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Unique Customs from Our Multicultural World

Updated on February 19, 2013

My insides get a little giddy thinking about all of the fun customs other cultures have :). I mean, seriously, wouldn't you like to know

  • Why will the vendor in Kazakstan NEVER sell you a dozen roses to give to your girlfriend?
  • Why is nearly every Chinese girl holding hands with another girl?
  • I was taught to never put my elbows on the table, so why don't they do the same in Nicaragua?
  • Is it really okay to burp after eating in some cultures?

We could devote our whole lives to studying different traditions and never really even touch the surface. Enjoy the quiz, and I hope you learn something!

Customs Around the World:


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And now for the answers...


1. In China: It is incredibly rude to show someone the bottoms of your feet. For more insight into this custom see 5 Ways to Offend the Chinese.




2. In Britain: the "lucky" animal is a black cat.

If you picked "dragon" and I were really grading this quiz, I would have given you bonus points. Not because it's the right answer, just because I think it's fun. :)


3. In Bulgaria: They say "no" by nodding their heads up and down.


Turks often say "no" by clicking the side of their tongue on the side of their mouth. Try it. It helps if you open your lips a little.



4. In China: They count to 10 on one hand. These easy-to-learn hand gestures should be learned by every foreigner traveling to China. They can save a ton of time, embarrassment, and miscommunications if you know them before you attempt to go shopping. For numbers 1 through 5, just hold up the corresponding number of fingers on your hand. For numbers 6-10 see the photo below.


Note: Indians can count to twelve on one hand. Each knuckle represents a different number.

Hand gestures for Chinese numbers 6-10

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5. For pretty girls

  • Arabs grab their beards
  • Americans raise their eyebrows
  • French kiss their fingertips
  • Italians press their fingertip into their cheek and twist it back and forth
  • Greeks stroke their cheek


6. In Spain: It is appropriate to throw your crumbs, old napkins, food wrappers, and other debris onto the floor while in a snack bar.


7. In Russia: A smiling stranger is probably mentally ill. One commenter gave some insight into this custom in the comment section below.

Insight into Customs from the Introduction

In the former Soviet Union (which includes Kazakstan), flowers are only sold in even numbers if you are purchasing them for someone's funeral. A vendor would not sell them to you knowing you were going to deeply insult your girlfriend by giving her 12 roses.

Women in China often hold hands. It is a sign of friendship only. You will also see them sitting in each others' lap and stroking each others' hair. For more insight into this custom and others, see 5 Ways the Chinese Will Offend You.

I was taught to never put my elbows on the table. The hand that is not involved in eating should be neatly laying on my lap. However, try laying your hand in your lap during a meal in Nicaragua, and you will be royally insulting your host. One gentleman explained that a person who holds his hand in his lap must intentionally be hiding something from the host. It could be a gun or other weapon or it could just be a gesture of offense.

And, if you happen to be a teenage boy reading this, you will probably be thrilled to learn that: yes, it is perfectly acceptable, and in some cases complimentary to burp after a meal in many Asian settings. It demonstrates that you are satisfied and pleased with the meal. And I hope my children never read this hub :)


I hope you did well! If you know of any unusual customs, I'd love to hear about them in the comments section. Enjoy every minute of our diversity :)

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    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
      Author

      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      Preston&kate - thanks for reading. I'm glad you learned something :)

    • prestonandkate profile image

      Preston and Kate 3 years ago from the Midwest

      We just learned a lot reading this hub together.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
      Author

      ExpectGreatThings 4 years ago from Illinois

      It makes me laugh that you knew that one :) Thanks for reading and commenting. If it makes you feel any better, I only knew 3 of them before I wrote the quiz.

    • JHoustonEngle profile image

      JHoustonEngle 4 years ago

      The only one I knew before I read your "5 Ways to Offend the Chinese" article was the Arab men/beard one.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
      Author

      ExpectGreatThings 4 years ago from Illinois

      Hi Chris, thank you for your insight! I really appreciate it! It is nice to meet you. I lived in the former Soviet Union in the late 90s and made some precious friends who smiled often (in the privacy of their own homes). Those were tough times. I do hope things are improving.

    • CHRIS57 profile image

      CHRIS57 4 years ago from Northern Germany

      While there is so much comment on the smiling Russian, i might as well give a little insider explanation.

      Russian have been living in restricted conditions for decades. Food, every day goods were scarce, were sometimes rationed. It took days of organizing to buy 50 kilo of sugar (which you would then share within family and friends). In this situation every stranger on the street was and is still treated as a potential rival and competitor in the hunt for products, shoes, clothes.

      This may be over for more than a decade, but will take another decade to treat someone smiling at you in the streets not to be either insane or to be someone to try to cheat you.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
      Author

      ExpectGreatThings 4 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks for participating Simoninikid! The smiling Russian one was hard for me to wrap my mind around for a long time. There are lots of Russians who think I'm mentally ill because I forgot to not smile at them :)

    • SimoniniKid profile image

      SimoniniKid 4 years ago from Beautiful Glen Ellyn, IL

      V-E-R-Y interesting, challenging, and fun! The answer to "smiling Russian" sort of made me sad while also making me giggle a little at the unexpected answer ;)

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
      Author

      ExpectGreatThings 4 years ago from Illinois

      You are hilarious Aunt Betty! Thanks for making me laugh!!

    • profile image

      Aunt Betty 4 years ago

      Ok I only got one wrong but that was due to some incredibly lucky guesses! In reality I'd end up with some crazy Russian guy because I didn't know how to say no to his Bulgarian friend who I misunderstood when he tugged his beard! I better stay home!

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
      Author

      ExpectGreatThings 4 years ago from Illinois

      Hi RachaelLefler - thanks for stopping by! Fortunately this is an anonymous little quiz so no one will ever know how many you got wrong :)

      Thank you for commenting Chris57. I would also completely fail Japanese culture questions! I bet they have some really interesting habits, though.

    • CHRIS57 profile image

      CHRIS57 4 years ago from Northern Germany

      I was amazed to have all answers correct. But i did some guessing on Arabic and Chinese questions. Even if i get to many places on this planet, it is not easy to identify cultural specifics.

      Luckily you didn´t ask anything about Japan :-)

    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 4 years ago from Illinois

      I got almost every one wrong but I learned something! Very fun.