What are things Americans find rude that other cultures do not?

There are long lists and a few books of things to avoid doing when around people of various nationalities or ethnicities: never show the bottom of your shoe/foot towards an Arab (it’s extremely disrespectful), do not excuse yourself to go to the restroom during a meeting in France, don’t motion with the index finger in some countries (indicative of a penis symbol), do not blow your nose into a handkerchief in Japan (it’s considered nasty- use disposable tissues), do not open a gift in front of the giver in some countries, etc… What are the turnabouts: what are things other cultures would not consider rude but (North) Americans would?

I can only think of a couple off-hand:

Personal space issues: Europeans and South Americans touch in casual conversation a lot more than we do (with the exception of the British)

Mouth-to-plate-distance: Laotian and Vietnamese co-workers, even when using forks, tend to keep their mouths very close to their plates and eat fast, something you just don’t tend to do in an American dinner. (A Laotian friend tells me that many topics of conversation in southeast Asian countries would be considered rude in America for their bluntness; for example, she says it’s no more rude in her culture to ask a relative stranger “How much money do you make in a year?” or “How much did you pay for those pants?” than “what do you do?” or “how many kids do you have?”, but as I’ve only heard this from her and she also assured me that there are people in the jungles of Laos who are part dog, I’m not sure of its veracity.)

Asking about someone else’s financial situation.

Standing too close to another person in a conversation. We Americans like our personal space.

There are other cultures that tend to stand closer that we do.

I found that Indians occasionally ask me about personal medical issues in casual conversation. Very rude, IMHO, unless they’re a doctor and I"m in their office.

America-bashing, whether direct or implied, when it’s not really related to the topic of the conversation. Canadians seem to do it ALL THE TIME; when I visit Toronto, and I reveal to someone that I was originally from Buffalo, they have absolutely no hesitation about cracking Irv Weinstein blaze-buster jokes, talking about how downtown is dead, and so on. I see it on Metafilter a lot, too, where some Canadian, British and Australian posters will somehow interject an anti-American statement into the most mundane, apolitical of topics.

Not Tipping.

Also, a general lack of courtesy in retail transactions.

From what I’ve seen in Russia, one does not wait one’s turn in line there (except maybe at Customs or other highly official settings). One simply pushes one’s way to the front. It’s rather shocking the first time some little old babushka elbows you in the gut at the coat check.


we are much less tolerant of body odor or daily showering than many other cultures.

Also, I forgot to add–ritual cannibalism doesn’t go over too well in Ohio.

You could also count in that the practice some cultures have of using your bare hand for toilet related cleansing instead of toilet paper. That would gross out many Americans if they found out that was how you did things.

I’ve heard that in China it is considered acceptable to spit and pick your nose in public.

Oh, and the way many other cultures treat women would be considered “rude” at the very least by many Americans too.

Don’t say this to the Ohioans who have taken Communion! :smiley:

One of my guide books for my Ecuador trip last year mentioned that public urination by males was pretty common even in the cities there.

I did see one guy whip it out on a streetcorner in a decent neighborhood and no one batted an eye.

Any culture with a communal approach to personal property is going to find it hard going with Americans.


Indeed, at least about the spitting (not sure about the other.) There have even been education campaigns in Beijing (no cites, sorry, though I remember seeing at least one story on MSNBC.com) to get people to stop doing that before the 2008 Olympics.


Belching after a good meal.

Smoking in your face, especially in elevators.
Dogs in restaurants, especially sitting on a chair.
Licking your fingers while you’re eating.
Being nude on a non-nude-designated beach (I have no problem with this one).

Depends on the city. “Outdoorsy” cities in the Western US tend to be far more dog-friendly than those in the Midwest and East. Dogs are often permitted on outdoor patios, but it’s good to check first. A coffee shop a few blocks away from me allows dogs inside on Sundays.

Mainly this comes across to me as an alternative version of a cliche, that joking about America(ns) is the most tedious and predictible form of wit.

When Brits introduce gratuitous Yank bashing in a non relevant topic they are usually
either left wing loonies of the pretend/wannabe revolutionary variety(all mouth and camouflage jacket) or the posturers with pretensions to being members of the intellectual elite but who are in actuality over priveleged ,under achieving twats who would be hard put to complete the Daily Mails junior crossword successfully.
They piss us off over here aswell dont worry.