Global etiquette: Never ask about someone else’s wife in the Middle East

Mark Twain once said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”

And when in Rome, do as the Romans do. This is (and if it isn’t, should be) the universal law of traveling. How else would you truly to understand the customs, practices and habits of your host country?

Traveling the world is exciting but you don’t want to explore looking like a fish-out-of-the-pan tourist. Here are 6 ways to avoid culture shock:

1.    In Italy, never drink a cappuccino after noon.
It’s 3pm. You’re sitting in a lovely Italian street café. A waitress comes along and, with a heavy Italian accent, asks what you would like to order. With a smile, you ask for their in-house blend of cappuccino. Her friendly expression changes, she smiles awkwardly and says, ‘of course, signora’ and you’re left sitting there wondering what you could have possibly said that caused awkwardness.

Here’s what: In Italy, cappuccino is considered a breakfast drink and, according to Amanda Ruggeri, you certainly won’t see an Italian ordering a cappuccino after noon.

2.    In China, treat business cards with kid gloves.
If you’re to expand your business network in any other country why not do so in the world’s leading economy, right? Yes, Ma’am! Perhaps their economic strength has something to do with them handling their business cards as the greatest representation of one’s self? Ruchika Tulshyan advises accepting or offering business cards with both hands and study it carefully –even if you’re just acting.

3.    In Russia, if you open a bottle of vodka, if must be finished.
Okay, okay. This isn’t exactly a law. It’s simply a case of ‘it just happened.’ This is fun, right? But this can easily lead to one hell of a night and in the morning, what do Russians use as a best hangover cure? Surely, you saw this one coming: MORE VODKA. According to Russian Life, it’s the old “hair of the dog that bit ya” theory. You could always opt for pickle brine (blegh) but a shot of vodka is always a more devilish kind of fun.  

4.    In the Middle East, never ask about someone’s wife.
‘How is your son and your wi… eh, yeah, how is your son doing?’
In Arab countries, women are typically treated subordinately to that of their male counterpart. This we’ve observed. According to Ruchika Tulshyan you should not engage in conversation nor ask about them. A Freedoms Fortress agency handbook, page 9 states that asking a man about his wife or another female family member or even shaking hands with a woman could place her in danger.

5.    In Asia, knowing when it is gifting time is everything.
You wouldn’t want your genuine and pure intentions to seem like a bribe or to be taken offensively, right? So, when presenting someone with a gift in Asia, do so at the end of your meeting. You should also make damn sure to first do your research on what to give to someone from respective countries.

6.    Don’t be an Ivan Misner.
Standardize your English or get to know the local slang or dialect. The very least thing you wish to do is have someone completely misunderstand your intentions. Something like this happened to Entreprenuer contributor Ivan Misner. When assuring someone that he’d ‘keep them in the loop’ regarding business, the person heard was ‘they’ll keep him pregnant.’ Woah! Misner assures that this is not at all what he meant.   Use this basic tip: Get to know the local dialect or use standardized English

home and away, travel
Gif: Tumblr


Have you offended customs or traditions while travelling abroad or have you experienced something extraordinary while travelling? We’d love to hear about it! Email us.

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