Surprising Things That Are Considered Polite In The United States But Rude Somewhere Else.

Smiling at your neighbor on the sidewalk. Hugging an acquaintance. Saying "uh huh", or "no problem" when someone says "thank you." These are all of things that are considered polite in American culture, but have you ever thought that they might be considered rude in another part of the world? Here, 28 people share something that is considered polite in the United States but rude somewhere else.


1/28. In China if you say "please" and "thank you" to your friends or family, they think you're being fake.

They believe people that close don't need to express those things because it's already understood by the close relationship.

Darcmosch

2/28. I was in Greece and my dad put his hand up to say thank you to a car that allowed us to pass. Afterwards, they beeped at us angrily. We were informed by my uncle who lives in Greece that it means something along the lines of "screw off.

DragonSexKing

3/28. Tanzania. You never, ever take your shoes off unless you're at home by yourself. Not at a person's house, and NEVER out in public. When you get out of bed in the morning you put on slippers immediately and some women refuse to even let their husbands see their feet. In the past few years walking around in socks has become more acceptable but many still consider it taboo. In 24 years of marriage my dad said he saw my mother's feet twice and both times it was an accident. If you go to the pool they have special shoes to wear but in low income areas you'll just see a 50 kids in the pool in their sneakers.

RoblerLobler

4/28. Tipping people. For example, in Burundi, tipping someone implies that the person receiving the tips is poor and unable survive by themselves.

TalkinLightPost

5/28. In the United States, it's customary for the waiter/waitress to give you the check when your meal is presumed to be finished. S/he will ask if you want the check and give it to you if you say yes. But nearly everywhere else, you have to ask for the check because giving it to you is like demanding that you leave.

Dorkmax

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6/28. Smiling. In the U.S it's common courtesy, but when I went to Jordan, women smiling was looked down upon and scandalous.

Nowaynoelle12

7/28. I've been told that doing the "peace sign" with the back of your hand facing the other person actually means "screw you" in some countries.

Beer_4_breakfast

8/28. It is considered INCREDIBLY insulting to call person older than you by their name in many countries.

Also calling your boss by their names is not considered a very good practice and employees are encouraged to use "Sir/Madam" with bosses.

Lazyass_tiger

9/28. Driving on the right-hand side of the road. Everyone in Britain honks at you and curses when you do that.

Bigfinnrider

10/28. Indian here. Moving out of your house. I understand the Western world sees moving out of your house when youre an adult a compulsion while most Indians stay with their families and eventually end up taking care of their parents. I find it a bit weird that Americans find it kitsch when people are still staying at home with their parents when their over a certain age.

[deleted]

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11/28. It's socially acceptable small talk to ask what someone does for a living in the States. In a lot of places it's considered an insult.

CruzaComplex

12/28. "Excuse me" is not interchangeable with "sorry" in Canada, I've noticed. We use them the same, respectively, but I've gotten dirty looks for saying "excuse me" on multiple occasions.

KillThemInJarsYo

13/28. A coworker spent some time in Indonesia for work. He was having a work planning meeting at his house with some of his coworkers (3 men, 2 women, all of whom were also from other countries) and didn't think anything of it. The next day, the 'neighborhood elder' stopped by and told him that it was not okay that he had women in his house that he wasn't married to. He said that the elder didn't outright threaten him, but the implication was pretty clear. Don't do it again!

Population-Tire

14/28. As a Brit, when I say "thank you" to an American, and they reply with "uh huh" rather than "You're welcome" or "no problem" it always seems very rude, though I know it isn't intended that way.

HeartyBeast

15/28. The way Americans interact with professors and teachers. As an Indian who is in the US for his graduate studies, I find it sometimes edging on disrespectful the way students interact with teachers.

Back in India, there is a LOT of respect given to teachers - so much so that the informality that is maintained between students here is slightly scary. I remember in about the first two weeks over here, a professor handed out a pop-quiz for the third consecutive class at the beginning of the class and one of the guys just exclaimed, "Professor! Another Quiz??? Have MERCY, Professor!!!"

And I swear I was only thinking at that time, this guys gonna be kicked outta this class for good, sent home and banished from the university and instead the professor looked at him and smiled and actually laughed. He just agreed that he felt it was too much but reassured all of us that he was only doing it for us to better understand the course.

