Acquaint yourself with the local customs and laws of your destination
Before you leave, it’s worthwhile to research the local customs of the country you’re visiting. Each culture has its own customs and laws, some of which would seem downright quirky, and being oblivious to these might get you into trouble, and may even result in some jail time. For instance, insulting the Thai royal family will land you in prison – an Australian school teacher recently discovered this law the hard way when he was sentenced to several years in jail after writing some less-than-flattering comments on the Thai Crown Prince in his book. Talking about the Thai royal family, I once saw a tourist on the beach in Phuket who wanted to stop a bank note from blowing away (he was paying for some food) by nailing it with his foot. The scene that ensued was downright bizarre. The locals were furious, the police were called in and the poor man was the subject of an avalanche of insults from the locals. Reason: the King’s image is on every Thai bank note and the biggest insult to him is putting your big toe on his image! Other examples: in Japan, if you’re having a meal or drinks with a group of locals, it’s impolite to decline an offer of a top-up from the host. In most Asian countries, accepting or giving anything (such as gifts, change, business cards, etc..) with your left hand is not done. Use your right hand always, or even better, both hands (especially for gifts and business cards).
I recently read an article on Tripbase’s blog “10 surefire ways to piss off the locals”. It’s a hilarious article that provides an insight into some of the quirkier customs around the world. Other interesting articles on the subject include these from Travel+Leisure and Budget Travel.
Travel safe and wise by being informed.