16 Ways to Get in Hot Water Without Breaking the Law

Sunsets, sights, and… surprise handcuffs. No, we don’t want that. Even the most innocent actions can land you in hot water in some countries. So before you plan your next trip aboard, check out these 16 weird gestures that can cause you trouble. These are the world’s 16 most unconventional ways to get in trouble, although they aren’t illegal or unethical.

Greetings with Left Hand

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In Dubai, don’t reach across the table with your left hand, accept gifts, or even open them. Why? In societies like Dubai and India, the left hand is considered “unclean.” This happens despite modernization and the availability of quick, hygienic products. Even if you are not in Dubai, greeting someone with your left hand is often disrespectful. However, you can hold drinks with your left hand. So, for our lefty friends, a gentle reminder to not use your left hand for greetings to avoid curious stares.

Head Pat

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Avoid head pats in Malaysia. Head pats are culturally inappropriate. In Malaysia, people consider the head to be spiritually significant. It is the sanctuary of the soul. Even a playful or affectionate pat on the head may be regarded as a sign of disrespect.Thus, to avoid any conflict, don’t touch anyone’s head.

Respect the queue

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In the UK, respect the queue, and you’ll earn silent nods of approval, even a friendly “ta.”The British are serious about queues. Jumping in line is offensive unless it is for a serious reason.

Public Display of Affection

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A quick peck on the cheek is acceptable in France. Anything beyond that in public spaces is not. In Dubai, even holding hands with your partner can invite disapproving stares. Remember, public display of affection varies across cultures. You should research local etiquette before getting cuddly.

Crossing the Legs

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In Thailand and Myanmar, don’t cross your legs while sitting. It is offensive to show the soles of your feet if they are unclean. Instead, sit with legs closed or ankles tucked under in a cross-legged position.

Photo Shoots

Two happy woman making selfie on background of Reichstag Bundestag building in Berlin. Travel and love concept in Europe
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In North Korea, you may get penalized if you photograph military installations or government buildings. In Sri Lanka, photographing Buddha statues incorrectly is a sign of disrespect.In South Korea, clicking photographs in public without consent is offensive. Always be mindful of local rules and regulations and ask permission before capturing anything with your lens.

Restroom Etiquette

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Toilet paper isn’t a universal concept, especially in Asian countries.In places like Greece, Italy, and parts of Latin America, it is a custom to dispose of toilet paper in a bin. In Japan, high-tech toilets offer several buttons, so read up on them to avoid surprises.

Expensive Gifts

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In Japan, you should always gift with both hands and wrap them well or at least put them in a bag. In China, avoid wrapping gifts in white or black, as these colors are associated with death. Research local gift-giving etiquette to ensure your gestures are well-received.

Personal Space

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In Argentina, close physical contact is normal. Friendly hugs are acceptable. In Scandinavia, personal space is important, and maintaining distance shows respect. Be mindful of cultural differences in physical proximity.

Clothing Choices

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You can wear whatever you want behind closed doors, but in some countries, wearing revealing clothes raises eyebrows. In Saudi Arabia, women have to cover their heads and arms. In some temples in Asia, shorts and sleeveless shirts are disrespectful. Dress modestly to avoid attracting unwanted attention or hurting cultural sentiments.

Blowing Your Nose

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In Japan, it is ill-mannered to blow your nose in public. If you must, excuse yourself and find a private space. In some Middle Eastern countries, it is better to snort and clear your nose than to blow it.

Hand Gestures

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The thumbs-up might signal approval in most places, but it’s an insult in Iran. It is equivalent to the middle finger. The Greeks consider it rude to extend your index and pinky fingers. It means to “go away” and is usually regarded as rude.


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In Morocco and many other countries, haggling or bargaining is normal at markets. However, in Japan, fixed prices are the norm. If you bargain, you treat others with disrespect.

Talking about Religion

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Religious freedom is generally a cornerstone of many societies. Yet, navigating religious discussions in certain countries requires a delicate touch.Singapore, for example, is a nation with strict laws against inciting religious discord. While you are free to talk about religion, openly criticizing or promoting any religion in public can land you in legal trouble. According to the Singapore Constitution, you can preach your religion but not if you disrespect others.

Taboo Topics

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If you discuss topics like politics, religion, or sex in the Middle East, you will land in serious trouble. Steer clear of sensitive subjects. Instead, focus on a neutral conversation like local customs, cuisine, or travel experiences. You can practice cultural sensitivity and avoid such topics to ensure an enriching travel experience in this region.

Pointing Feet

In Thailand, feet are the lowest part of the body, and people treat them with the utmost respect. Never point your feet at someone or a revered statue, as it’s seen as a grave insult. Always remove your shoes before crossing the threshold when entering temples or homes. This simple gesture demonstrates cultural sensitivity and shows you’re mindful of local customs.
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