Traveling to Cyprus? Hungary? Latvia? When visiting a foreign country, it is ALWAYS a great idea to read up on local customs of the place in which you are visiting. At best, this will help you to avoid seeming like a typical tourist or at worst; a rude, inconsiderate boor!
It doesn’t take long to learn a few basic customs and common phrases before visiting a foreign destination. It could save you some embarrassment, but more importantly, it will give you an opportunity to show respect for the people and culture of the place that you are visiting. It will also give you an opportunity to display your own country and culture positively; something that Adventure Travel columnist Lois Freidland describes in her article:
In a global world, we are all "ambassadors" of our own culture, and leisure travelers, like business travelers, have a responsibility to present their country in the best possible light. Reinforcing local negative stereotypes of your own country through behaviors that reflect ignorance of the local culture while abroad is as irresponsible as environmental ignorance. Travel enlightened."
You might think that manners are common sense, but you’d be surprised at how taboo typical US-customs and manners can be interpreted abroad. For instance, did you know that in Japan it is considered a compliment to slurp noodles and soup? It’s also considered polite to finish all food, (down to the last grain of rice). Did you know that in India, you are expected to eat with your hands, but that you should NEVER eat with your hands in South Korea? In China, the number four is the equivalent of our unlucky thirteen. When eating a meal in Egypt, (especially in someone’s home) bypass the salt shaker. It is interpreted that the meal is lacking flavor, and might offend the chef.
You don’t have to read a travel guide or study up each time you travel, but… it would be wise to learn the basics. At the very least, go online, and always ask what NOT to do!