National Etiquette Differences in Europe

Etiquette in Europe is not uniform. Even the regions of Europe do not have common manners. For example, a Dane will prefer direct speech while a Finn will tend to prevaricate. Even within a single country there may be different customs, especially when there are different linguistic groups, as in Switzerland where there are French, German and Italian speakers.[1]

Age and social context may determine the level and details of the customs which are followed. The age issue is clearly observable in countries that had have passed through some historical event, a war, revolution of a change in political systems, like previous satellites of the ex-USSR where there is a huge generational divide between those who grew up in the 'Communist era' and those who did not, the same is also valid to those under Fascist regimes, these deep social changes have an impact in what is deemed appropriate behavior in a society.

European etiquette globallyEdit

Many customs regarding good behavior have been exported to places with cultural traditions based in Europe, including America, Oceania, South Africa and so on. Therefore, much of this article is limited to the discussion of etiquette which is peculiar to only a particular part of Europe.


While Europe contains a wide variety of social traditions, it is also (excluding Russia) relatively compact, well-traveled and urbanized compared to many other continents or cultural areas. As such many expectations regarding etiquette are shared across Europe.

Avoid stereotypes and generalizations, because you are likely to cause offense to the country you are visiting and shows your country in a negative way.

Generalizations are never good, e.g. all British people drink tea with biscuits at least once a day etc. Just as not all Americans chew "spitting' tobacco" and wear cowboy hats there are cultural variations and you should never make an assumption asking is the safest thing to do.


Etiquette begins with some sensitivity to the perceptions and feelings of others and the intention not to offend. Failing to thank and compliment a host, using a mobile phone in a theater, taking the last bit of a dish without offering it to others and many other examples of bad manners fall into this category.


As elsewhere, many people in Europe are proud of their distinct ethnic, national, religious, linguistic or cultural identity and may be insulted by those who fail to make the distinction. For example, a French-speaking Belgian may be offended if referred to as French person.

Although “lumping” people together is the biggest danger, sometimes “splitting” can be a faux pas as well. An example might be trying to discern whether someone is Irish Catholic or Anglo-Irish.

When in doubt, avoid characterizing people according to a cultural identity. Make inquiries regarding identity carefully (if at all).

Culture, Values and shared HistoryEdit

Europe is very similar in its national structures (institutions, legal and political organizations, even the political inclinations tend to work in waves across the continent) and infrastructures (roads, rails and other mass transportation, police, departments, health and education, waste, water and energy). This is due not only to proximity and historical events from wars to efforts to pacify and homogenates this multi-faced multicultural continental unit.

The efforts to homogenates Europe started even before the Roman Empire, then proceeded under it's surviving Christian religion that put the Pope (literally the Bishop of Rome) as king maker in Western Europe. The rest was divided by the Orthodox and later on the Protestant movement. All leading to a multitude of Kingdoms that to a point came to define the nations that exist today, most even shared rulers due to dynastic intermarriages for peace, power and territory. The Napolionic wars started the downfall of many monarchies and by the time of the industrial revolution a push for normalization, social reforms and rule of law across boarders was generalized. By the end of WWI the collapse of the remaining ultramarine empires was underway and a re-focus on the continent itself was unavoidable, especially after the devastation caused by the conflict and the influenza pandemic. This time is also marked the coming of age of the more Westernized ex-colonies, that filled the void during the time of conflict and started the processed of establishing a proper international law system. After WWII, under the increasing pressure by the United States and the UK, now afraid of the expansion of communism as Russia had just assured the allied victory, worked under the Council of Europe (1949) and later the European Union (EU, 1993), with the auspices of bringing Europe closer together for peace, security, reconstruction and economical prosperity. The EU was itself a descended of the Treaty of Brussels (1948), that also lead later to NATO (1949).

All this coming together was intended to present a common front if not even to prepare for the next conflict, that ultimately originate in the reneging of promisees made (in the Tehran Conference and Yalta Conference, participated by The "Big Three"; Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin) to Stalin (Russia, USSR) and thwart its responsive advances West and in Asia (Japan, Korea), especially now that the "soviets" also had the atom bomb. These actions later culminated in the creation of North Korea (1946-1948) the Greek Civil War (1946 to 1949) and a myriad of other conflicts that simmered to the public awareness with the rise of the Berlin wall as the de facto evidence of a Cold war.

  • It is important not to "lump" a nationality, ethnicity, province/region and linguistic group together. I.e. to talk about the "Dutch" to cover both the Netherlands and Belgians, as well never to "split" peoples like one to discuss "Flemings" apart from "Walloons" in Belgium and that from the "Nederlanders". This is an insensitive practice associated with inflammable nationalist rhetoric. They also carry a weight of bigotry, prejudice and cultural intolerance against brethren who are proud of their culture and/or rather identify with their country.
  • Europeans do not like the idea of dictatorships: many Europeans experienced single party Communist regimes (i.e. East Germany, Albania, Poland and Romania) and Fascism, prevalently in most the southern half (i.e. Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece) in the 20th century. Also countries with royalty as heads of state (i.e. Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Great Britain), treat them with high honors and respect. In a region that previously was divided in kingdoms, most Royals have ceded right of rule to their subject people and government.
  • Ethnic and national pride is common, but one must avoid chauvinism and favor patriotism of uniting peoples regardless of their ethnic and national origin. "English" and "British" or "Holland" and "the Netherlands" are NOT the same thing! For examples, the Welsh in Wales, the Basque in northern Spain and the Occitans in Southern France, may hold ethnic pride. But others may express pride of being British, or "Anglo-Saxon" named for the first Germanic settlers of England; others French or "Gallic" named for their Latinized Celtic ancestors though the name "France" is derived from West Germanic Franks. Many Basque identify themselves as "Spaniards" by nationality, but fewer are "Castilian" because they don't hail from Castile whom are a "Latin" Romance-speaking people. But today, more Europeans express themselves as Europeans thus a polyglot cultural entity.
  • Also in Europe race issues are not common; slavery was abolished early on and intermingling of races was always a non issue. Europeans heavily shuns racism against minorities, national chauvinism, ethnic hatred and intolerance of language differences, sexual orientation and women's equal rights. The experiences of World Wars I and II (esp. Poland, Germany, and Austria who experienced Hitler, the Nazis and racist/ethnicist agendas and Russia who experienced Lenin) is a horrible reminder for modern Europe to "never again" repeat such horrors. There is "hate crime" legislation to protect people from violence or harassment by individuals, and International Law and courts can be used to penalize those who use governments for this purpose. Note that recently radicalism by a minority of Muslims and an increased level of immigration mostly from Turkey, Pakistan has indeed exacerbated xenophobic discourse and animated immigration policy discussions regarding the burden of costs of handling illegal immigrants at Europe's periphery and the tightening of requirements for asylum.
  • Europeans respect language usage choices, differences among them (i.e. dialects) and bilingualism/multilingual practices in the governments and social life of Belgium (French and Dutch with some German), Switzerland (German, French, Italian and Romansch), Ireland (English and Irish- a form of Gaelic), Finland (Finnish and Swedish) and so on. National governments and the European Union (EU) Charter of Human Rights now respect an ethno-linguistic group's right to protect, promote and even revive a language if necessary.
  • Politics is a topic that can go bad, though Europe (esp. France and the UK, and nowadays Germany) emphasizes social democracy and fair transfer of power through peaceful and non-corrupt means. Human rights, international peace efforts and cultural exchanges in the form of Eurovision is more popular ways for Europeans to become closer together. Euro Cup and World Cup football (soccer) and other sports have international competition, but are light-hearted though pro sports leagues and team fanfare can be heated.
  • And religion is another topic not to be taken lightly, though most Europeans are not as dogmatic in religious observance. There is more religious diversity, tolerance of churches and minority sects, and the separation of church and state is serious policy. Religious conflicts sometimes fueled by politics and ancient ethnic hatreds like in Northern Ireland, civil wars and breakup of the former Yugoslavia, and the rise of Islam in Europe (particularly France, Switzerland and the UK) based more on xenophobia, are emotionally charged issues.
  • Topics about sexuality has lessened from the Victorian Age (in Britain's case in the 19th century) than in the USA continually held onto "puritan" mores of sexual behavior. But European culture remains close to older rules of etiquette handed down in generations even though some of the rules changed by social unrest in the 20th century, and the young tend to alter them in the 21st century.


