Etiquette Dos and Don’ts When Abroad

Do you kiss on the cheek once, twice or even three times? Social etiquette when travelling overseas can be quite confusing.

While the subject of kissing is a bit of fun, some forms of etiquette need careful attention, otherwise you could end up very embarrassed, or worse, even imprisoned!

Here’s our guide of etiquette dos and don’ts when travelling abroad:


  • Russia and vodka go hand in hand and not accepting a drink is offensive to your host
  • When eating in Albania keep your hands on the table throughout your meal
  • Out of respect, cover your arms and legs when entering an Italian church
  • Don’t scratch your chin in Italy, it’s the equivalent of sticking up your middle finger.

Middle East

  • Do not carry alcohol around, or be drunk in a public place, in Dubai. You will be prosecuted and could face time in jail
  • Do not kiss in public in Dubai or you could be arrested
  • Topless sun bathing is prohibited in Dubai
  • Don’t give a ‘thumbs up’ when in Middle Eastern countries. It’s extremely offensive!
  • Don’t offend your Egyptian chef by adding salt to your meal
  • Do not kiss in public in Saudi Arabia or you could be subject to lashings
  • Leave your E-Cigarettes at home - you're not allowed to bring them into the United Arab Emirates.


  • Shake hands with your right, the left is the hand people wipe their bottoms with
  • It is offensive to drink alcohol and to smoke in public
  • Always take your shoes off when entering an India temple.


  • Avoid people watching in Nigeria, prolonged eye contact signifies disrespect
  • Queuing in South Africa, especially for a length of time, is common, however pushing in is very rude and will be met with much disgust
  • If you’re taking photos of the locals be friendly and let them look, especially the children; they are just curious and interested
  • Make a donation if you have visited a school, medical centre or such like as a sign of gratitude.

Far East

  • In Japan, teeth picking with a toothpick in public is completely acceptable so don’t sit opened mouthed when witnessing a local do this
  • Slurping your noodles from a bowl shows you’re enjoying your meal in Japan
  • In China, don’t point with your forefinger, it’s considered very rude
  • In holy places such as temples and shrines, don’t take photos without permission
  • Leave your chewing gum at home if you’re travelling to Singapore, it’s banned and carries fines if you spit it out
  • In Thailand, avoid passing anything over someone’s head as its very rude
  • Beckoning someone in Cambodia is a rude gesture
  • If you’re on business in Hong Kong don’t be late, you’ll be given a grace of just 59 seconds, after that your professionalism will be in question.

South America

  • Forget finger food in Chile, it’s considered very rude to eat without using a knife and fork
  • In Brazil, the thumb and forefinger A-OK sign is extremely offensive!
  • If you’re giving someone a bunch of flowers in Mexico avoid Marigolds as they are a sign of death
  • Don’t refer to the locals of Peru as Indos, it’s very rude and derogatory
  • Use your right hand to pour wine in Peru, it’s impolite to use the left.


  • Swearing publicly in parts of Australia could land you with a AUS $500 fine.

These are just some of the local customs that you may need to be aware of when travelling, however, it is advisable to check idividual travel advice for the country you are visiting on the Government's travel website