While English has become somewhat of a universal language globally, that doesn’t mean that you will automatically understand what is happening around you when you go globe-trotting. When you travel to a place that is very different from your hometown, it is important to know the basics about the rules and regulations, basically what is appropriate behavior. Rules and customs will differ from country to country and it is in your best interest to know what is against the law and what people may find offensive.
Many cultures have long-standing traditions that are only found in their countries. Learn the meaning of these customs, and you’ll be less likely to make a fool of yourself or be stuck downing a bottle of vodka because of your blunder.
10. The Calf Kidnapper in Jamaica
While American children are going to sleep, hoping for big bucks from their lost teeth under their pillows, Jamaican children are just hoping to live through the night.
Jamaican children are told horrible tales about a sort of reaper cow that will take them away in the night along with their tooth. The only way to ward off the calf is to put their tooth in a tin can and give it a hard shake. We’re guessing that these kids don’t have a good night’s sleep when they loose a tooth.
9. House Moving in the Philippines
Forget the moving trucks. In the Philippines, you start with the foundation. Filipinos often gather their friends and family to lift their houses whole and trek them off to their new locations.
This practice called Bayanihan is more common in rural areas where houses are commonly made of lighter weight materials like bamboo and nipa palm wood. It’s also not usually done to get a better piece of real estate. Most often, it is a Filipino style evacuation plan in the face of floods and landslides.
8. Insistence in Iran
It is expected that Iranians will perform Taarof, a practice of deference and respect to someone that they perceive as having a higher social class. When buying something at the market, this means that a shopkeeper may refuse payment several times, even though the custom is that he will eventually accept. The opposite is true with social invitations which are meant to be refused.
Forget Taarof, and you may find yourself walking away with “stolen” merchandise and sitting through a very uncomfortable dinner with an unprepared host.
7. Vodka in Russia
It’s a well-known fact that vodka is the Russian drink of choice. You might understand why it is their most common cause of death after learning their drinking etiquette.
You can’t place a glass back on the table after a toast until it is bottom up and empty. Don’t arrive at dinner late, or you’ll be forced to drink a whole glass of vodka to catch up with the rest of the party. Never toast with an empty glass. Doing so warrants the downing of the entire vodka bottle. If that doesn’t get your stomach pumping, not much else will.
6. Bathroom Ban in Indonesia
If you are planning to get married among the Indonesian Tidong people, make sure you empty your bladder first. Once two lovebirds tie the knot, they aren’t allowed to use the toilet for 72 hours. To make sure the rule is enforced, several people look after the couple and make sure they limit their intake of food and beverages. Going to the loo is a bad omen that could lead to a broken marriage, death of children at a young age or infidelity.
5. Blackening in Scotland
Another strange marriage tradition can be found in Scotland. During the blackening, the bride and groom are tied together in a bathtub, large crate or behind a pickup truck by their friends. Then they are paraded through the streets where passersby will pelt them with a whole array of disgusting material, such as rotten eggs, feathers, mud, shoe polish, soot and sometimes curry. According to the Scots, this tradition is supposed to ward off evil spirits. It is also supposed to help the couple to bond and prepare them for the hardships that they are going to endure and overcome during their married life.
4. Finger Cutting in Papua New Guinea
Grief is expressed with the hands in the Dani tribe of West Papua, New Guinea. Cutting off a finger is a way of showing the deceased how much you loved them. When a spouse passes away, the widow customarily cuts off his or her finger and buries it with the body of the beloved as a symbol of their love. The cutting is done by using extremely sharp tools such as an axe, machete or a knife, sometimes the finger is wrapped with rope before the cutting begins. That way their body and souls will be united eternally.
3. Baby Dropping in India
Each year during the first week in December, hundreds of babies are dropped from the Sri Santeswar Temple in Indi, Karnataka, India while the crowd sings and dances. The infants are dropped about 50 feet and caught in a cloth in the crowd below.
The ceremonial dropping is practiced by both Muslim and Hindu couples who receive a child after taking a vow at the temple. It is believed that this custom brings good luck, prosperity and health to the babes, most of whom are under two years old.
2. Intimidating Dance Moves in New Zealand
Rugby fans may have seen the All Blacks – the national rugby team of New Zealand – performing haka, a sort of chanting dance spectacle native to the Maori people of New Zealand. It involves intimidating facial expressions, stomping, clapping, chest-thumping, howling, chanting and tongue wagging in order to put fear into one’s opponents.
Although it is most often seen today by Kiwi sports teams, the ancient practice can also involve the telling of the tribe’s history through art and poetry, communicate peace and show respect, as it was used to show respect to daredevil Viggo Mortensen after the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
1. Cinnamon Showers in Denmark
If you are still single at 25 in Denmark, expect to pay a price. All unmarried men and women can be ambushed with cinnamon all day on their 25th birthday if they haven’t got a ring gracing that special finger. If that wasn’t enough motivation to get hitched, it gets worse. Those still unmarried at 30 get peppered with pepper.
An unmarried man is known as a Pebersvend or pepper journeyman, and an unmarried woman is called a Pebermø or pepper virgin. Apparently, these monikers come from days of old when spices, notably pepper, were sold by traveling salesmen who weren’t allowed to marry.