The notion of multiculturalism is widely accepted among the European population and there is a considerable understanding about how different rules apply to different peoples. Accordingly, expecting (for example) a Hasidic Jew to remove his hat when visiting a Church or to badger a Muslim or Hindu to accept food that violates her/his dietary laws is a faux pas that would offend many Europeans regardless of their own denominational backgrounds.

Special advice for AmericansEdit

  • It is worth noting that American Foreign Policy is a deeply emotional issue for Americans but even more for the rest of the world, due to US international economic and military status, influence and actions. Even friends who believe they share similar political viewpoints can quickly find themselves in contention when the topic is discussed. Americans should try to remember that seemingly anti-American statements may not be intended to offend and are rarely directed to the American people, but toward the US government/corporations. On the other hand, statements by Americans politicians are often taken in the most negative way. Another topic is the influence of American popular culture, esp. in France and other European countries with the most contact with the USA, on concerns in replacing older local cultures.
  • Perhaps the only helpful advice for Americans in this arena is not to start any political discussions in foreign countries, particularly in hotels, pubs, airports or in the street. If another person starts a political discussion, it would be best to admit you know little about the issue being raised, and then change the subject. If you are in a group and someone raises a political issue, it is best to listen to the debate and maintain a noble silence, or withdraw from the group if you prefer to be doing something else. An exception would be in private family, and a gathering of people of a political party or campaign group, of which you are a member or are sympathetically aligned.
  • In Europe, the term soccer is replaced by football. Football, as it exists in the USA, is called American football. Also, "hockey" generally refers to "field hockey" with the other form being called "ice hockey".
  • Freedom of speech is important but moderated by article 17 of the European Convention on Human Rights which states that one cannot abuse of the freedom of speech if it goes against the other fundamental human rights like equality between races, faith or sexual orientation. Most European countries have laws against racist, antisemitic, homophobic... public speech.

Rules of EtiquetteEdit


  • It is often impolite to begin eating before others are ready to begin, or to eat in front of another person without offering to share. Typically all wait for the host, eldest person present or guest of honor to say "let's begin" in some way.
  • In a situation such as a large banquet table or a restaurant where the waiter has failed to bring all food to the table at the same time, it is gracious to insist that others begin eating first while their meals are still warm.
  • It is good manners to hold the knife in the right hand and the fork in the other throughout the meal. This contrasts with the "zig zag method" that is a hallmark of good table manners in the USA. Crossing one's cutlery on the plate means one is taking a break but has not finished eating. Upon finishing a meal, the knife and fork should be left more or less parallel or else it hints that one hasn't eaten enough.[2]
  • Resting one's hands under the table or one's elbow on it is considered inappropriate.


Chrysanthemums are only appropriate for funerals.
  • In many areas of Europe, even numbers of flowers fewer than a dozen are appropriate only for funerals. This rule does not apply to larger arrangements. Also, certain flowers (such as chrysanthemums) are given only at funerals and most florists will advise against them. As red roses typically connote romantic feeling, they are inappropriate for other circumstances.Invalid <ref> tag; invalid names, e.g. too many

Hats and coatsEdit

  • Among many segments of the European population, it is considered rude for men to wear hats or other head coverings indoors, especially in regard to churches, private homes and respected public institution.[3]
  • Anyone wearing coats, boots and other outer garments inside someone’s home is often frowned upon as well. Sitting down at the table to eat with a hat, outerwear or other inappropriate attire is even worse.[4]
  • These rules are sometimes disregarded if the head wear is worn for religious purposes such as a Jewish Kippah, or a Muslim's headscarf.


  • Rules of language belong more to a language textbook than this article, but do remember that some languages mark familiarity and/or respect using methods such as the T-V distinction. This often applies to common phrases such as "how are you?", that are sometimes learned in isolation (such as from phrase books).[5]
  • Addressing people with the inappropriately familiar form may be seen as derogatory, insulting, or even aggressive. Conversely, forms that are inappropriately formal may be seen as impolitely snobbish.[6]


  • Some things formerly prohibited by superstitions surrounding bad luck remain as examples of bad manners. Opening an umbrella indoors and accepting a light for a cigarette after two others are two examples.[7]


  • Talking or asking about one's personal wealth, possessions is viewed as vulgar and abusive of one's privacy. Even enquiring how successful one is in business is reserved to close relations. People will rarely say how much money they make or have in the bank, nor will they request such information from someone else. It is also impolite to ask colleagues about their salary. Even where the salary are publicly known, like with governmental employees', it is still considered extremely rude to ask or openly discuss how much individuals earn.


  • In many parts of Europe, it is inappropriate to use someone's first name until a certain level of friendship is attained. Typically, this formality is maintained until one person, typically the elder of the two or generally one with higher standing in society (for example woman to man, elder to younger, bood on company occasions to employee etc.), says “you may call me (first name)” and the other person responds in kind. Even in areas where this guideline holds true it probably doesn't apply among people below a certain age group nor in some very informal settings.[8]


  • Pointing at people with the index finger is widely regarded as at least mildly impolite. Pointing with the entire hand is more commonly accepted. Pointing with the middle finger is an obscene gesture in most European countries.


  • Good manners dictate that in most situations, people in apparent good health surrender their seats to the elderly, handicapped people and pregnant women. Men often surrender their seats to women regardless of other factors.


  • White socks, including the style associated with athleticism in the USA, are widely regarded as inappropriate to wear with anything else than sneakers and may prompt snickering. Tennis courts are a specific exception. Men wearing socks with sandals (including Crocs) would also be a source of amusement, except in Germany.


