Don’t cut your lettuce with a knife and fork in a restaurant in France or buy carnations as a present in Germany. These are just some of the faux pas that can cause upset when you move to a new country.
In France, chefs can be insulted customers who cut up their carefully arranged salads and regard it as meaning the salad was not prepared properly. People are advised to fold the salad leaves with their fork so it can fit into their mouth.
One of the biggest insults in Germany is to arrive at someone’s house with a bunch of carnations as a present. These flowers are used as funeral flowers and never brought into the house. If you arrive with other flowers, make sure they are an even number as an odd number is considered unlucky.
In Italy, making small talk with a stranger is considered rude as Italians are generally more reserved that other nations. People are advised to say good morning and good evening when appropriate as longer conversations can be regarded as unsettling.
These are just some of the cultural differences highlighted by travel firm cheapflights.com, which has compiled a list aimed specifically at Americans travelling to Europe.
It also advises people to avoid not finishing a meal in Spain as your host might think it is because the food is terrible, and to avoid using the two fingered peace sign in the UK, as seen from the wrong angle it is a terrible insult.
And it seems that Americans need some advice when visiting neighbouring countries as well. The advice says that in Mexico, you should avoid arriving at a house with an expensive present, as this may be regarded as a bribe. In Canada, avoid using a thumbs down sign as many hand gestures are regarded with disapproval.
In the Dominican Republic, it is claimed that failure to maintain eye contact when talking with someone can be regarded as not being interested.
Further afield, in China people should avoid leaving their chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice as this mimics a funeral ritual where chopsticks and rice are left by the bed of a recently deceased person. The correct etiquette is to leave chopsticks by the side when not in use.
‘’Part of the fun of travelling is going outside your comfort zone and seeing the differences between cultures, but it’s important to be aware of your surroundings to avoid offending your hosts,’ said Oonagh Shiel, spokesman for Cheapflights.
‘Who’d have thought giving a gift in Mexico could be misconstrued, that carnations might go down badly in Germany or that folding your lettuce in France could save your blushes? It seems that food can be rude but with some simple tips it’s easy to ensure things go smoothly,’ she added.