Summer Vacation Etiquette – Part 9: Global Travel


Global Etiquette

Globalization has transformed the workplace, making everyone more sensitive to the various cultures that the diverse workforce has produced.  Technology has brought nations closer together, and today we Americans work with people from all over the world and of various backgrounds.

But it’s a bit different working with people of diversified backgrounds at work than when we travel to other countries and find ourselves on different turfs where the local customers often are quite different from ours.  In those cases it behooves Americans to know the proper etiquette and protocol of the country to which we have traveled, whether we’re there for business or pleasure.

How Americans are perceived when they travel to other countries is important for the U.S. economy, reputation, prestige and security, and the safety, security, enjoyment and education of the American traveler.  Click here for a glimpse into how Americans compare to travelers from other countries.

While we’re globetrotting, it’s important to be aware that verbal and facial expressions, body language, customs and etiquette can vary widely among countries, continents and regions.  Vacation and business travelers alike must know and play by the rules of the country to which they will be visiting.

To help last-minute and busy travelers brief themselves on local customs, there are a number of resources that offer international cultural and etiquette guides; do your research and select the one that’s right for you and your particular travel itinerary.

To test your knowledge on some of the cultural practices in other countries, try your hand at the 10-question match-up quiz below; the answers from which to choose are listed at the end of the quiz.  The correct answers will be revealed in next week’s post (or if you can’t wait, most of the answers can be found at, another source for quick etiquette guides to many countries that can help you to hit the ground running when you arrive at your destination of choice).

  1. In which country might you be applauded when introduced to a group; and should you applaud back?
  2. On which continent should you take care never touch anyone — especially a child — on the top of the head, which is considered to be sacred?
  3. In which country must you never pound your fist on an open palm, as it is considered to be obscene?
  4. Which country is extremely strict about line – or queue – etiquette (serious violations include pushing or cutting in line, saving a place for another person to join you, allowing someone to cut in behind you or in front of you, or asking the person ahead of or behind you to save your place while you go to the restroom)?
  5. In this country the gentry stand extremely close to one another; if this happens, don’t back away as that is viewed as a rude gesture.
  6. Where is it considered to be extremely disrespectful to make the North American “A-OK” sign?
  7. Many citizens of this country find the term, “Native Americans,” offensive.
  8. In this country, beware of using the expression, “how are you?” as casually as you normally would in the U.S.; this greeting should be used only with people you know well and really want to know how they are!
  9. Never use the “V” for victory sign or the thumbs-up sign in this country; both are considered to be very vulgar, even obscene.
  10. On this continent, it is essential that you use only your right hand socially when shaking hands, eating (often without utensils), passing items, waving hello or goodbye, etc.  It is considered offensive to use your left hand.

Select your answers to the above questions from the following countries or continents:  Africa, Asia, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, England, Singapore and Uruguay.

Feel welcome to comment on any etiquette tips you might have for a particular location.  Meanwhile, if you’ll be traveling outside the U.S., have a wonderful trip and a stimulating, entertaining and educational experience!

Join me next Tuesday as my Summer Vacation Etiquette series concludes.

Until next time,


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