10 surefire ways to piss off the locals

by Mya

Reclining Budhha Bangkok Thailand China
It seems innocent enough—you found a fantastic green hat at the market and want to give it to a Chinese friend or host as way of expressing gratitude for his boundless hospitality. Don’t do it! Giving a green hat to a Chinese man is the equivalent of calling him a cuckold… not only does this insult him, it also insults his wife.

Argentina and Chile
The simple act of pouring a glass of wine is fraught with nuances that are unknown to the uninitiated. No matter how much you want to refill the glass of the gorgeous woman or man next to you, this is a task that is best left to the host… otherwise you could make a major faux pas (and ruin your chances with the subject of admiration for good).

Surfing the waves without the skills can get you into more than deep waters… it can get you into deep trouble in this part of the world, where people take surfing pretty seriously. Breach this one and you’re sure to receive some not-so-friendly nicknames… or maybe even a beating.

Listening attentively while someone is talking is a major insult because it communicates a lack of interest. How do you show that you’re interested and enthusiastic about the conversation? By interrupting it—again and again. Eiffel Tower Paris France

Thought you were going to impress the locals with the accent and slang you picked up from Steve Irwin on the Crocodile Hunter? Think again. Pepper your language with too many “mate”s and you’ll find that you have none. Krikey!

It is important to be aware of your feet and the heads of those around you. We’re not talking about kick-boxing here… we’re talking about etiquette. In Thailand, the feet are considered to be very dirty—they oughtn’t to be pointed at anyone, and certainly not a Buddha. If you are checking out a temple, be sure to remove your shoes and when you sit, tuck your feet under you so as not to direct these filthy offensive appendages at the Buddha, or the worshippers around you. And definitely don’t touch anyone’s head—the highest spot on the body is also the holiest. It is extremely insulting to touch someone’s head without permission and we’ve heard of fist-fights breaking out in response to head touching.

Never, ever give chrysanthemums to someone. What harm can there be in giving flowers? In France, these particular blooms are most closely associated with funerals. So, why not buy those yellow roses, instead? That’s a no-no, too—the color hints at the possibility that the husband is engaging in extramarital activities.

Red Lanterns Shanghai China The Dominican Republic
Punctuality is not appreciated here. Better said—don’t arrive “on time” and then ask others why they’re late. Being late is being on time. If someone says they’ll meet you at ten, what they really mean is that they’ll meet you sometime close to eleven. Don’t piss them off by showing up at ten and then getting angry and laying into them… make like a local and arrive fashionably late, too.

Not thirsty? Well, drink up anyways. If you are a visitor in someone’s home and are offered a drink or food and you decline, chances are you have offended your host. This holds true for much of the Middle East. When in doubt, just say yes.

The United States and Canada
Many foreigners find North Americans to be rude and feel they’re lacking in manners. On the contrary, North Americans obey a complex set of social codes that reflect a variety of cultural influences and that vary according to the situation and the people involved. The smallest behaviors can have overtones or politeness or, conversely, rudeness… and you’re sometimes walking a fine line between the two. For example, making not enough eye-contact while talking is considered to be very disrespectful, however, making too much eye contact is considered to be aggressive.

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6 comments… read them below or Add a Comment


In Thailand if you get into an argument with a local just stay away from them. They done want to “work things out”. Trying to understand the issues will more likely get you into more trouble than just letting it alone.


I have another one for Thailand. DO NOT EVER talk disrespectfully of the royal family – it’s an offence that could land you in jail. An Australian teacher living in Thailand was recently jailed for writing a book with some less-than-flattering comments about the Crown Prince. 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!

LX2 Fanatic

This could be some good comedy material… Keith, that’s good info to know. We certainly don’t want to get put into the slammer! Thanks!

The Jewel

Crikey….. spelt with a “c”
And for gods sake do not offer to throw a shrimp on the barbie!!


Another thing that apparently annoys Parisians is speaking English. Unfortunately i don’t know french so, last year, when i went on vacation to Paris i noticed that Parisians seem offended when you address to them in English.


I’m afraid it’s true – as much as we Australians love to have people from overseas to feel at ease and comfortable with us, don’t attempt our accent… and avoid the “mate” slang. It’s all in the intonation and how well you know the person. For the most part, “mate” is reserved for good friends, but an Australian can actually use the word to mean exactly the opposite as in the threat; “Watch it, mate… or you might yourself getting a thick ear!” As for the French, yes, don’t try using your schooldays French unless you’re female being served by a French male waiter. They don’t like the English, they don’t like Americans. They hate the Germans and pretty anyone who is not French. Unless yoru French is as good as Rousseau’s (or you’re related to Napoleon, who was Corsican, by the way) explain that you’re not English, American or German and could you please help me? Oh… or else make sure you’re seated next to a very attractive young female who speaks only English. I was staggered at how many French waiters suddenly had excellent English every time that happened with me.

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