Topdeck Travel is a youth travel company with a passion for creating grand adventures and life-long memories.
We’ve all been there.
You’re strolling down the street texting a friend when you accidentally stumble into an innocent bystander. Just as you start to apologize, the unsuspecting stranger beats you to it!
Seems normal right? Probably because you’re Canadian and we’re known worldwide for being extraordinarily polite.
But we’re not the only ones with famous social conventions. Countries around the world have coined their own unique cultural habits, and if you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb on your travels, you’ll learn to adopt them like the locals.
For those planning a trip soon, here are some cultural habits you’ll be sorry to miss out on.
1. Fika – Sweden
Travelling or working in Sweden and someone mentions fika – drop what you’re doing immediately. Twice a day, coworkers, friends, or family will take a break to socialize over coffee and pastries. Don’t worry about looking like a slacker either because refusing to join your colleagues at fika is considered highly rude. Pass the cake!
2. Removing Shoes – Japan
Always, always, ALWAYS remove your shoes when entering a Japanese home (and some restaurants), unless you want to be thought of as disrespectful. Be sure to pack your slippers because regardless of whose home you’re entering, the Prime Minister, your Mother-in-Law, or your best friend, it’s customary to go shoeless.
3. Flagging – Denmark
Don’t be shocked if you’re walking down a street in Denmark and see a house practically plastered with Danish flags. These aren’t just overzealous Danish patriots (most of the time). It’s common practice in Denmark to mark a special occasion – especially birthdays – by flying the Danish flag at your desk, on a cake, or in front of your house. Just like balloons in Canada, the flag is Danish for, “the party’s over here!”
4. Haggling – Morocco
Wandering through a Moroccan medina and see something you like? You better be prepared to bargain for it. In Morocco, haggling is simply the name of the game, so brush up on your negotiating skills and get prepared to battle for the best price.
5. Squillo – Italy
European phone plans can be over-the-top expensive, so when it comes to making plans or letting someone know they’re thinking about them, the Italians simply “squillo”. Roughly translated, it means to ring or buzz, and it’s the act of calling someone’s cell phone, letting it ring two or three times and then hanging-up. In Italian culture it indicates that you’ve arrived at your previously agreed upon destination, received their message, or that you’re on your way, without eating into your valuable minutes.
6. Shortening Words – Australia
Aussies are experts at shortening words, so much so that you rarely hear them call themselves Australians. In addition to shortening words, they love to stick an ‘ie’ sound at the end. It might seem confusing at first, does footy mean football? What are sunnies and boardies? Why do they keep cursing about mozzies? But don’t worry, you’ll catch on, mate.
7. Greeting Kisses – Belgium
While travelling in Belgium, take that bubble of personal space you’re used to…and pop it. You’re going to want to come to terms with the idea that cheek kissing (typically two or three on alternating cheeks) is a common way of greeting your friends, family, or acquaintances. To Belgians, greeting kisses are another form of a handshake or hug. Bisou bisou!
8. Afternoon Tea – England
Brits are VERY particular about their tea. From the preferred brand, to the mode of preparation, to accompanying snacks, you better have your tea game on point before offering to make someone a ‘cuppa’ – as they colloquially refer to the staple steep – let alone host an afternoon tea.
9. Siestas – Spain
Everybody loves a good afternoon nap, and the Spanish have it down to a science. At midday, during the hottest hours, everything in Spain grinds to a halt for an afternoon siesta. Thinking of a mid-afternoon bevy? Don’t bother – even the shops and restaurants are closed during this time. Better to make like the locals and siesta.