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"No One Is Trying To Be Offensive — It's Just How We Are Culturally": People Are Sharing Societal Norms And Expectations That Travelers Should Know Before Visiting

Didn't realize doing this in Paris made me completely stand out as a tourist...

Whenever you visit a new city or country, there are subtle yet important cultural norms and behaviors that, as an outsider, you might not be familiar with. So redditor u/AkselsArtHouse asked, "What should people know before traveling to your country?" I also combed through advice on r/Travel. Here are some responses from people all around the world.

1. "In South Korea you should always be extra deferential to elders, especially if you're young — say, under 30. We show respect by giving elders your seat on the subway, letting them cut the line, and other things like that."

A rear view of a woman sitting on a bus

2. "In Paris, wear pants. I'm looking at you, Americans. If you wear shorts, you're either a kid, a skateboarder, or you're at the beach (and there are no beaches in Paris). We wear pants all year round."

People walking in a Parisian neighborhood

3. "When visiting Cape Town, make sure to carefully check the weather conditions at Table Mountain. Different conditions like wind and fog affect when it's open. It may appear like a totally fine day in the city, yet the mountain could be closed because of high winds on the cable car. If you are there for a short trip, visit Table Mountain at your first opportunity."

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway in Cape Town

4. "In Japan, bow to people who bow to you. In fact, bow to people in general when they give you a service. It's a sign of respect, and it goes a long way."

Unrecognizable Japanese inn owner greeting

5. "In Morocco, make a point to stay at riads — townhouses with internal courtyards — whenever you can. They vary in price and room type (think: hostel dormitory to fancy and high-end). They are invariably unique, well decorated, and staffed by friendly helpful people. Most have a courtyard and roof terrace that offer a nice place to relax only a few meters from the chaos outside. Finding Riads can be a problem if it is your first trip to the medina, as they are often tucked down winding alleys, and some barely have a sign on their front door. Check a map before you arrive, and note down the name and address in case you need to ask people for help."

6. "In London if you’re on the Tube, stand on the right. That is, unless you want a horde of tutting Londoners staring angrily at the back of your head."

The entrance to a Tube station in London

7. "In Sydney, avoid 'harbour cruises.' Instead, take a public ferry ride from Circular Quay to Watson's Bay or Manly. It's a great, beautiful harbour experience, and it's quite cheap."

Boats in Sydney Harbour

8. "In Spain, always order the menú del día. Lunch in Spain is the biggest meal of the day, and many Spanish restaurants offer a three-course (aka the menú del día), which also comes with a drink (sometimes this even includes wine) and bread. You typically have a few choices for each course, and rarely does the total exceed €15."

A menu del dia sign in the front of a restaurant

9. "If you are visiting France, think beyond Paris. You will see while traveling that France has some beautiful places like the Côtes de Granite rose in Brittany, many mountain ranges like the Alps, the Pyrenees or the Central Massif, the Auvergne's Volcanoes, the Calanques in the South, and other beautiful, big cities. France is quite a small country compared to the US, so you can easily travel across the country in less than a day on train or plane or even by car."

Beautiful nature of Calanques on the azure coast of France

10. "If you come to Brazil, don't miss the beaches in the Northeast. Here you'll find some of the best beaches in the world. Think: white sand, warm waters, hot all year long, easy to access by car, and usually close to great, cheap restaurants. No other place in the world has beaches like these."

A beautiful, remote beach in Brazil

11. "If you travel to the Netherlands, buy a train ticket and travel across the country. Visit small towns and see the nature. Book a hotel somewhere you like and spend the night. The Netherlands is much more than Amsterdam."

Windmills and river at sunrise panoramic in Kinderdijk, Netherlands

12. "In Sweden we are very informal. Everyone is on a first name basis, and we don't use titles. If your doctor's name is Maria Johnsson, you address her as 'Maria' during your visit. And just because we don't act as excited as a dog when their master is coming home, it doesn't mean you are unwelcome here. We're just a little toned down."

The Old Town in Stockholm, Sweden

13. "America is MASSIVE. You cannot see the Grand Canyon and NYC and Vegas and Seattle in one trip unless you are a) here for a long time b) have money to spend on all those flights, or c) really, really like driving."

A car on a road trip through the USA

14. "In Scotland, don't call it scotch. It's just called whisky here, without the 'e.' And we will assume you want single malt Scottish whisky unless you specify otherwise."

Whisky Pour from a bottle into a cut glass tumbler

15. "Don't participate in so-called 'slumdog tourism' in India. Going on guided tours of slums and taking photos is akin to taking photos of a human zoo. The people who live in slums aren't animals, and you are not on a safari."

A multi-family home in India with laundry drying out the windows

16. "In Iceland, shower completely naked in the dressing room before you get into our hot springs and swimming pools. No one cares or is thinking about your body. It's just a hygienic policy here, and everyone does it."

Woman bathing in Icelandic geothermal blue hot spring at sunset

17. "In Denmark Do NOT stand in the bike lane. You WILL get yelled at and/or run over."

Two cyclists speeding along blue city cycle path

18. "In the US, tipping in restaurants isn’t just polite. It is expected and basically required. Waitstaff are paid drastically under the minimum wage, and they make their money through tips. This is also why most waiters in the US are aggressively friendly, come to check on you often, and even rush you out at the end of the meal. They want you to like them so you leave a tip, and they need to turn tables quickly to get more customers. Oh, and water is free in restaurants."