  • Many Europeans feel it is rude to visit someone's home without bringing a token gift such as sweets, a small toy for the host's child, a beverage to be shared, a book they know the host will enjoy, or flowers. Even young people who observe this custom less stringently enjoy being on the receiving end.
  • This custom holds true whether answering an invitation or dropping by unexpectedly, although the latter is almost certainly a faux pas unless the host has previously indicated that such surprise visits are welcome.


  • In some European wedding traditions, wearing white is reserved for the bride. Women especially should avoid dressing in white or colors that could be mistaken for white in a dimly lit banquet hall. White combined with other colors (such as a white blouse with an outfit) is fine. Avoid wearing a dress more elegant or ostentatious than the bride's own.
  • Black is not very appropriate for weddings. Dark blue and dark brown are fine. Men in black suits should balance that with an element such as a brightly colored neck tie to avoid looking like one is dressed for a funeral.
  • In some European countries, it's customary to wear the wedding band on the right hand, in others on the left hand, and in some cultures with the groom wearing the band on his right and the bride on her left. Widows and widowers often move the band to the other hand.
  • Engagement bands in lieu of stone-set engagement rings are customary in some places, for both the man and the woman. These are often smaller, and most often go on the opposite hand of the wedding bands.

European etiquette by countryEdit

Throughout Southern Europe, many people conduct ordinary conversations in a more lively manner than that which other people, especially Northern Europeans, are accustomed. Loud volume, gesticulation for emphasis, interruptions and casual body contact that might seem rude or boisterous elsewhere is ordinary.[9]


  • As Austria is a traditionally Roman Catholic nation, greetings such as "Grüß Gott" are very common, but would be inappropriate in Protestant Germany (i.e. outside Bavaria).
  • It is considered unkind or even rude to refer an Austrian national as being a German. Although they speak the same language, Austrians are quite proud of their separate national identity.


  • Belgium contains several separate ethno-linguistic communities, including the Dutch-speaking community of Flanders, the French-speaking community of Wallonia and a relatively small German-speaking community in the east of Belgium. At times terms such as Walloons or Flemish indicate cultural identity, while other times they indicate only geographical location. Belgians themselves are still wrestling with these terms and a little understanding of that fact goes a long way.
  • The Flemish political party Vlaams Belang is excluded from any coalition government by the so-called cordon sanitaire and this is a bad issue to raise in conversation. Many Belgians are secretive about their political views, as reflected in a discrepancy between exit polls and actual election results.[10]
  • Kissing is usually done when greeting friends and family. The number of kisses differ from province to province. For instance, in the province of West-Flanders it's common to kiss once. On special occasions or to congratulate someone, they kiss three times. Kissing is only done between two women or a man and a woman, not between men, in Flanders, who usually shake hands, whereas kisses between men is more or less common in the francophone communities. Although, good friends and relatives do kiss often as well.
  • Offensive gestures like waving your fist to someone or flipping someone off is not done, but note that some people do use their middle finger to point at things. This is only common among people older than 40.
  • When one from the South travels to the North (and vice versa), politely ask the person in their regional language "Pardon/Excuse Me, Sir/Madam, are/can/may you (able to) speak Dutch/French?" You wait for an answer and use the language most convenient for the conversation. The Flemish population is mainly bilingual (Dutch/French), the Walloon population less so. Many Flemings are also very good English speakers. In secondary school they learn other languages like Latin, Greek and German.
  • 60% of the inhabitants of Belgium have Dutch as their language, 40% French. Only a small percentile has German as their first language. Brussels is 80% French-speaking, although north of the language boundary.
  • Refer to the majority language of Belgium as Dutch, not as Flemish because this is a an accent, not a language. The Flemish speak Dutch with a Flemish accent. The use of some French words in Flemish is also common.
  • In the 19th and 20th centuries, there were small communities entirely of nuns in Belgium, since it is a nominally Catholic country.

Bosnia and HerzegovinaEdit

  • Taking shoes off when inside someone's home is considered a norm. Having shoes on signifies lack of hygienic manners and disrespect.
  • Please avoid the issue of the Bosnian Civil War, the dissolution of Yugoslavia and ethnic/national/religious differences at all costs.
  • Never bring up Yugoslavia, Communism, the Tito era, the Ustashe regime (Croatian Nationalism) and Slobodan Milosevic (Serbian Nationalism). Bosnian and Herzegovinians have been in Yugoslavia only a couple of decades and as such in general they do not like to be called Yugoslavs.
  • Like the rest of western Balkans, the local Partizan army resistance brought end to World War II in the territories. If you are coming from one of Allied countries or Russia, try not to bring the subject of "we liberated you".
  • Also do not carelessly display two or three fingers out in public or in front of a crowd. They are incendiary and insulting to a certain group of people, also they symbolize religious views of the trinity, in part of historic animosities between the three groups of people living in the country: Bosnian Serbs (mostly Orthodox Christians), Bosnian Croats (mostly Roman Catholics) and Bosniaks (mostly Muslim).
  • Do not bring up religious subjects that might hurt one of religious groups in the country. Bosnians, although very secular, are quite educated when it comes to all major religions and holding a religious discussion without having much insight in the matter might turn out tougher than expected.
  • No matter how large the city you come from, do not forget that they had electric trams and trolleys well before the rest of Europe and major part of the world. They offer unmatched hospitality, but expect you to be civil and respectful.
  • Be social and open, Bosnians are almost by rule very social society and love chitchats and meeting up for a cup of coffee. As the rest population on Balkan peninsula, they are considered a complete opposite of Scandinavians when it comes to socializing.
  • Don't drink without limits, although fermenting local kind of fruit brandy called Rakija (around 50-75% alcohol) is considered a national sport, drinking and "fooling around" in public is considered rude and disrespectful. Drink freely, but keep you dignity.
  • If someone offers to buy you a round of drinks or paying for lunch, don't decline but take it and be thankful. You are generally not expected to return the round back, it is a way for them to show you that they like you as a person or that they respect you. You will never see locals asking for separate bills in restaurants or bars, they take care of entire bill without caring who paid less or drank more.

Bulgaria, Belarus, Ukraine and RussiaEdit

  • Bulgaria, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia share naming conventions. Many surnames change based on gender. For example Mr. Ivanov's wife might be Mrs. Ivanova. Accidentally referring to him as Mr. Ivanova or her as Mrs. Ivanov is a serious faux pas. Since understanding these suffixes and how they are applied in a specific region is a relatively simple matter to learn, even monoglot speakers of English are expected to use them correctly. Similar rules apply in other Slavic languages, such as Polish or Czech.
  • Rather than greeting guests and conducting transactions (such as paying a delivery man) over the threshold, it is more polite to allow people to step inside or to step outside to meet them.


