1. Parents leave babies to nap outside in Norway, even when it’s cold outside
I don’t know about you, but I’d be terrified if I found a stroller with a baby alone in the cold. But apparently, letting kids sleep outside is normal in many Nordic countries, so much so that kindergarten teachers let sleeping infants sleep in their strollers outside when it’s nap time. Needless to say, the kids are not cold because they’re always bundled up in layers of warm clothes and blankets in the stroller, and the cold air makes them sleep better.
2. Take off your shoes before entering someone's home
In many countries across the globe, including but not limited to Russia and Japan, people don’t walk around the house with their shoes on. Instead, they either wear slippers or socks, or they walk around barefoot. Visitors that don’t take their shoes off are often seen as impolite or inconsiderate, so always ask if you need to take your shoes off when visiting someone’s home abroad. If anything, there are more countries in the world where this tradition is prominent than those where it’s not customary to lose your shoes at the entrance.
3. People will call and hang up the phone before you can answer in Italy
When visiting Italy, don’t be surprised if you get a lot of missed calls. In fact, don’t bother to call back if you notice that the person hung off before you could answer because you have likely witnessed a custom called “squillo”. This Italian communication habit is highly contextual, and it could mean a great number of things.
For example, if you’re meeting up with someone and that person is running late, a squillo from them means that they will arrive shortly. Likewise, getting a missed call from a friend or a sweetheart is equal to “Hi! What’s up?” or “I’m thinking of you”. Pretty neat, huh? You basically have to guess what the squillo means from the context every time, which can be quite frustrating for foreigners but also quite fun.
4. Don't be shy and slurp your noodles in Japan
Loud noises at the dinner table are not welcome in most western cultures, be it slurping, burping, or chewing. This is not the case in Japan, where loud slurping has a completely different meaning. In this country, slurping while eating noodles indicates that you’re enjoying the meal - it’s essentially a compliment to the cook.
The reason why the Japanese are so tolerant of the noise may just be due to the difference in utensils. In western countries, we usually eat noodles or spaghetti by twirling them with a fork and spoon, whereas in Japan, people eat their noodles by holding them with chopsticks and slurping them up, which is just naturally noisier.
5. Eating pizza with a knife and fork is the way to go in these countries
If you’re of the opinion that eating pizza with a knife and fork is almost sacrilegious, you’d be surprised to find out that it is standard practice in the birthplace of pizza - Italy. In fact, a pizza doesn’t arrive pre-cut when you’re eating at a restaurant in Italy, so you’ll need to cut it up yourself to start eating.
In most European countries, as well as Brazil, even sliced pizza is customarily eaten with a knife and fork, especially if you’re eating at a restaurant. That said, you’ll probably be excused to fold a pizza and eat it with your hands if you’re grabbing a slice on the go.
6. Tipping in the US is not optional
As an American, you may not be aware of just how intricate the tipping culture in the US really is. Compared to other countries, however, where a tip is small and often optional, tipping in the US is quite different and often considered odd by foreigners.
For one, tips are mandatory at most American sit-down restaurants and even takeouts. In most places, diners are expected to give servers a 10-20% tip, depending on how much you’ve enjoyed the food. Furthermore, there is also a tradition to give tips to bartenders and other service personnel, mostly because the wages for these workers are usually rather low and they often make most of their money through tips.
7. People in some central European countries keep live fish in the bathtub before Christmas
This odd Christmas tradition is common in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland. In these countries, it is customary to eat fish, usually, a carp on Christmas Eve. It is believed that, since carps live in muddy waters, they don’t taste good if you don’t give them time to “cleanse” in clean water.
Therefore, people tend to buy a live carp, bring it home, and let it live in their bathtub for a few days before Christmas. I think we don’t have to explain what happens to the poor fish when Christmas is nigh...
8. Mask-wearing is a long-standing habit in many Asian countries
I can’t tell you how many times I forgot to take my mask with me on my way out of the house and had to go back and grab it during the past year. I can imagine that Covid-19 mask regulations don’t come naturally for many of you, too, as mask-wearing is a new task for those of us who live in the West.
This is not the case for people in the East, especially those who live in big cities. In Hong Kong, for example, it’s customary to wear a face mask when you’re even slightly sick in order to protect your coworkers and the people you meet in public transportation. Mask-wearing is so widespread, in fact, that people can wear a mask when they’re just lazy and don't feel like putting on makeup, or when they get an embarrassing pimple, for example.
9. Instead of their fingers, people in these countries use their lips for pointing
If you ever travel to the Philippines, Colombia, or Nicaragua, don’t be surprised if you see people making unusual mouth gestures. In all three of these countries and a few others, too, people rarely, if ever, point with their index finger. Instead, they simply use their lips for pointing.
For those wondering how exactly it works, the gesture starts with pursing the lips first and then extending them either forward or to either side to direct someone into a certain direction. In fact, using your index finger to point is considered rude in some of these countries.
10. In Brasil, people will offer you to take a shower at their home, even when you're not staying overnight
People in Brazil take hygiene very seriously. Not only do they brush their teeth several times every day, but they also take several showers daily. This is exactly why people will often offer you to take a shower at their home whenever you arrive, just like we would offer someone a drink when they first enter our home. So don’t take it as a hint that you need a shower if a person offers you to freshen up by taking a shower in Brazil, they’re just trying to be polite.
Please share these bizarre habits and traditions with others!