11 things people in the US do that could be considered rude elsewhere

Yulia Mayorova/ ShutterstockA thumbs up can be offensive.
  • Some of the things people from the US might do could be considered rude in other countries around the world.
  • Laughing with your mouth open is often thought to be impolite in Japan.
  • Tipping is considered rude behaviour in Japan and Korea.
  • Giving a thumbs up sign is very offensive in some places.

When travelling to a different country, the last thing anyone wants to do is offend the people who live there. Unfortunately, avoiding that is often complicated, even if you think you’re being polite.

Some of the things people in the United States do all the time that seem innocent can come off as rude and inappropriate to other people around the globe. The only way to really avoid being impolite when going abroad is to be aware of the behaviours that will make you seem that way and to try as hard as you can to avoid them, even if they come as second nature to you.

Here are a few things people from the US may do that could be considered rude in other countries.


Laughing with your mouth open is often thought to be impolite in Japan.

The OC/IMDbTravellers recommend covering your mouth when you laugh in Japan.

In the United States, people are never afraid to laugh loudly and boldly wherever they are. For anyone visiting Japan, though, tourists may want to be more careful.

People are generally expected to cover their mouths with their hand when they laugh, according to Cultura Atlas. Of course, not everyone will do this, but it’s worth keeping in mind should you travel there.


Adjusting your meal to your liking might be considered rude in many countries.

ShutterstockMaking substitutions to a meal isn’t expected everywhere around the world.

In the US, it’s so common to adjust restaurant meals to your liking (adding, removing, or substituting ingredients, asking for condiments, etc.) that it’s thought to be impolite if a restaurant won’t let you do so.

But in many other countries, such as France, Italy, Spain, and Japan, doing something like this could be considered rude to the chef. It’s especially rude to ask for condiments as it implies you don’t like the flavour, according to Healthy Travel Blog.

The chef typically knows best, so, barring a food allergy, it’s best to enjoy the food as is.


Using your left hand for eating is bad form in some Muslim countries.

ShutterstockThe left hand is considered unclean.

In many Muslim, it’s not appropriate to eat with your left hand, as it’s thought to be unclean, according to the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates.


Tipping is considered to be rude behaviour in many countries, including Japan and South Korea.

Anastasiya Aleksandrenko/ShutterstockSouth Korea and Japan are no-tip cultures.

According to TripSavvy, leaving a tip in Japan could imply to the staff that you think the establishment isn’t doing well financially. Korea is also widely considered a no-tip culture.

If you’re an American travelling abroad, it’s best to do your research beforehand to know if you should leave a tip or just walk away.


Showing up late is unacceptable in countries like Germany.

NBCBeing late isn’t going to fly in Germany.

If you live by the term “fashionably late,” you might want to adjust that when visiting places like Germany, where they might assume it means you think your time is more valuable than anyone else’s.


Eating anywhere that doesn’t serve food is impolite in Japan.

grkiIt’s considered bad manners to eat on the go.

It might be commonplace to grab food and eat on-the-go in the US, but not in Japan. This is especially true of eating strong smelling food on public transport.


Giving a thumbs up sign is very offensive in some places.

A lot of countries consider a thumbs up sign to be the equivalent of the middle finger, including in parts of West Africa, Russia, Australia, Iran, Greece, and Sardinia, Slate reported. That said, some people have adopted this hand movement to have a positive association, so it depends on where you are.


Read more:
5 everyday hand gestures that can get you in serious trouble outside the US


It can be rude not to take second helpings in countries like the Philippines.

YelenaYemchuk/ iStockLeaving a little bit is the way to go.

In some places, etiquette says that at first rejecting second helpings or doggie bags, but ultimately accepting them, is the polite thing to do. “If you really don’t want more, take very little and leave it on your plate,” Etiquette Scholar recommends to anyone travelling in the Philippines.


Chewing gum in public is a big no-no in Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, and Singapore.

nyul/iStockThere are lots of places were chewing gum isn’t generally accepted.

In Luxembourg, chewing gum in public, especially in a professional setting, gives off a bad impression. In France and Switzerland, it’s thought to be disrespectful and rude.

Singapore has actually banned chewing gum altogether (except when bought from pharmacists) because of the potential for pollution.


Blowing your nose in public is thought to be repulsive in many countries.

Sarah Schmalbruch/INSIDERThis isn’t something that is done in public.

Blowing your nose in public isn’t exactly polite in the US, but it also happens all the time without many giving it a second thought.

In China and Japan, doing so is thought to be extremely rude and in France, it’s a sign of a bad upbringing, according to the book “International Business Culture.”

It’s also thought to be very rude in Turkey to blow your nose during a meal.


Opening a gift in front of the person who gave it to you is thought to be rude in some parts of India and Egypt.

Flickr/JD HancockIt isn’t always a good look to open your present in front of other people.

In some parts of India and Egypt, opening a gift as soon as you get it in front of the presenter is thought to be impolite, according to Condé Nast Traveller, because it can be considered, awkward or greedy. Instead, set the gift aside fully wrapped and open it later.

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