When it comes to cultural differences, it’s always the little details that make a difference. Often, travelers are not aware of their mistakes – and their habits from back home might make them look bad in a new country. America is no exception: knowing what is totally “cheap” in America but normal in your hometown will save you some trouble – and your reputation.
Here are a few things you might want to watch out for.
1. Bring Your Own Food At A Sit-Down Café
Image Source: Bbc
This is an obvious no-no in the U.S. and most of the Western world. Those who actually dare doing it are frowned upon by the patrons. Except in South Korea: munching on another establishment’s pastries is acceptable, even if you happen to be in a place that sells desserts. On birthday occasions, Korean parties gather at a café while a person bring a whole cake… from somewhere else. Far from being inconsiderate, it’s a matter of preferences: they may like the drinks and setting better at one place and the food better somewhere else.
While Americans often double check whether they can have a better deal, there is a limit to how ‘pushy’ you can be. Not in Asia or in the Middle East: over there, it is expected that you engage in tough negotiations with the sales clerk. From Dongdaemun in Seoul to Moroccan souks or Chinese markets, negotiation strategies vary and illustrate the differences in cultures’ ways of thinking and communication.
3. Eating Yogurt Past Their Expiration Date
Image Source: Insights
Now, don’t judge Europeans on this one: nothing bad will happen if you have certain foods even after the date stamped on the package. A means to increase sales, confusing labels are the reason why 40% of the food gets wasted in America. While you may notice a difference in the product’s taste, color and/or texture, they are safe for consumption up to a few weeks past their sell-by date.
4. Accepting Samples To Get Into A Store
Considered outright harassment in the US, taking a sample of the product you’ve been handed is an effective marketing technique in Asia. In Korea, there’s no walking around Myeongdong without being offered five different try-outs just to walk in. And taking them by no means signifies that you don’t have the money to buy anything: it’s just the way companies court demanding their clients.
5. Spending Your Day At A Museum
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Probably considered like you’re free riding the system, spending your day at an expo just because you’ve purchased your entry ticket is not considered thrifty in Europe. Perhaps because museums are large and include (excellent) cafés and restaurant options, people spend an inordinately amount of time at their favorite museums. Don’t be too quick to judge: ‘culture’ is an activity in its own, and one that we find enjoyable.
6. Overstaying At A Café
In the Unites States, overstaying at a cafe is a common trait of students, struggling artists and freelancers that puts you in the ‘don’t-have-my-act-together’ box. But in other countries is different: spending long hours at a café while ordering nothing is normal in France, parts of the Middle East and the Mediterranean – in sum, people doing “not nothing” is not a cultural flaw, but a way of life.
7. Walking And Public Transportation
Image Source: Thedialog
While Americans drive or cab everywhere, walking and taking the bus or subway is not the way of the poor elsewhere. In Europe, where cities are smaller and walkable, it’s just what you do to stay active. Obviously New York City is the anomaly, but in many parts of the US, especially rural areas, it is considered normal to drive to your neighbors house, that might only be a short 2 minute walk away.
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Tipping is the American way. Whether you are grabbing a cab, buying a latte, or enjoying a meal, a tip is not only expected, it is how employees are motivated and pushed to excel. Most foreign countries do not work within the tipping system. In Japan it is considered terribly rude, in Latin America it is just not done, and in Europe it varies but it is no way near the percentage that your average American would tip.
One important thing to note: most foreign countries have higher sales or Value Added Taxes. This means you are still paying the same additional amount, but in the US a larger proportion ends up in the hands of the person who actually did the work, as opposed to funding the local government.