When in Rome... (or France, or Russia, or Italy)

2014-07-08 13:06

Do’s and Don’ts when travelling abroad

Before you hop on your flight to any of the following fifteen exotic destinations, we at Trivia SA want to make sure you don’t get arrested simply because you took a photo of a cool looking building.

Here are some do’s and don’ts when visiting different parts of the world. First though, let’s have a look at the three things which will either embarrass you, or worse - land you in very hot water almost anywhere in the world.


(This full article (including awesome photo's and lots more travel tips) is also available on Trivia SA's website.)


#1 Don't speak louder because you speak Sarf Effriken (or a version thereof) - and they don’t

We Sarf Effrikens are quite proud of the fact that we have eleven official languages. Most of us can only speak two of them though, so chances are that you won’t be able to speak the weird Lingua franca (lingo, dude) of the foreign country you’re visiting either. Don’t try. Puh-lease.

Just because someone speaks a different language, does not mean they are deaf.

#2 Don't take pictures of security-related buildings

If it’s a government building, cool looking police quarters, or even inside an airport – ask first!

In many countries you can be detained for photographing these places (which will put a huge damper on your holiday, but at least provide you with a great topic of conversation back in South Africa).

#3 Don't drive off the main roads

If you are going to drive, know the rules of the road for that country and don’t forget your International Driving Permit. DO try and remember which side of the road to drive on.


All set? Away we go!

Don't tip in Japan

Tipping is just not part of the culture, and it's considered to be degrading. Don’t even leave small change. People will come running after you with it. Seriously.

DO tip in America

In stark contrast to Japan, you MUST tip your waiter/bartender in America. If you don’t tip, they might revoke your visa. 20% of your bill is good. 18% is okay. Anything below 15%? Congratulations: the entire waitstaff now hates your country.

Don't smile at strangers in Russia

Russians sees smiling as an intimate gesture, indicating a genuine affinity toward another person. If you don't know them, they might consider you insincere. Rather frown all the time, it’s a lot safer.

Don't use your left hand in India

The left hand is thought of as unclean in Indian (and Muslim) culture, so always use your right hand to greet someone, exchange money, or pick up merchandise. The same rule applies in Indonesia.

Don't eat everything on your plate in China; do burp after a meal

If you eat everything on your plate, it shows your host didn't provide enough food or a filling meal. Along with leaving a little, it's fine to burp after eating, as a compliment to the chef.

Don't honk in Norway

Don’t go all Sarf Effriken taxi driver on the roads in Norway. Honking is used only in an emergency - so your unnecessary beeping could cause drivers to panic.

Don't forget to say hello in France

"Bonjour Madame, Monsieur" should be the first words out of your mouth, otherwise you're subtly showing you feel the person is beneath you.

Don't talk with your hands in your pockets in Germany

Talking to someone with your hands in your pockets is considered rude. Even in Sarf Effrica, but more so in Germany.

It's also customary to keep your hands on the table while eating, rather than resting them in your lap.

Don’t laugh at the dialect in New Zealand, and no Hobbit jokes please

Never disrespect the dialects, the Queen (of England), or The Lord of the Rings. Don't confuse New Zealanders with Australians. The Kiwi accent is funny, we know, but don’t point it out.

Hobbiton is a real place, and the Kiwis are very proud of Lord Of the Rings. No Hobbit or LOTR jokes, please.

Don't point at things in Malaysia

Never touch anyone’s head or pass anything from above the head. It is considered to be the most sacred body part.

Do not point your forefinger at things. Instead point a thumb. Pointing a forefinger at anything is considered rude.

Don’t go all Spanish in Brazil

Don’t assume Brazilians speak Spanish. Brazil was colonized by Portugal, so the official language is Portuguese. After the Soccer World Cup in 2014 you should already know this, right?

Dress appropriately when visiting temples in Thailand

Dress appropriately when visiting temples. Do not wear shorts, short skirt, bikini, tank top, tube top, or any other inappropriate clothes. This holds true for most of Europe and Asia.

NEVER walk in the bicycle lane in The Netherlands

Pedestrians should not walk in the bicycle lane – at all. Although the Dutch are renowned for their permissiveness (drugs, prostitution, and so forth), their collective pent-up intolerance is reserved for those unlucky visitors that dare to walk where they are not supposed to.

Don’t turn down food in Italy

Refusing food in Italy is considered impolite.

You don’t have to talk much in Australia

The land down under is very similar to Sarf Effrica in many ways, and you don’t need to talk much either.

Aussies will provide the answers to many of the questions they ask you, all by themselves. For example: “What’s your name, Bruce?” or, when addressing your wife/girlfriend: “What’s your name, Sheila?” and “What’s your favorite pastime, Sport?”

What a wonderful country.


At Trivia SA, you'll find fun and interesting facts about the world around us - with a distinct South African flavour. It's probably the only website in South Africa where you can actually smell the braaivleis when you visit.


This full article (including awesome photo's and lots more travel tips) is available on Trivia SA's website.

Other interesting articles you might have missed:

Gifts from Canada, to the whole world

Popcorn and Trivia – Top 10 Movies of 1984

The Soccer World Cup – 18 things you probably didn’t know

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