  • In some homes throughout Croatia, shoes are taken off before entering. When a host insists the guest keep them on it may be a sign of respect.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, bring up the topics of Yugoslavia, Tito, and Communism.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, bring up the topic of the War in the 1990s, unless the host initiates. Some hosts might be wounded veterans that don't want to talk about it and can be viewed as offensive.
  • Yugoslavia ceased to exist, and Croatia has been independent from Yugoslavia since 1991. Do not refer to Croats or Croatia as Yugoslavs or Yugoslavia, as majority of the population will find that disrespectful.
  • Never attempt to split a bar tab or a restaurant check. It is customary for each person in the group to buy a round of drinks at a bar.
  • When it is someone's birthday, usually the person who is being celebrated treats friends and family to lunch and/or drinks. It is his/her day and he/she wants friends and family to have fun on his/her day.
  • The a "V sign" and "thumbs up" mean “victory” and “okay” respectively. Making an "O" with index and thumb with other fingers extended has positive meaning, and is usually connected with something deemed "first class", such as well prepared food. Elsewhere in Europe these gestures can have impolite meanings.
  • Do not be surprised to hear people cursing in every sentence spoken. It is normal for people to do that, at any age. If unfamiliar with a person, avoid using curses.
  • Kissing cheeks after or while handshaking can be impolite[citation needed]. When appropriate, people kiss once on each cheek. In Međimurje, it is a tradition to kiss four times, twice for each cheek. Also, kissing cheeks as a greeting is only acceptable between family members and close friends. It is not appropriate in business or formal situations.
  • It is preferable to refer to Croatia as a Southern European or a Central European country rather than a Balkan country.
  • When offering cigars, sweets, or similar items from an assortment, it is impolite to select one for the receiver. The whole assortment should be offered to the receiver so he/she can choose. It is rude to take more than one when selecting.
  • Introduce others before introducing one's self. Also, when referring to others in some context involving yourself, put yourself last. Ex. "Ann and I went to see a movie" NOT "Me and Ann went to see a movie." (This is good practice anywhere in Europe.)
  • Talking or asking about one's personal wealth, possessions or success in business is widely viewed as impolite, unless you are very extremely familiar with that person.

Czech RepublicEdit

  • As Czechoslovakia ceased to exist in 1993, it is inconsiderate to use this name to refer to the Czech Republic. Also avoid referring to the area as Eastern Europe, preferring Central Europe if possible and in context.
  • When you are visiting a house or flat, it is polite to remove your shoes. It is very impolite to wear your shoes inside the house.
  • It is impolite to talk about salaries during a conversation, even with your close friends.
  • If you are a man traveling with a woman, you must enter a pub or restaurant first and leave last, as well as always walking under her on stairs (woman first when going up the stairs, man first when going down).
  • When passing people in a theater or cinema row, face them. It is considered rude to pass with your back toward the other person.
  • Handshake must be strong and without other gestures or movements.


  • In Estonia, tradition dictates that bread is ripped with the fingers rather than cut with a knife.
  • Avoid referring to the area as Eastern Europe, preferring Northern Europe, if possible in context.
  • Estonians prefer to be identified as a "Western" or "Northern European country" with cultural affinities with Finland, as well Latvia and Lithuania, but Estonians speak a Finnic not Indo-European language and are Lutherans alike Latvians but not Lithuanians.
  • Please be sensitive and respectful to issues and subjects regarding the Baltic States' (such as Estonia) past experience under the Soviet Union (1940-1941 and 1944-91) and the Nazi occupation during WWII (1941-44).
  • Do not start a conversation with an ethnic Estonian in Russian language as it is seen as a huge faux pas by any foreigner. Once first contact is made in any other language, it is OK to ask whether the Estonian is fine with conversing in Russian if he or she possesses the language.


French manners were established by the ecclesiastical authorities in the Middle Ages, by the monarchy from the 15th to the 17th centuries, then by the aristocracies, bourgeoisie and political classes in the modern era. These codes helped these classes successfully exert power.[11]


  • Many French people expect foreigners to address (or try to address) them in French. It's considered impolite to open a conversation with a (French) stranger in another language. Instead, etiquette demands that something resembling Excusez-moi. Parlez-vous [language] ? be voiced.[12] This is also because many French cannot speak any decent English and ranking of France is terribly bad over the years (23rd in Europe).[13]
  • Freedom of speech is extremely important but its moderation is even more: article 17 of the European Convention on Human Rights which forbids discriminatory speech (racist, antisemitic, homophobic, etc).


  • For both sexes, shaking hands with a woman in a casual context is distancing. Embracing (holding each other loosely in the arms while lightly kissing each other's cheek) is usually expected and even more for young people. The number of cheek-kisses varies from region to region between 2, 3 or 4.[14] A man usually do not kiss another man except a close friend or family member. Generally speaking men kiss more easily in southern France.
  • The American "okay gesture" means "zero" or "worthless" in France except for those who practice scuba diving.[15] The "okay gesture" in France is the thumb up.
  • France is really late on the true equality between men and women. Despite the laws, in 2006 France ranked 84th in the world based on elected women in the french lower house and 21st/25 in the European Union.[16] On July 19, 2012, many men in the National Assembly whistled and made macho comments (even the President of the National Assembly) to Minister Cécile Duflot just because she was wearing a flowery dress.[17] Though many people told their indignation against such macho behavior, it is undeniable that a lot is still to be done for women's rights.

Money & paymentEdit

  • For talking about money see below "Conversation".
  • Overall, French are much more inclined to save money (with short-, mid- or long-term safe bank products) than buying using a credit. As of January 2014, French save 15.7% of their revenue (11% in Europe, 4% in the USA) for a total of 4,200 billions € stored in banks.[18]
  • French usually do not have more than 20-40 € in cash in their wallet as payment with a debit card is accepted almost everywhere without any extra-fee. However, the shop has to display the minimum amount of money to use a debit or credit card: from 0€ for parking tickets, to 8-15€ in most other shops. Note that you cannot pay a fine with your credit card.

Food & drinkEdit

The basic politeness is to finish every plate (except decoration vegetables) and finish your glass of wine. However, it is always the host's responsibility to adapt himself/herself to your taste and to make you feel as comfortable as possible. In France, the aristocracy priestess for the "common people" is Nadine de Rothschild as she married the baron Edmond Adolphe de Rothschild then wrote several best-seller books on the "well-behaving in high society".

A very significant example is when she appeared in many TV shows and people asked for the same question: "I know that cutting green salad is rude, so what can I do?". The answer was invariably: "There is nothing special to do. It is your host's responsibility to serve you a green salad in pieces small enough so you do not need to cut them".

