Cultural Etiquette around the World

Cultural etiquette around the world is a requirement for the cultural traveler. Cultural sensitivity is something that every cultural traveler needs to be aware of before venturing out into the world. How does one become culturally sensitive? One becomes sensitive through awareness, education,  and by engaging oneself in dialogue with people from the particular place that one wishes to travel. This is essential for anyone traveling to different cultures because there are so many different ways of  practicing beliefs, and traditions that a traveler must understand and acknowledge. Otherwise, there is confusion and a misunderstanding in communication. So how does one learn the cultural etiquette around the world?  Etiquette is not so much manners as it is “understanding and sensitivity” to cultural beliefs and traditions. Learning cultural beliefs before traveling to a culture is not only sensitive, but also essential for integration and communication within a culture. Chris Prichard talks about these differences in “The West Australian.”


The top of the body is as much of a problem as lowly feet. Thais (whose Buddhism is mixed with animist beliefs) commonly regard the head as the spirit’s residence.

Patting a kid’s head is frowned upon – even though you may see modern-day Thais doing exactly that.

Pointing with hands or feet upsets many Burmese. British colonial officials thought they’d found a workaround by pointing with umbrellas (commonly carried because of frequent tropical deluges). But, in a Rangoon market recently, I see a handwritten sign warning: “No umbrella-ing.”

Ignoring local etiquette is usually an innocent oversight – but it ensures you’re labelled a travel jerk.

Children in Thailand

Children in Thailand- Photo by Anthony Hopkins


Cultural etiquette is awareness of “what” is important to a particular culture’s beliefs and traditions. It does not take a tremendous amount of time to explore culturally sensitive issues within a culture. The reward is in the communication and connection you will receive by taking the time to research culturally sensitive body gestures, and mannerisms. Cultural etiquette is a genuine exchange and sensitivity in honoring the riches of a culture’s traditions and beliefs. Learn more here.


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