A woman reviewing the bill at a restaurant

19. "Foreigners always assume everything in Brazil is close to the beach, but Brazil is HUGE. A lot of states are very, very far from the coast, so do your research and choose where to visit accordingly. And even if you live in a city with beaches, it can still be quite a trek to get there. I live in Rio, and if i want to go to the beach, I have to take a 50-minute subway trip."

An aerial view of Rio

20. "When you visit Greece, think beyond Santorini and the major beachy islands. There are so many fantastic off-the-beaten-path places. Just for starters, Mani is a beautiful little village. Kea is a tiny island a short boat ride from Athens with great authentic food. Matala is a hippie town with amazing caves you can explore."

The main town on the Greek island of Folegandros

21. "In the US, people here tend to be friendly even if they've just met you, and especially if you are visiting from another country. You might feel like we are interrogating you, but people honestly are just interested in other cultures and will try to find a way to relate to you. Just be prepared and maybe have some chit chat handy for those situations. Or, practice how to explain to someone that you don't want to talk to them in a way that doesn't sound rude."

22. "In the Philippines always remove your shoes when entering someone's house. Most likely, they have guest 'slippers' for you to use, but never bring your shoes inside the house. It is disrespectful and dirty. And never turn down food if it's offered. That straight-up will assure you will never be invited again."

A pair of rubber slippers on a tile floor

23. "In Hong Kong, prioritize exploring the New Territories. My biggest regret about my time in Hong Kong was not exploring them enough. Tai Long Wan, Lantau Island, Lamma Island, Sai Kung, and the neighboring areas are some of the most incredible beaches I've ever been to. They are quiet and serene, and the surrounding sleepy neighborhoods have great local markets, restaurants, and phenomenal hiking."

An ocean view in Lamma Island in Hong Kong

24. "To save a ton of money in Iceland, consider renting an Airbnb with a kitchen. Eating out is expensive, and you'll pay around $30–$50 for an entrée just about anywhere. Cooking at home is a great way to save cash."

Cityscape with Reynisdrangar rock formations in the background in Vík, Iceland

25. "If you're traveling to Thailand and want a beach vacation, think beyond Phuket. Most travelers think of Phuket when they think of the Thai islands, but there are so many amazing islands worth checking out. Koh Lanta is a quiet island with very little nightlife. It's never very crowded, so it's perfect for honeymooners or families with young kids. Koh Phi Phi is by far the most picturesque island I've seen. There are no cars because it's so small, but everything is in walking distance. Koh Chang on the East Coast is my favorite island because it's the only one that still feels authentically Thai. It's much less crowded than the other islands, and lots of locals live there."

A desolate beach in Thailand

26. "In the Middle East, please don't wear shoes, take photos, or make loud noise when visiting mosques. These are holy places and we're there to pray, so it's distracting and rude when tourists do this."

Blue tiles of a mosque

27. "I’m from Portugal, and everyone loves going to the Algarve on holiday. I can understand some of the hype because the beaches are great and you can pretty much count on good weather, but it's overrated. Everything is crowded, expensive, and the food is mediocre. Instead of the ever-popular Algarve, I would recommend the coast of Alentejo, which has the same nice weather, much better food, nicer people, and is much more fun."

A quiet beach in the Alentejo region of Portugal

28. "If you take the subway in NYC and you're in a crowded car near the door, PLEASE step out of the car when it stops to let people out. You will be the first one back on — don’t worry. It’s so rude to forcibly stand there and expect people to squeeze around you, and you'll make others miss their stop."

NYC subway platform at rush hour

29. "When you go to the Louvre in Paris to see 'Mona Lisa,' turn around and admire Paolo Veronese's 'The Wedding at Cana.' I tell this to every person I know who asks for travel advice about Paris and the Louvre. It’s the most amazing piece and it's truly overshadowed by the 'Mona Lisa.' I’ll never forget the feeling when everyone else was busy looking at the da Vinca and I was the only one to turn around and look at 'The Wedding at Cana.'"

Visitors wearing face masks look at the painting Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum

30. "In New Orleans, instead of spending your time on Bourbon Street there are literally dozens of other cool neighborhoods filled with bars, cafés, and shops where you can carry your drinks around. Go to the Warehouse District, Uptown, Frenchmen Street, or even Decatur."

Scenery in the Garden District of New Orleans

31. "Visiting the Statue of Liberty in NYC is amazing, but it takes a full day to experience it. Instead, I always suggest jumping on the Staten Island Ferry. It's a ton of fun, it's absolutely free, and you get amazing views of both Lower Manhattan and Lady Liberty."

Passengers travel on the Staten Island Ferry in New York City

32. "When in London don’t pay for an overpriced and gimmicky sightseeing bus tour. There are several amazing public bus routes through the most famous parts of the city that cost just £1.55. Google the best routes and go!"

Busses on Oxford Street in London

33. "In Thailand when you meet someone (or see someone who you haven't seen in a long time) they will often make a comment about your weight (whether you look heavy or trim). No one is trying to be offensive — it's just how the Thai are."

A Tuktuk in Thailand

34. "In Ireland our buses and trains never leave on time. Do not believe the timetables. Download the official apps before arriving. The real-time information is somewhat reliable."

A train next to the sea in Ireland

What is something that tourists should be aware of before visiting your home city or country? Tell us your most helpful tips in the comments.

Note: Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.