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Italy: let the man lead the way into a restaurant
Italy: let the man lead the way into a restaurant
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In Italy, while it’s still generally considered polite to allow a woman to go through a door first, that rule goes away when it comes time to enter a restaurant. By heading in first, the man can be the one to talk to the host and get a table.

Italy: put down the Parmesan
Italy: put down the Parmesan
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In Australia, it’s customary for waiters to offer to sprinkle Parmesan cheese on your Italian dishes. In Italy, it’s not. In fact, it’s considered downright rude to ask for it, especially if you’re eating pizza. That’s because the cheese is seen as incompatible with pizza, much the way you might think ketchup shouldn’t go on salmon. That said, if a waiter does offer you extra cheese on a dish, it’s perfectly fine to accept it.

India: don’t eat with your left hand
India: don’t eat with your left hand
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When in India, avoid eating with your left hand because the left hand is seen as disgusting, as it’s normally used for wiping in the bathroom. The same is true for countries in the Middle East and parts of Africa.

United Kingdom: pass the port to your left
United Kingdom: pass the port to your left
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But guess what? If you’re in Great Britain, the left is important – you should only pass the port in that direction. Passing the dessert wine to the right is considered a breach of etiquette. So is forgetting to pass the port, period. But don’t worry. If you do forget to pass the port, the person who’s waiting for it may remind you, “You know the Bishop of Norwich? He’s a good chap, except he always forgets to pass the port.”

Russia: don’t try to shake hands before you enter
Russia: don’t try to shake hands before you enter
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Shaking hands would seem to be the polite way to greet someone, and yes, it often is. However, when in Russia, do not offer to shake hands in a doorway; always enter the room first, or have the other person come fully outside. It’s said that the ‘house spirit’ lives in a home’s entryway, and crossing over it for a greeting would be bad luck.

Chile: don’t use your hands to eat
Chile: don’t use your hands to eat
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It’s perfectly fine to eat finger foods with your hands in Australia, and in some countries, eating with the hands is actually encouraged. However, that’s not the case in Chile, where proper etiquette requires eating everything with a fork and knife.

Do not flush in any of these countries
Do not flush in any of these countries
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If you’re travelling to Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, the Ukraine, Morocco, Egypt, or Beijing, please note that the plumbing may not be designed for flushed toilet paper, and restrooms will have special waste bins to place used toilet paper instead. Failure to heed this bit of toilet etiquette could lead to clogs and even floods.

Russia: don’t intentionally turn your back to people
Russia: don’t intentionally turn your back to people
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When you’re squeezing past people to take your seats in a theatre, you probably turn away from the people who are seated. In Russia, this is considered rude. Instead, you’re expected to show your face, meaning you’ll probably look them right in the eye as you squeeze through.

No ‘thumbs up’ in these countries
No ‘thumbs up’ in these countries
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In Russia, Greece, Iran, Sardinia, and parts of West Africa, a thumbs up gets a thumbs down, as it’s also the equivalent of flipping someone off.

Korea: use a two-handed show of respect
Korea: use a two-handed show of respect
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In Korea, when one of your elders offers you a drink, the proper etiquette is to receive it with both hands, and then turn your head away as you take your first sip. It’s a show of respect, and respecting one’s elders is taken seriously in Korea.

India: text instead of calling
India: text instead of calling
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It may seem surprising, but the fact is that most small businesses in India don’t even have landlines, which has led to a culture in which texting is considered appropriate, and not just for personal communications. So, if you’re in India and wish to find out, say, a particular shop’s business hours, send a text, rather than calling.

France: kiss, don’t hug
France: kiss, don’t hug
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In France, hugging can be considered more intimate than kissing. Instead, when you greet someone you’re not that close to, be prepared to shake hands or kiss them (twice – once on each cheek – or in some regions, even more). Along with the no-hug rule, you also should never bring your host chrysanthemums (which are associated with funerals) or any yellow flower at all (which sends a message that the hostess’s husband has been cheating!).

This article first appeared on Reader’s Digest.

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