15 Strange Foreign Customs That Shock Americans

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As we trot around the globe, we’re bound to stumble upon a kaleidoscope of customs that might appear bizarre through our star-spangled spectacles.

From shoes on the table to copious amounts of coffee, the world is a treasure trove of strange traditions that could leave Americans scratching their heads in bemusement.

Haggling Over Prices

15 Strange Foreign Customs That Shock Americans
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For most Americans, haggling might be a lost art, celebrated only during yard sales or when buying a new car. But haggling is a daily symphony of commerce in many parts of the world. Picture this: bustling markets, vibrant with colors and overflowing with goods, where the first price you hear is more like a suggestion rather than a rule.

Buyers and sellers dance in a ballet of negotiation, where the savvy shopper can score a bargain, and the uninitiated end up paying a ‘tourist tax.’ So, unless you want to be the one who paid a ‘golden price’ for that brass teapot, you’d better brush up on your haggling skills before you hit the markets abroad!

Bowing as A Greeting

15 Strange Foreign Customs That Shock Americans
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Say sayonara to the traditional American handshake – it’s all about the bow when you’re in Japan. For Americans, swapping a firm handshake for what seems like a mini-yoga session can be a bit of a shock.

This bowing isn’t just a wave of the hat – it’s laced with layers of meaning, signaling respect and humility. The deeper the bow, the more profound the respect. So, next time you’re in the land of sushi and samurai, remember – bows are how they roll!


15 Strange Foreign Customs That Shock Americans
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Oh, the Spanish Siesta! A concept that leaves many Americans scratching their heads. This beloved tradition of grabbing a midday nap is customary in Spain and some Latin American countries. While we’re hunched over our desks, wolfing down a quick sandwich, the Spanish kick back for a leisurely two-to-three-hour break to eat, relax, and nap!

Imagine it: midday dreams becoming an integral part of your daily routine. It’s a cultural difference that leaves many Americans green with envy, questioning our relentless, non-stop work culture. How’s that for an afternoon delight?

Removing Your Shoes Before Entering a Home

15 Strange Foreign Customs That Shock Americans
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Here’s a curveball of a custom for the sneaker-loving Americans – in many Asian countries, it’s customary to ditch your shoes before entering someone’s home. Not just a nod to cleanliness, this tradition is deeply rooted in keeping the outside world’s impurities, well, outside.

Imagine strolling in with your mud-caked boots and traipsing dirt over their immaculate floors. So, to all the American adventurers out there, if you’re invited into an Asian home, be sure to leave your kicks at the door. It’s not just polite; it’s a mark of respect.

Kissing on both cheeks: A Standard Greeting in Many European Countries

15 Strange Foreign Customs That Shock Americans
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Get ready to pucker up, Americans! If you find yourself in several European nations, you may be in for a bit of a culture shock as you’re greeted with a peck on each cheek. No, it’s not an overly affectionate invasion of personal space but a time-honored social ritual.

From Paris to Madrid, double-cheek kissing is as common as a handshake at a business meeting in the States. So, leave your comfort zone behind because when in Europe, you do as the Europeans do!

Taking off Your Hat When Entering Someone’s House

15 Strange Foreign Customs That Shock Americans
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Hold onto your hats, folks, or take them off! If you’re an American visiting a Russian friend, you might be caught off guard when asked to remove your hat as you walk indoors.
You may think, “But it’s a part of my outfit!”

Yet, in Russia, leaving your hat on indoors is considered rude, a social faux pas akin to wearing white after Labor Day.

Eating With Your Hands

15 Strange Foreign Customs That Shock Americans
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Americans might be taken aback when they see folks in India and parts of the Middle East digging into their meals with their hands. But, before you go all germophobic on us, let’s clarify something: it’s not only sanitary, it’s also deeply rooted in cultural tradition.

Many believe that eating with your hands fosters a more intimate connection with your food, awakening your senses and making the meal a more wholesome, gratifying experience. Talk about getting handsy with your food!

Slurping Noodles Loudly

15 Strange Foreign Customs That Shock Americans
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Slurping noodles loudly in public might get you scandalized glances if you’re in the States. However, in Japan, it’s an entirely different ball game. Picture this: you’re sitting in a bustling Ramen shop in Tokyo, and the air is filled with a symphony of loud slurps.