  • Not finishing one's food implies that the taste or quality was poor and it could not be eaten or the host does not correctly serve the quantity of food one needs.[2] On the other hand, your host is supposed to serve you the quantity you want as many dishes are served on the table. Also, it is usually not considered rude that a foreigner does not finish his/her plate content, especially for very typical dishes where the taste or texture is known to be disgusting to some people (French or foreigner) like raw seafood, guts, snails... Your host should propose you to taste it first and let you decide if you want to eat more of it.
    • If you are really disgusted by the meal, just stop eating and say that you are sorry but it is really not your taste. As rude as it can be, it is always better than being sick!
  • Not finishing the wine is considered very rude as it indicates that the host has served a wine of poor quality or, even worse, it is a very good wine (so, very expensive) but it seems that you do not like it. If you do not want some more wine, put your hand flat above your glass when someone tries to serve you:
    • As a new wine is served with each dish, keep some wine in your glass. When someone tries to serve you more wine, that it is not the same wine (mixing wines is absolutely forbidden).
    • Say you have drunk enough (the French law allows you to drink two glasses of wine if you drive a car) and ask for water.
  • The rule about not pouring one's drink first mentioned at the start of this article does apply. However, with a newly opened bottle of wine it is considerate to pour a little bit of wine in one's own glass first to check the wine is not suffering from cork taint.[2]
  • Children used to be given wine in small amounts to educate their taste, as well teens aged 14 to 16 used to be allowed to purchase and consume wine. This is now unlawful.[19]
  • It is a faux pas to judge a wine based on only one characteristic, such as the region where it is produced or, (most especially) price.[20] You may have preferences for Bordeaux, Bourgogne or Beaujolais but it is not enough to judge a wine.
  • The acceptable alcohol upper limit for driving is 0.5 g/L in blood (so 0.25 g/L of exhaled air). It correspond to 2 alcoholic beverages (almost 3 for a man). You can buy alcohol tests in pharmacies or in service stations but they are more than approximative. If you drank much alcohol, a decent French should propose you to sleep in-place.
  • By contrast with some Asian or north-African countries where eating loudly or belching is a mark of respect, making noises while eating is considered extremely rude in France even in informal meals.

Going to a dinner

  • When going to a dinner:
    • If it is a birthday, bring a gift for the man/woman's birthday. The price usually corresponds to how deep you know the person.
    • For Christmas, try to bring a gift (even a small one) for everyone you know.
    • For any other dinner, bring flowers for a woman and/or a bottle of wine/champagne for a man. If you are invited by a couple (and especially if the man is an expert in wines while you are not), focus on flowers. Do not offer roses as it would imply that you have or want to have a romantic relationship.
  • The hostess is responsible for everything except the wine, which is her husband's responsibility (remember that the rules were created by the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie).
  • When sitting around the table, the hostess should tell you where to sit. In informal dinner, the hostess will probably invite you to sit wherever you want.
  • You should not start eating before the hostess sits down and invites you to start eating. Nowadays, as the hostess is also often the cooker, she might ask you to start eating while it is hot while she finishes serving the others.
  • The French have a complex etiquette about wine and alcohol consumption, one example is never pour out unfinished wine or beer.
  • Also the French seem to enjoy eating in longer and more frequent, later scheduled and higher quality meals. When in family and party settings, one of the hosts might say "Bon Appetit" before they eat. It is considered more as a vulgarity when said in public so it is not a common thing to do.
  • Putting a piece of bread on one's plate is uncouth. Leave it on the table beside the plate. Also, rather than biting into a piece of bread, it is more polite to break off (not cut with a knife) a small piece and place it whole into one's mouth.[2][21]
  • It is inappropriate to rest one's hands under the table or to have one's elbows on it.[2]
  • French fries are eaten with a narrow fork.
  • French people (especially men) are definitely more open on sexuality and the concept of personal beauty. Women are also open on sexuality but usually not when there is a man near to them.
  • French sense of humor may lead to many misunderstandings and may even seem offending. French very often use so-called "second degré" (lit. second degree), i.e. an apparently serious (first degree) sentence should be taken in a humorous way (second degree). It may be difficult to make the difference and such jokes may appear as hostile or passive aggressive.
  • French men also tend to make sexual or misogynous jokes while women do not really react against such jokes.
  • Also the French are not as widely religious than in the USA, but do not view France as a "secular-atheistic-pagan" nation (a stereotype). Many French continue to declare themselves Roman Catholic (nominally) but they highly respect ones' own personal religion or theology.
  • France is a laic country, so there is no longer any relationship between religion and laws, except the law defining the freedom of cult.[22] By contrast with the USA, you never swear "on the bible" to tell the truth in a court of law; you just swear in front of the Republic.
  • The French do not like to talk about religion, politics, socio-economic classes, ethnic and national differences, the idea of race, antisemitism, fascism, communism and American cultural influences. Even though, you can have an interesting discussion about those topics with one or two person(s). With more persons, everybody will talk at the same time and it will likely lead to nothing.
  • Be careful discussing the French Revolution (1789-99), it is a historic "two-edge" sword. The French are proud of their national struggle for what the French Republic motto is "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité". But there have been bloody massacres, civil wars, regional dissent, revolutionaries themselves executed for lacking compliance and counter revolts during the revolutionary period.
    • Add-on: young people do not know much about the French Revolution and other wars.
  • Napoleon is regarded as more of a French national hero, but some (and increasingly) view him as a war-hungry egoist dictator. However, nobody is really claiming all the bad things Napoleon Bonaparte did, even though he re-enabled slavery.
  • Also when bringing up difficult history issues about:
    • World War I, called the Great War. According to survivors, it was worse than World War II.
    • World War II, including the Nazi occupation and the holocaust. Existence of concentration camps and death camps has been attested without any doubt through testimonies, photos, analyses of the skeletons, etc. Denying that is punished by French laws as "negationism".
    • The wars in Algeria and Indochina gained independence from the French. Especially for Algeria. Nobody wants to recall that level of barbarism.
    • Immigration from outside France and demographic changes currently changing France.
    • International relations with its neighbors and membership of the European Union. All the benefits of being part of the European Union are eclipsed by the drawbacks. But all of that is like seeing the bottle half-empty or half-filled.
    • Talking about the government is "gauche" in formal settings, as well by foreign tourists should show respect to France and its' personal experiences with difficult history.
  • French morals and ethics include the right for terminated workers to stay in their desks until they can "officially" return home, and a dislike of war due to previous experiences. France is not a weak military nation; it has a history of fighting wars at home and abroad (and it is the 5th military power in the world). The French stereotype as "cowards" and dislike of American foreign intervention of wars is not a kind subject to bring up. The major belief is that the USA have much more money to invest into military power and also that they fight only when they have a financial interest to do so. Yet, this is a matter of debate.
  • Also to note the French people do not appreciate stereotypes of them as "rude", "snobbish", "clannish", "chauvinistic", "smelly"[23] and "oversexed". They are misunderstandings and exaggerations of cultural traits in France by outsiders unfamiliar with them, and most likely not true.
  • Attitudes toward life tends to be more realistic, some pessimism and fatalism (more true in the North than in the South) and how life is something to be enjoyed regardless of the outcome. "Joie de Vivre" is a French expression of one's enjoyment of having life.


