A taboo is any custom that forbids a particular practice or thing. There is hardly any culture that doesn’t have at least one of them, and while you may be conversant with yours or those of nations close to you, there is a high chance you do not know the most of the taboos of other cultures. Sometimes, those taboos might be interesting, or sometimes those taboos might be sound just lame.
So, we are going to look at fourteen of the most interesting taboos around the world. Some of them may look very funny, but they’re as real as the country itself, so take those taboos seriously.
Table of Contents
Interesting Taboos Around the World:
- 1. You cannot call a genital by its actual name
- 2. Restrictions between males and females
- 3. Never ask about a person’s income
- 4. Don’t drink until eye contact
- 5. Don’t whistle when you’re indoors
- 6. Don’t take anything from an archeological site
- 7. Don’t point at the moon with your finger
- 8. Never joke about religious issues
- 9. Don’t ever hit your parents
- 10. Never ever do the Nazi greeting
- 11. The burning flag is a serious issue
- 12. Don’t eat pork or shellfish
- 13. Don’t compare with Americans
- 14. Don’t call Cyrillic the “Russian alphabet”
Interesting Taboos Around the World:
1. You cannot call a genital by its actual name
If you are in Japan, then this taboo should not break at any cost. You dare not say the name of a genital out loud in Japan; it is considered a very serious abomination— especially the female one. Traditionally Japan has a very conservation culture and life in Japan all about respect.
Americans will find this taboo in Japanese culture hard to follow, since, in their country, they can mention just about any body part as loud as the voice can carry. If you must mention genitals during a conversation in Japan, simply say Asoko. It is a default way of calling those parts of either gender and won’t get you in trouble.
2. Restrictions between males and females
In all the Middle East countries’ culture, it is a serious issue to touch a female you are not related to. If you’re a man, no matter how happy you are, don’t go giving handshakes to women in the Middle East. It’s against the middle eastern cultural taboos.
You also can’t be in the same elevator with women; they will naturally walk out when you come in. Most of these nations have separate transportation vehicle for males and females, especially Saudi Arabia. So do well to respect that and use only your gender’s cabin. However, the western world thinks that those Middle East countries’ cultural taboos violating women’s rights.
3. Never ask about a person’s income
This social taboo present in Mexican culture. When you are in Mexico, don’t ever ask how much a person earns, it is simply rude and won’t get you a good reaction. The reason is that the country has huge income inequality, you never know who earns very little or who earns a lot, so just keep the questions to yourself.
4. Don’t drink until eye contact
Surely you are familiar with the search query ”places to visit in Sweden” but are you familiar with the term ” drinking taboo in Sweden”? Well, nice and beautiful Swedish culture got one drinking taboo for you.
No matter what you are drinking, don’t drink until eye contact keeps with your Swedish drinking buddy. You don’t want to offend your Swedish friends, do you?
Ensure that each and every person seated on the table gets to have a personal eye connection with you before you even take a sip. Don’t worry about looking awkward; you don’t seem that way in from of the Swedes.
5. Don’t whistle when you’re indoors
This interesting taboo is considered very rude in Ukraine. Apart from that, the Ukrainians believe that if you whistle indoors, you will lose a lot of money after that. They also hate being confused with Russians, do well not to make the mistake.
6. Don’t take anything from an archeological site
If you visit Honduras and find anything that even remotely resembles an artifact, don’t touch it! This is such a serious taboo to them. If you break this cultural taboo, you will get locked up, and if you’re lucky, you will just pay fines.
7. Don’t point at the moon with your finger
The people of Taiwan believe in the goddess of the moon called Chang’e. This goddess is known to be powerful, but also very shy. So, when your hands are pointed to the moon, you’re pointing fingers directly at her, which she finds offensive.
As punishment for pointing fingers at the goddess of the moon, legend has it that Chang’e will cut off the offender’s ear. We don’t know if it’s real or not, but you surely don’t want to find out this unusual taboo in real. When you’re in Taiwan, don’t point at the moon!
8. Never joke about religious issues
Polish people take religion taboos very seriously and will find it rude and disrespectful if you speak ill of religious matters or question their Catholic beliefs. A very sensitive topic you shouldn’t meddle with is the Pope, especially the late Pope John Paul the second, he means a lot to the entire people of Poland.
9. Don’t ever hit your parents
While this is a general unspoken rule in almost every part of the world, it is a very big deal in Vietnam. If you hit your parents for any reason, the Vietnamese believe that thunder will strike you down and claim your life!
10. Never ever do the Nazi greeting
If you are traveling to Germany and don’t want to upset German culture then never do the Nazi greeting. This is such a grave offense in Germany. It is so seriously offensive; you could get arrested for it. And we are looking at a 5-year sentence here.
Don’t ever start the subject of Hitler, there is a high chance you will say something offensive as you talk, so just avoid the entire Hitler and Nazi topic altogether.
11. The burning flag is a serious issue
This taboo might not interesting as others, but knowing this might save you from fine. Everyone knows how Americans value their national flag; they are practically in love with it. So if you ever burn it, you could face a serious penalty.
12. Don’t eat pork or shellfish
In Israel, they don’t eat pork or shellfish. This is the same taboo as most of the Muslim country. So, when you’re in Israel, avoid eating any of the above foods in whatever form they appear. Also, if you’re a woman, avoid wearing shorts.
13. Don’t compare with Americans
Whether it’s their health care system, their Canadian dollar, government policy…anything at all. Just keep your opinion to yourself if you feel they’re beneath the people of America.
Don’t say anything that will make them look inferior to Americans; it is so offensive. However, many Canadian will not go to accept this unusual taboo against America.
14. Don’t call Cyrillic the “Russian alphabet”
In Bulgaria, don’t call Cyrillic the “Russian alphabet”, as it considers as very offensive to their culture. They hate it so much; you could even be kicked out of their country, don’t talk about it at all if you’re going to mention Russia.
Also, don’t wear shoes in someone’s house unless they permit you to do so. If you are confused about what to do concerning this, simply ask your host. It is better to ask questions and do the right thing when you’re in a foreign land.
It is always advisable to understand the cultural differences before traveling to a new country. This will save you from any kind of unwanted situation. I hope, you enjoyed this list of interesting taboos from around the world and learned something new.