5 Absurd Culture Norms I’ve Witnessed In My Travels

One of my favorite reasons to travel is to experience new cultures and to witness nuances to simple things that we take for granted that may have an entirely different meaning in another place. Take for example tipping; in the US we are accustomed to tip in almost all service based situations but surely when we dine at a restaurant, however across the pacific in Japan the tipping culture couldn’t be any more polarized than that of the US. Tipping is not only frowned upon but could also be considered an insult, “here’s 10 bucks ya filthy animal” 🙂


Check out the list below of some of the weirdest culture norms I’ve encountered in my travels.

1. Pack The Air Freshener: If flushing toilet paper down the toilet sounds perfectly normal to you then you probably don’t live in Cyprus. On a recent trip to Larnaca I found out that the people of Cyprus chuck the toilet paper in the trash after a good ol wipe down for fear that it would clog the plumbing if they flushed it down the toilet. Apparently this is something common on many islands that they so happen to leave off the brochures 🙂


2. Bubble Gum Trafficking: If you happen to visit Colorado or Amsterdam right before going to an Arab nation like The Emirates, you had better make sure to empty out all of your bags and vacuum inside them to get any…uhm…medicine crumbles or residue out if you want to avoid the possibility of touring the inside of an Emirati jailhouse. A pretty reasonable thing to do however  If you’re headed to Singapore you may want to check all the pockets in your clothing to make sure that the pack of juicyfruit you got stashed somewhere doesn’t get you a 5 to 9. Chewing gum is illegal and anyone caught with the illegal substance is subject to large fines and possible jail time. Imagine how I felt when I spent a week in crazy party central Bangkok right before I traveled to a country that if I was caught trafficking the illegal substance I could spend two years in jail, enough time to contemplate how I got caught up in a sticky situation.


3. Buuuuuuuurp:  Table manners are one of the prime places to practice etiquette. Whether it’s knowing the right fork or knife to use or what sounds are appropriate to make while dining, I can assure you that the same cultures that apply in the US don’t hold true everywhere else in the world. A couple years ago in a Shanghai restaurant, I wasn’t sitting long before I realized the symphony of belching occurring around me. I looked around to see if anyone else was as bothered as I was only to see all other patrons completely ignoring the audible chaos going on around us. Later that day I found out that burping in China is considered a compliment to the chef for a great meal. So, if belching turns your stomach as it does mine, you may want to Yelp for 1 star establishments when in China.

4. You Snooze You WinJapan is one of my favorite countries in the world and it’s also one of the strangest in terms of culture norms. One of the strangest things I’ve noticed is that due to the insane long work hours and work ethic of the Japanese, sleeping on the job isn’t only acceptable but it may even get you promoted. Managers see sleeping on the job as a sign of an overworked employee and therefore a good thing so that saying “you snooze, you lose” is simply hogwash in Japan.


5. Poppin Bottles: My girlfriend and I left a Drake concert a little early in Berlin to try and avoid the gridlock once the let out occurs after a previous experience in Brussels where we couldn’t get an Uber for a couple hours after a Beyonce concert. In any case, after exiting the arena we walked past a lady giving out free Jagermeister bottles to all passers like the energy drink folks do in the US. No ID check or nothing, she was simply doing the Oprah “you get a Jager, you get a Jager, everybody gets a Jager”. I was stunned by it but my girlfriend whom is European was stunned too but not at the free Jager but instead at my astonishment for such a normal thing, lol. I love travel.