[deleted]

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16/28. Answering "How are you?" with a brushoff/non-committal answer.

PocketFullOfTime

17/28. Differences in table manners and how my mom figured out the differences between the Dutch and the American. Like having one hand on your lap while eating. My mom does this and when she first met my grandparents (they're Dutch) they thought she was very rude doing that but didn't say anything.

In the Netherlands you should keep both hands above the table (this stems from the ye olden days where people were afraid that you'd have a knife under the table) She on the other hand was doing what she was told to be good manners.

She also switches her fork from her left to her right hand after she is done cutting and puts down the knife. This was also a big no no for my grandparents. So she is up to 2 strikes on her first visit just after eating.

Later they are having tea. Well they ask her if she wants to drink something and she says coffee and they think that is very weird because its tea-time and they offer her a cookie and then put the plate of cookies on the table.

So after a while she decides to take a second cookie because the plate was right in front of her. Strrrrrike 3! My grandparents didn't approve and my dad just thought it was hilarious and didn't explain the situation. Only after a couple of years he explained to them that what she was doing was considered very proper in America and was showing her good manners.

maybeawesome

18/28. Blowing your nose. Americans would rather you blow your nose and then be quiet instead of slurping snot back up into your nose every six seconds.

When I lived there, it boggled my mind that the Japanese would rather you sniffle constantly than hear you blow your nose.

LeahTT

19/28. Referring to someone present in the third person by a pronoun (i.e. "He could do this" or "She is getting it for me" rather than " could do this." or "The other lady is getting it for me").

Incredibly rude in the UK, and it was one of the things I took the longest to get used to when I moved from the UK to the US.

rpjs

20/28. Using the left hand for some things. In certain countries (mostly in the Middle East, India, and parts of Africa), the left hand is considered very dirty because, historically, that was the hand used for certain sanitary activities.

So using it to initiate a handshake, touch food, touch someone else, or present a gift can be considered pretty disgusting in some places.

Donald_Keyman

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21/28. Hugging people as a greeting. Or kissing them on both cheeks. My family is mostly English and Canadian. When my parents moved to the US they were shocked and really uncomfortable by how touchy feely people are. You hug a relative or very close friend if you haven't seen them for a while, not someone you met in passing or a friend of a friend you have never spoken to.

It's rubbed off on me too, even though I was born in raised here. I'll usually extend my hand out expecting a handshake and find myself trapped in someones arms.

I'm sure this isn't the case for every family. Just how mine is.

Anamperstand

22/28. Not necessarily rude, but definitely different. Whilst in the US/UK, finishing your plate is a sign of gratitude for the meal, and is polite. In some parts of the world, it is seen as not being full, and the host must then give you more food.

IfYouRun

23/28. In the U.S., someone dropped a dollar on the street and I helped them by pinning it to the ground with my toe so it wouldn't blow away in the crazy wind.

In Thailand, don't ever step on money. Like, ever.

Arsinik

24/28. The further you get into cities in America the more isolated you are supposed to be. Eye contact on elevators is unnerving, actually speaking may indicate an emergency (help! I'm dying). However, the further you get from city centers the more human you are expected to be. I'll never forget my family's genuine astonishment when we were greeted with a smile and wave by everybody as we drove through a small town in east Tennessee. We thought we were being followed by the mayor or something. Honestly, everyone waved and smiled.

Arctubus

25/28. Showing up on time. In Argentina, showing up on time is equivalent to being an hour early in America. Since the host of a party/event may still be preparing, it would be awkward and bold to come at such a early time. Not only Argentina, but other Spanish countries also have a lax sense of time.

ArcticRow

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26/28. Texan here. I dunno if it was rude or just surprising/funny, but I've gotten some stunned silences referring to European clients as "y'all" on a conference call.

[deleted]

27/28. Calling women you don't know "ma'am." In a lot of states, it's treated as the height of respect, but in a lot of other places, it's the equivalent to saying, "Hey you, old lady."

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28/28. Not necessarily polite, but people in many areas of the United states will bring God into casual conversation. Here in Vancouver that's considered strange and overly personal.

LR5

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