so it’s considered rude to point with your feet or prop them up on something, even when sitting. The head is the highest part of the body spiritually, so you should refrain from touching anyone on the head.

7. Don’t parachute on a Sunday – Florida, USA

If you’re an unmarried woman in Florida with a desire for an adrenaline rush one Sunday, it’s a good idea to give parachuting a miss unless you want to risk being jailed. If you really need to release a few endorphins, perhaps try skydiving instead.

8. Don’t leave your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice – Japan


By all means immerse yourself in the Japanese way of dining and use your hashi (chopsticks), just don’t leave them upright in your bowl of rice during a breather. This is how rice is offered to the dead in Buddhist rituals and it won’t go down well.

9. Drink like a fish, but don’t get a fish drunk – Ohio, USA

So you’re out one night in Ohio and you find Nemo. Buy him a drink but do not get him, or any other fish for that matter, drunk – it is against state law.

10. Don’t wave to anyone with an open palm – Greece

In Greece you should refrain from waving, high fiving, or generally flouting a good view of your palm. Not only is it the equivalent to the two-fingered salute in Britain, but it’s also the body language for: “I reject you.”
Have you travelled to any of the above places or do you know of any other cultural do’s and don’ts? Let us know if you have come across any on your coach holidays!