  • People in Germany do not typically hug or kiss to be polite. Such affectionate greetings are usually reserved for close friends and relatives, and for private environments.
  • Public display of affection, such as holding hands or kissing, is commonly accepted but may be inappropriate in certain surroundings (work, church, high class restaurants, etc..)
  • Be wary of touching someone who is not an intimate or close friend. It may be considered inappropriate. This may extend to a person's belongings. Perplexingly, though, and especially in Berlin, Germans push and shove each other on sidewalks, on the subway, and in other public spaces. They may also shout at you and/or push you if they deem you to be walking too slowly.
  • It is acceptable to sit with complete strangers in German restaurants or diners, especially when seating is limited. However, one should always ask if the seat is free ("Ist hier frei?") before sitting down.
  • It is good manners to greet and say good bye to strangers in such situations as a waiting room or a shared table in a fast food restaurant. In some situations, like when entering an elevator, such pleasantries are optional.
  • People often wish each other Guten Appetit ("good appetite/enjoy the meal") before eating.
  • If the name of a person is known, it is expected to be added to a salutation (i.e. "Guten Tag, Herr/Frau ..." instead of just "Guten Tag").
  • People in Germany can use phrases like "please" and "thank you" more sparingly than many English-speakers and may use voice tones that sound unkind to those unfamiliar with inflection in the German language. Accordingly, be careful not to mistake this difference for rudeness or hostility when there is none.
  • Many Germans make a strong division between work and personal life; calling a German at home to discuss business is rarely appreciated.
  • Although discussing political topics is not generally frowned upon, it is impolite to ask how someone will vote in a specific matter.
  • The Third Reich is a sensitive subject. Nazi symbolism and gestures are illegal in Germany, as is denying the holocaust. After you get to know someone well (which takes more time than in, say, the USA or even more than in California), he or she may broach the subject.
  • Many East Germans lack knowledge of seminal events in West German history, such as the Berlin Air Lift. They tend to have a spotty view of German history and may be quite anti-American. Unlike West Germans, the East Germans seem reluctant to take responsbiilty for the Holocaust.
  • Be cautious when discussing certain negative events of German history.
    • Prussian nationalism and culture (many regions bulked at the time living under Prussia or Imperial Germany).
    • Kulturkampf (anti-Catholic campaign in the late 19th century by the Lutheran Kaiser after unification, 1871).
    • World War I (Germany and Austria surrendered to the allies, 1918).
    • East Germany under the Communist era, plus the Berlin Wall (1961-89).
    • About socialism and communism, though Nazism is the shortened term for "Nationalsozialismus" (National Socialism) and the authoritarian nature of the Soviet Union, esp. when the Soviets occupied the eastern half of the country under Josef Stalin.
    • Immigration and race issues (although more liberal in gay rights).
    • War and peace, very strong emotional issues for Germany as well all of Europe.
  • A bunch of flowers should be presented as a bundle, without being wrapped.
  • Eating only very little of the food placed on ones plate or leaving only a few bits on ones plate implies that the taste or quality was poor and it could not be eaten. If you are unable to finish what you have been served, be sure to express your gratitude for the very fine meal - and that unfortunately you can not eat that much.
  • At work, people often bring cake or sweets or buy lunch for colleagues on their own birthday or when leaving the company. In some places it is also common to bring free beer on these occasions. Colleagues may collect money for a shared gift on such occasions.
  • Waving of one's hand from left to right in front of the face is a gesture indicating that someone is crazy or deranged. The "tapped in the head" and "you've got a screw loose" gestures used among English speakers are employed by Germans as well. All of them are rude.
  • Some of the points of etiquette mentioned here will hold true for German-speaking people elsewhere in Europe including those in Austria, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the province of Bolzano-Bozen in Italy and various locations in Europe (especially within Russia and Kazakhstan).
  • When indoors, take off your outdoor coat and hat. It is considered rude to continue wearing a jacket and might make some people think you're just dropping in and might leave at any moment so that it's not even worth taking off your outer shell. In this vein, it might be considered disrespectful. For those unused to the cold German winter, a solution might be to take off your coat initially and than put it back on later when you feel too cold.
  • Following an academic lecture, it is considered polite to knock lightly on the table/bench instead of clapping. The latter is considered inappropriate. Not knocking is usually fine, too.
  • It has become impolite to refer to an adolescent unmarried female as Fräulein because the term has been used increasingly to refer to misbehaving little girls. All women should now be referred to as Frau. Source: Rebecca Falkoff Unintentional Transgressions of the Work Abroad Community Actually its simply impolite to mark a woman as being available for marriage, which was caused by feminism. And this happened decades ago, so if your books still mention "Fräulein", they are VERY outdated.
  • Germany has taken note of women's rights and gender equality, plus the anti-feminism of Nazi Germany and the idea of "equality of the sexes" in Communist era East Germany.
  • German nationalism is generally a mild taboo, except in cases of "football nationalism" to cheer for the home team in European and World Cup soccer matches.
  • Also many Germans identify rather with their Länder (home province/region).
  • There are autonomous ethnic groups like the Sorbs (Wends) or Lusatians of Slavic origin in the East and Frisians related to Dutch and Low German peoples in the North and West parts of the country.
  • Jewish-Germans are highly assimilated in German society, but do not take issue of anti-Semitism and religious practices in the public there.
  • Avoid "splitting" people or "lumping" people by culture, state, religion, church, nationality and regionalism (i.e. "Alemmanic" and "Bavarian" vs. "Austrian" or "Swiss German", even "German" and "Franconian").
  • German pubs (especially older ones) commonly feature a bell hanging over the counter. One shouldn't ring it unless it is intended to buy a round for everyone in the establishment. In many cases it may be a local specification.


Whether drawn by the relics of Ancient Greece or the scenes such as these boats docked on Samos Island, visitors to Greece should be aware of some specific ways in which Greeks indicate "yes" and "no".
  • In Greece, signifying "five" or "stop" by holding up five fingers with the palm towards the observer may be mistaken for an offensive gesture akin to the finger. When signifying "five" the palm should face the speaker to avoid a faux pas. A more obvious obscene gesture to be avoided involves making a fist with the thumb placed between the middle and index fingers.[24]
  • "Hello" might also be conveyed with a raised index finger and a closed palm. North American-style arm waving is rude.[8]
  • In a restaurant or other dining establishment, it is good manners to offer to pay for everyone on the table, especially when one has not dined with that company for some time. It is generally expected that this will be reciprocated in another setting. Friendly disputes for the check are usual. Close friends or young people generally share the amount when they dine together.
  • When greeting someone, it is generally appropriate to kiss them if they are relatives or close friends, even of the same gender. A kiss on each cheek is usually appropriate. Some, especially the elderly, will take care to only touch cheeks with the person they are greeting. This does not diminish the symbolism of the gesture, and is done with proper hygiene in mind.
  • While lack of table manners is considered a faux pas, a meal is considered a time of merriment, company, and celebration. Talking and laughter are commonplace, and one is generally expected to participate in such, even if it involves simply smiling or nodding.
  • "Goodbye" is indicated by facing the palm towards yourself with fingers raised and then moving the fingers up and down. Resembling the gesture used elsewhere for "come here", this gesture can confuse non-Greeks. Most of the times, gesturing likewise with the palm facing outwards is also appropriate and understandable.
  • "Yes" and "no" are indicated by nodding the head only once: downwards for yes and upwards for no. Shaking the head several times may be considered bizarre, uncivilized, silly or simply incomprehensible.
  • Another way "no" is conveyed is by a slight raise of the eyebrows, often accompanied by a "tsk" sound. Failing to receive the message can result in embarrassment.
  • Greeks have a saying about stingy people that amounts to, "he would not even offer a glass of water to his guardian angel." Not offering a guest a glass of water or other refreshing drink can be rude, especially when the warm Mediterranean weather has taken its toll on the visitor.
  • Whether coming to sightsee or to pray, it is frowned upon to enter a church in short trousers, sleeveless shirts, or other immodest clothes. Christians of all denominations are encouraged to make the sign of the cross when entering a church; this obviously does not apply to non-Christians. In conversation, it is polite to have at least a basic understanding of how Greek Orthodoxy is distinct from the other Christian traditions.
  • Using red ink or any non-blue ink may be inappropriate in many situations. Teachers are allowed to use red ink to mark errors in students' papers and they do so by default, but a student is supposed to not use any red ink. Compare with similar custom in Portugal.


