Taboos you need to know to avoid committing cultural faux pas in Asia


It can be pretty exciting to immerse yourself in a completely different culture and when that is happening, a sense of respect for the place you are in is crucial. As the say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” and here are a few taboos you should avoid committing while being a guest in another’s land.


Don’t rest or stick your chopsticks in food, especially if it’s rice as it is considered offensive and bad luck. This is only done during funerals and it also is reminiscent of joss sticks used during prayers.


When it comes to eating or handling food, only do so with your right hand. In Indian culture, the left hand is used for ‘bathroom activities’ and considered unclean.This also applies when you are passing objects or gifts to other people.


Don’t pat people or children on the head when in Thailand. The top of one’s head is considered the most sacred part of their body and should be respected. Feet, the lowest point of the body should never be used to touch another person to point at something or someone as it is considered disrespectful.


Don’t eat while walking as it is considered to be bad manners in Japan. Japanese people respect their food and the hands that produced it and one should sit down to fully savour the food that nourishes.


Pointing with the index finger is considered rude and is frowned upon. Should you need to gesture at something, hold your hand lightly like a fist, and point with your thumb facing upwards or point with an open hand instead.


In Taiwan, it is very rude to curl your finger in a ‘come here’ manner with your palm facing upwards. If you would like to call someone to where you are, gesture with your fingers with your palm facing downwards.

Hong Kong

When given presents or giving presents, it is considered rude if the receiver opens the gift in front of the giver. This is to make sure that the giver is not discredited should the gift be considered inappropriate or is something undesired.


Indonesians are generally a peaceful bunch and do not like public displays of anger. Make sure you don’t shout or use aggressive gestures that might attract attention because it is considered disrespectful and rude.

South Korea

When eating and you are having a bit of a runny nose, make sure you do not blow your nose at the dining table as it is considered very rude. If you feel the need to clear your nose, make your way to the bathroom instead.


Taking pictures in Vietnam, don’t be shocked if a local refuses to be in a picture with you and another friend as having three people in-frame is taboo. In Vietnam, the number ‘3’ is considered sacred and the locals believe that if you take photos of three, the devil will take one away.

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