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Expat Etiquette

Updated on January 6, 2015
Froggy213 profile image

A Gringo who moved to Puerto Rico, Greg loves writing about the island he now resides on. He and Maria also wrote several bilingual books...

Before we start with this hub, many of you may not understand what an expat is. Expat is a shortened term for expatriate. The definition is a person who temporarily or permanently resides in a country that is not of their origin.

I am an expat.

I grew up in the Midwest United States. I have lived in Iowa, Japan, Colorado, Nebraska, Georgia, California, and Missouri.

I now reside in Puerto Rico with my beautiful Boricua wife, Lastheart.

Some may try to say that I am not an expat because Puerto Rico is part of the United States. It is much different from the United States. I found many customs that were very different from the customs I was used to.

I want to give some of the customs you may encounter when traveling abroad. It may help you from making a fool of yourself, or worse yet, getting arrested.

When I first moved here, I broke a few custom rules and felt like crawling under a rock when I did.

Before you travel anywhere, I suggest you always read up on the customs, so you will "fit in."

Lets give you some of the basics of some of the more popular travel destinations. First I will give you some of what I found here in Puerto Rico. Make a point to take a trip here; you will love this enchanted island. You may also enjoy the book Lastheart and I wrote and published. You can find it below too.

A markerPuerto Rico -
Puerto Rico
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Puerto Rico Customs


When you come here, you will find that when many people see each other, they kiss.

Where I came from, shaking hands, and for real close people, maybe a hug. Not here in Puerto Rico; it's a kiss, but not on the lips.

You bend to your left a peck the other on the cheek and greet with bendición. That means blessings.


I don't think Mom ever jumped me for it. By all means I should have. When yawning in Puerto Rico, cover your mouth.

I seem to yawn a lot, because these coqui put me to sleep.

Man Boobs

The more I look, the more I think they are lightening up on this, but unless you are at the beach, a man must wear a top.

No one wants to see your boobs, belly, or hairy back.


When you near anyone eating out, you always say ¡buen provecho. This means bon appetite. It amazes me how many times you will hear this when you are trying to eat your mofongo. It is hard to keep from choking as you are trying to counter with ¡gracias.

These are just a few of the customs I found here that threw me into a loop. Oh yea, if a cop comes up behind you with their lights flashing, don't pull over unless they tell you to over the loudspeaker. Police drive with their flashing lights all the time here.

A markerChina -
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When traveling to China always keep in mind that all is measured on the term "face." Essentially this means a person's honor or reputation. It very impolite to take "face" from another.

When disagreeing during a discussion, it is best to just keep your mouth shut. If you disagree in public, both parties will lose "face." This also goes for frowning. You have to play a poker face when in China.

When greeting people, handshakes are customary, but always start with the eldest person.

If giving gifts, do not give a sharp item such as knives, or scissors. This means you are cutting the relationship. Don't give clocks, handkerchiefs, or straw sandals. They are associated with death and funerals. Flowers also fall into that category. a gift will be refused three times before it is accepted. Never open a gift until you go home (away from the giver).

If you are invited to a Chinese home, consider it a huge honor. Be on time to the engagement. Always remove your shoes before entering the home. Bring a small gift for the hostess (remember gift giving rules). Always let the host start eating first. Try everything offered to you. Belching and slurping your food is fine.

I suggest doing a more in depth study if you are visiting China. If on business, it is very important.

A markerFrance -
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France is a huge tourist attraction. Have you been there?

Many customs are similar to the United States, but you should know these:

Do not use a person's first name unless invited to do so.

You should always say 'bonjour' or 'bonsoir' (good morning and good evening) with the honorific title Monsieur or Madame when entering a shop and 'au revoir' (good-bye) when leaving.

Be on time for dinner engagements. It is considered very disrespectful to be late.

If invited to a large party, always send flowers the morning of the party to be displayed that evening.

When eating, fork in left hand and knife in right.

Do not begin eating until the hostess says 'bon appetit'.

Eat everything on your plate.

Always keep in mind the French are not as lax about dress as us Americans. Dress well at all occasions.

Just Some

These are just a few of the Expat Etiquette you need to follow when visiting or living in other countries.

When traveling, study up before going.

I am linking a great website below just for this.

For the most part, if you follow the expat rules, you will be warmly welcomed in almost every country.

Do keep in mind that just like here, it is best to stay away from conversations about politics and usually religion. Now of course, many who are expats are missionaries, so the second would be expected.

Be safe, have fun, but be wise when traveling away from your comfort zone.


Added Information

Expats and taxes can be confusing.

I believe the following video will be very helpful.

Taxes are taxes; love 'em or hate 'em--they will always be here.

Watch the video and learn.

Expat Poll

Are you or have you ever been an expat?

See results

© 2013 Greg Boudonck


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    • Froggy213 profile image

      Greg Boudonck 4 years ago from Returned to an Isla Del Sol - Puerto Rico Will Rise Strong

      LOL Yes we are, but I love the differences we have.

    • profile image

      Maria Ruiz 4 years ago

      Very well done. I love it. Ohhh, I have a long list when I was in USA, just because there is a political status between USA and is a long way different.