  • In Hungary, people traditionally consider clinking their glasses/mugs when drinking beer to be impolite. Clinking with any other alcoholic beverage, such as wine, champagne or hard liquor is customary. The reason people are not supposed to toast with beer is this: In 1848/9 there was a Hungarian uprising which failed. A benevolent liberal government by and for Hungarians was declared, but then subsequently it was put down by the Hapsburg Monarchy (Austria). In and after 1848/9 mostly Austrian prison guards toasted their victory over the failed Hungarian revolutionaries with beer. The Hungarians seeing this declared a ban on toasting with beer for 150 years, theoretically ending in 1998. Today, some Hungarians clink with beer and others still don't.
  • Hungary is traditionally a wine-drinking country, though beer is also favored.
  • Refrain from making jokes about or pointing out that the English name Hungary is a homophone with "hungry". Most Hungarians have been exposed to this joke many times previously.
  • The red-white-green tricolor is the official state flag of the Republic of Hungary. The national flag is the same tricolor plus the national arms. Therefore displaying the national flag, e.g. by minority Hungarians outside the Republic of Hungary, such as Transylvania (today Romania), Serbia and Slovakia, does not constitute flying the official state flag of another country, making it less offensive to the majority of the particular country.
  • The Hungarian national or state flag is never flown at half mast. Mourning is expressed by hoisting a black flag next to or in place of the national flag. The black flag is always full masted as well. It is removed when the deceased is buried.
  • Hungarians celebrate not only their birthdays but their name-days as well. Name-days come from the Christian tradition of celebrating the lives of saints. This custom is extended so that not only Christian names appear in the calendar. Name-days are observed at a lower profile. Birthday cakes not included. Usually family, friends and colleagues drink to the health of the person feted and wish him well.
  • The Hungarian date format is year + month + day. The year is very seldom represented by only the last two digits. The month is often shown in the Roman numeric format but using capitals. The 20th August 2007 is written like these: "2007. augusztus 20.", "2007. VIII. 20." or "2007.08.20."
  • It is considered to be rude not to share your sweets, chocolate, or fruits when in the company of family, friends, or colleagues, especially when children are around.
  • One is not supposed to throw food away. It is considered to be especially rude to do so with bread. If one is not hungry or does not like the food served, he/she should offer it to somebody else.
  • In a restaurant or cab, 10% is usually given as a tip unless servicing is included in the bill. No tips are necessary when paying by card.
  • Tea is usually drunk with lemon juice. Sugar may also be added. Milk is not usually served with tea.
  • Coffee is usually stronger than elsewhere. Milk can be used to make it softer.
  • Men are supposed to take their hats off when entering a building or means of transportation.
  • Men are supposed to take their gloves off when shaking hands.
  • Men without a family relation shake hands upon meeting or saying good bye. A handshake should be short and firm. Touching somebody's elbow or pulling him closer during the handshake is intimidating. Men meeting women or women meeting women great each other only verbally. Kissing cheeks is common among female friends and, for family members, even between males. Not even parents kiss their children on their lips, that gesture is strictly romantic.
  • Meals almost always start with soup.
  • Poultry on bone can be eaten by hand.
  • Hands are kept above the table throughout the meal. However, the lower arms or elbows are supposed not to be on the table at any time.
  • Bread without dressing is never bitten, it is ripped instead.
  • Do not lift the fork with its bulging side upwards to your mouth. Refrain from raising the knife to your mouth as well. Whenever possible, the knife should be used instead of a spoon.
  • Eating in a group begins when everyone's food is served.
  • Before starting to eat, everyone wishes a good appetite to each other. (Jó étvágyat! – 'yaw 'ate-vah-diat) When finished, you say "Egészségünkre!" ('ay-gace-shay-goonk-re, "To our health.")
  • In Hungarian names, family name comes first, given name(s) follow. Foreigners are not supposed to change their names to comply with this rule, it is likely to cause confusion.
  • Upon marriage, women can replace their original family name with their husband's one and keep their given name(s) just like in English. Or they can adopt their husband's entire name, including their male given names, and add "né" to the end. Or they can keep their original name and precede it with their husband's family name extended with "né". For example, Kiss Éva (family name: Kiss, given name: Éva) having married Tóth Péter (family name: Tóth, given name: Péter) can be called Kiss Éva, Tóth Éva, Tóthné Kiss Éva or Tóth Péterné. Of course, only one of these forms becomes official, whichever one the bride chooses.
  • When numbers are shown by hand, Hungarians start with their thumbs. One is expressed by showing a "thumbs up", two is shown with the thumb and the index finger, etc. Four is very difficult to show because only the little finger is bent down.
  • Hungarian people tend to take criticism very badly. Caution should be taken because criticism is easily interpreted as expression of discontent. Similarly, in a working environment asking many questions is often understood as not being competent or independent enough.
  • Metaphors in the Hungarian language are very different from those of other European languages. They should be used with caution in order to avoid misunderstanding unless all parties involved are fluent in the language used.
  • Only an odd number of flowers should be presented.
  • When visiting family or friends on invitation, the invitee is supposed to bring some present. Bring flowers or chocolate to women, drinks to men. Do not bring food, not even salads or cakes, unless specifically requested to do so.
  • In the country side, strangers or even loose acquaintances are not allowed into the house. If one is invited in, it should be taken as a courtesy and a sign of familiarities.
  • Hungarians often tend to avoid continuous eye contact. It should not necessarily be taken as a sign of dishonesty.
  • The commonly accepted personal space, i.e. the physical barriers you are not supposed to intrude upon, is somewhat smaller than in the USA, but they do exist.
  • Avoid discussing the outcomes of World Wars I and II, and the pre-WWII and socialist eras. There is no general agreement of those times. Picking these topics often leads to endless arguments still today. Many Hungarians consider these regimes and their impacts as things imposed on them, blaming everyone but themselves.
  • Royalty and aristocracy is considered to be a thing of the past and "undemocratic" by most Hungarians. Not even present-day royalty of foreign countries attract much attention. They are not a topic of discussion.
  • Hungarians tend to talk about family and their status of health. The weather is not a common topic of casual chatting. Inquiring about political views or somebody's religion may cause eyebrows to raise.
  • Offering a ride by car to acquaintances is almost compulsory if one takes the same route. It is rude to turn such an offer down in favor of public transportation.
  • Referring to Hungarians living in minority in neighboring countries as Romanian, Serb, or Slovak is extremely offensive. They are five million in number altogether and can be found in every adjacent country of Hungary. Similarly, one must make a clear distinction and specify areas populated by over-the-border Hungarians instead of simply referring to the country, e.g. "I am visiting Transylvania" instead of "I am visiting Romania".
  • Smoking is very common in low-class circles. In upper-class circles it is not, and lighting a cigarette could be considered impolite.
  • When riding in a cab, the first passenger (the highest in ranking) should take the right rear seat. The second one should take the seat behind the driver. The right front seat is supposed to be taken only by the third person, if there is one.
  • On public transportation, disembarking takes place before new passengers get on. The young and the men are supposed to cede their seats to the elderly and women, especially pregnant women or women with very young children.
  • Women should be allowed to go through a door or enter a lift before men, except when entering public buildings such as a restaurant or pub. In a posh place, women do not open doors, move their chairs, handle their coats or place orders for themselves. Men are supposed to do that.
  • There is a strong T-V distinction in Hungarian society. Calling somebody by his first name is considered to be equal to being on "T terms". It is very complicated, but in brief, it can be said that the older person, or higher ranked person in company hierarchy (or customer, doctor, etc.) should initiate using first-name terms. Somebody's profession is never used when addressing a person except for doctors or university masters with scientific degrees (ie. professors, Ph.D.).
  • One driving in Hungary should be prepared for pedestrians crossing the road at any point, even at traffic lights at red. Bikers and motor bikers seem to be exempted from any kind of regulations and traffic lights. There is no enforcement of these rules for them.
  • Shortly flashing your car's headlights means, contrary to many other European countries, "I let you go ahead". If somebody else lets you go ahead, you should thank them either by flashing your emergency signal or simply raising your hand.
  • And don't point out that Hungary sounds like "Hungry" in the English language. It reminds them of experiencing famine conditions.
  • It is poor humor to use terms like "Huns" to describe the Hungarian people as a foreign Asiatic race in Europe, though the Magyar people (their self-name) lived on the continent for over 1,000 years. "Hun" is also an ethnic slur used for nationalistic purposes by the allies against them and Austria or Germany during World War I, and again during World War II (esp. in the UK and the USA).
  • Avoid referring to the area as Eastern Europe, preferring Central Europe, or central Europe, if possible in context.