Fear not; this is not the onset of a noodle apocalypse. It’s the highest form of flattery to the chef! In Japan, noisy noodle slurping is a sign of genuinely relishing the meal. So, Americans, when in Japan, don’t be shy to slurp your heart out!

Giving Gifts With Two Hands

15 Strange Foreign Customs That Shock Americans
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Gift-giving in South Korea is not a casual one-handed affair—oh no. In a land where respect is woven into the very fabric of society, even the humble act of giving a gift becomes a profound gesture of honor. It’s a two-handed affair, quite literally.

If you’re handing over a present with just one, it’s akin to metaphorically slapping the receiver in the face disrespectfully. So, remember, when it comes to passing that beautifully wrapped box of chocolates, use both hands. It’s twice as lovely, and you won’t unintentionally start a diplomatic incident at the dinner party.

Eating Horse Meat

15 Strange Foreign Customs That Shock Americans
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Brace yourselves, Americans, for a culinary tradition that might make you gallop toward the horizon. In Mongolia and Kazakhstan, horse meat isn’t just an exotic indulgence; it’s a dietary staple. Yes, you read that right!

While you might be used to petting these majestic creatures or enjoying a leisurely trot around the paddock, they’re firing up the grill over there. And before you cringe, know that horse meat is lean, packed with protein, and, according to many a global gourmand, quite delicious. So, how about a horse burger for your next cookout? Just kidding… or maybe not.

Drinking Hot Water

15 Strange Foreign Customs That Shock Americans
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In China, drinking hot water is common because it offers significant health benefits. While Americans might furrow their brows at swapping their beloved iced lattes for hot water, the Chinese swear by its ability to aid digestion, improve skin health, and even ward off evil spirits.

“Traditional and alternative streams of medicine have often linked hot water to better health, so perhaps it’s time to make the switch.” Ayurvedic expert Dr. Nitika Kohli said. So next time you find yourself in China, don’t be taken aback if your request for a glass of cold water is met with a steaming cup instead. It’s just their way of saying ‘cheers’ to good health!

Avoiding the Number 4; It’s Considered Unlucky

15 Strange Foreign Customs That Shock Americans
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Americans might raise an eyebrow when they realize that, in China and other East Asian cultures, the number 4 is studiously avoided – it’s as if they were playing a never-ending game of ‘hot potato’ with this digit!

Fascinatingly, the reason for this is linguistic rather than mathematical: the words for ‘four’ and ‘death’ sound eerily similar in Mandarin and other East Asian languages. So, if you are in an elevator in China, don’t be shocked if you don’t see a 4th-floor button. It’s not a glitch, just a cultural aversion to the deathly number four!

The Concept of “Personal Space” Varies

15 Strange Foreign Customs That Shock Americans
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Americans, by and large, have an almost sacred regard for personal space. A conversation typically takes place at arm’s length—dare to breach that unspoken boundary, and you might just be met with an uncomfortable shuffle backward. But venture beyond the US borders and the concept of personal space may shrink faster than a cheap shirt in a hot wash.

In many parts of the world, folks don’t bat an eyelid at close-quarter conversations, jostling markets, or packed public transport. It’s all part of the local charm, but it can leave some Americans feeling like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs!

Celebrating “Day of the Dead” in Mexico

15 Strange Foreign Customs That Shock Americans
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Regarding unusual customs that might rattle the average American, Mexico’s “Day of the Dead” stands out. Don’t let the name spook you, though! This vibrant celebration, full of colorful skulls, marigold flowers, and festive parades, is a heartwarming commemoration of the dearly departed, not a macabre fright-fest.

While many Americans tend to view death as a solemn or taboo topic, Mexicans embrace it with open arms and sweet treats. It’s a literal party in the graveyard, folks. It’s a concept as surprising as finding guacamole included for free at your favorite taco joint.

Throwing Plates and Dishes at Weddings in Greece

15 Strange Foreign Customs That Shock Americans
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Ready your arm and aim because a wedding isn’t complete in Greece until someone shatters a plate or two. Yes, you heard that right. The Greeks refuse to settle for a simple “Mazel Tov!” Instead, the happy couple’s weddings are celebrated in a hailstorm of ceramic fragments, a tradition believed to bring good luck.

And don’t worry, it’s not your grandmother’s china they’re using. This custom is a wild departure from the American tradition of carefully packing away wedding china as keepsakes. So, remember to duck in Greece if you hear a shout of “Opa!”

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