As you know, I like to travel. And you’ll remember my motto too – the journey IS the destination. So there’s nothing I like more than to see the world and learn something about the culture along the way! I like to have fun, but I never want to offend anybody by doing something that they might perceive as offensive or rude.
In Italy, for instance, cappuccinos are breakfast drinks only, so according to International Traveller: “It is a major violation of Italian culinary culture to order a cappuccino after mid-morning, let alone after a meal.” I love coffee (and especially iced coffee), so I definitely like to keep that one in mind.
You can also cause a great deal of offense when it comes to using chopsticks in Asia. The biggest taboo is to stand your chopsticks upright in your bowl of rice. To be safe, I’ve learnt one should avoid crossing chopsticks at all (and that includes in hair styles or food styling for magazines). Rather put them down in a V-shape, balance them on your chopstick rest (hashi-oki), or parallel along your plate or bowl when you’re not using them. And don’t use the chopsticks to spear your food. It’s considered the ultimate in rudeness.
Here are some other taboos to remember. Don’t chew gum in Singapore – it’s illegal with a $5,500 fine for bringing gum into the country. Don’t use a knife and fork in Ethiopia as people will think you a bit strange. Do not give gifts of blades like scissors or knives in El Salvador or a bunch of chrysanthemums to anyone Spanish. And if you’re thinking of suggesting to split a bill in France, just don’t. (It’s so unsophisticated!)
Superstitions, also, are not the same in all countries, which is something to consider, as you don’t want to upset people unnecessarily: #black_cat_alert!
For instance, on my trip to Dusseldorf I discovered an interesting superstition: Legend has it that smokers who light their cigarettes from a candle rather than a match will cause a sailor to drown. Many sailors used to have a second job as matchmakers, which is where the myth is believed to have its foundations. So although this superstition may be old, and perhaps not applied everywhere, it was a fun fact to learn.
Another superstition I found out about on my Cuban trip was about seashells. I don’t know if you’ve spent time collecting buckets of shells to take home, but I certainly have. However, don’t do this in Cuba unless you want to bring bad fortune into the home.
In the US if you travel to Vermont, you will notice a strange architectural feature on many of the region’s older buildings: slanted windows. Why? Legend has it that these were created to keep out witches, whose broomsticks could not fit through tilted window frames.
Finally if you’ve ever wondered when the best time to cut your hair is, it’s not actually when it’s begun to look like a rat’s nest or your worst #badhairday. For the most successful results, consult a Chinese calendar. Then do not, I repeat, DO NOT cut in the first month of the Chinese year. You’ll only have yourself to blame for a thoroughly disappointing year. Instead book your appointment for the second day of the second month, and be ready for a year of success and happiness. And if it’s as easy as that, why not give it a try?
Let me hear some of your #superstitions. Or what have you learnt about #culturalbeliefs? Get in touch.