5 things to know before you go

Published April 16th, 2012

Cultural differences can make or break a holiday. Embrace a custom and you will be treated to a unique experience, play ignorant and you could land yourself in a lot of trouble. As such, it is important to do your research and brush up on the cultural differences before you travel. Here are five things you should know before you go.



A casual wave or handshake may be enough to make a new friend in Australia, but in other parts of the world you’ll need to adapt your greeting skills. For example, next time you holiday in Italy or Spain, don’t be afraid to embrace your new friend with a kiss on each cheek – even if they are the same sex as you. In Asia it is customary to bow, but how you bow can vary from a full bow from the waist in Japan to Hong Kong where they clasp their hands below their chin and nod. Other acceptable greetings from around the world include a relaxed salute in Bangladesh or the shaking of both hands in Gabon.



The world may be full of different customs and traditions but one thing we all have in common is food – we all got to eat! In Western countries you can sit down to a hearty meal with a knife and fork while in Asian countries, chop sticks are the chosen tools. In the Middle East, India and some parts of Africa locals do away with tools all together and simply eat with their left hand, while in Chile, where meals are quite formal,  it is rude to eat any food with your hands at all, even appetizers. When faced with chop sticks or going au natural, be polite and at least attempt to eat like a local before reaching for a fork.



You may be able to get away with a public smooch in Paris, the city of love, but other places will be less than impressed with your outpour of affection. When on holiday in India, the Middle East or some parts of Asia, avoid locking lips or holding hands in public as you may be met with shocked stares or an unwelcom run in with the law.



You may think your latest jeans and singlet are the height of fashion, but other cultures may think otherwise. Fashion trends don’t always translate across other cultures and what one deems attractive may be frowned upon in another. After all, there’s a reason why Snookie is considered to be a style leader at the Jersey Shore and laughed at pretty much everywhere else. In some parts of the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, it is important to cover up including a scarf to cover your head, as the country’s dress code is very strict. Even on a tropical holiday in Fiji, it is important to be respectful and cover up when walking in public. Leave the bikinis for the beach only.


Lauren Burvill

Australian born but London based, I'm a sucker for big cities and small tropical islands. When travelling, I like eating like a local, dressing like a local, but staying in 5 star style. Have a travel story to share? Tweet me @laurenburvill.