Various forms of football are played throughout Europe and teams have legions of loyal fans. In Ireland, the indigenous Gaelic football game (shown being played here) and the game known in the USA as soccer all have a following. If invited to a game, it is polite to accept and show support for the host's favored team.
  • Although the Irish share many cultural values with the British (including some points of etiquette mentioned in regard to the United Kingdom elsewhere in this article), what is now the Republic of Ireland has been independent of the United Kingdom since 1922 and any confusion to the contrary is likely to be deeply offensive.
  • British Isles is a geographical term, but in most contexts it is more polite to say “Ireland and the UK”. Similarly, referring to Great Britain as "the mainland" is likely to antagonize an Irish listener. The term "the mainland" in Ireland often means the Continental Europe.[25][26]
  • Although Éire is the official name of the state in the Irish language and will be seen on stamps, currency, etc., it is more common to refer to the country as "Ireland" in spoken conversation. It should never be referred to as "Southern Ireland". This may cause offense to nationalists, who view the entire island of Ireland as their homeland.[27][28]
  • Be aware of language politics surrounding the position of the Irish language. Some Irish feel it should be preserved at all costs for its cultural importance, others think it is an impractical burden. Know that the language is most properly called "Irish" (rather than "Gaelic" or "Erse") when speaking English while the name of the Irish language, in Irish, is Gaeilge.[29][30]
  • In some contexts, the terms "Ireland" and "Irish" refer to just the Republic of Ireland. Similarly in other contexts they include the province of Northern Ireland. For example, phrases such as "The Irish Economy" and "Irish Politics" exclude Northern Ireland. Meanwhile "Irish weather" and "Irish Music" almost certainly include it. (One almost has to be Irish to understand the subtleties of this usage and the Irish do understand that other people may be confused.)[31][32]
  • In Northern Ireland, be particularly aware that some people identify as "Irish" while others identify as "British" and a faux pas made in this area will rarely pass without comment. The term "Northern Irish" is perhaps least likely to offend. Asking people whether they are Catholic or Protestant is insensitive.[33][34]
  • Many Irish will remain pleasant and polite rather than reveal their displeasure over certain actions by strangers.
  • Touching someone to get their attention (except in extremis) or accidentally touching someone without saying "excuse me" or "sorry" is impolite. This especially counts if said person is a stranger, such as in a shop or pub.
  • Summoning shop workers or servers with gestures, or particularly with snapping of fingers, is considered rude (as also in the UK).
  • The legal ban on smoking in workplaces (including bars, restaurants and offices) is almost universally observed. When visiting, rather than lighting a cigarette in someone's house or asking permission to smoke, ask to be excused to step outside for a cigarette.
  • It is generally considered polite to hold a door open (Or give it an extra push open) rather than let it close in the face of someone following you. If someone opens or holds a door open for you, you must always thank them.
  • Likewise it is considered normal to offer a seat to an elderly, disabled or pregnant person in buses or trains.
  • Usually it is customary when visiting a person's home to bring something to eat as a complement to the tea or coffee on offer, even if not intending to have any.
  • It is generally considered impolite to accept something on the first offer; the offer is simply a gesture of openness. If the person insists, however, it may be impolite not to accept.
  • When visiting, guests are obliged to accept a beverage (at least) and perhaps a snack. It is not impolite for a guest to make a request such as "do you have anything cold to drink instead?" but a request that is too specific ("do you have coffee?") and cannot be filled may distress a polite host and have undesired results, such as the host sending their spouse to buy some.
  • Saying one is "on a diet" will usually result in some polite badgering but saying, "No really, not tonight thanks" is adequate, even if you have provided the accompanying snack (such as pastries or biscuits).
  • When passing in the street, if eye-contact is made it is considered impolite not to acknowledge the other person in some way. This is usually in the form of a simple casual greeting, a nod or a smile, with a quick glance away to avoid misinterpreting it for flirting.
  • When invited to a person's house for dinner, it is considered polite to bring chocolates (such as after dinner mints) or a bottle of wine. Do not bring food other than a dessert as this implies the host's food is of an inferior quality. Gifts of flowers are usually reserved for romantic exchanges but are acceptable when its clear that isn't the intention (such as one couple bringing another couple "a bouquet for the table").
  • When someone visits around mealtime, it is typical to lay a place at the table and insist that they join.
  • Despite invidious stereotypes perpetuated overseas, regular over-indulgence in alcohol is frowned upon in Ireland and uncommon except among some young people. Pubs are a place to socialize rather than a place to drink to a stupor. Implying otherwise is rude.
  • When out with friends, colleagues or relatives, it is customary for people to take turns buying rounds of drinks.[35]
  • Also, while out at the pub or in any other social event not specified as a private function, it is customary to engage in conversation with any person not already conversing with a group or person. This act of including strangers upholds Irish pub's reputation of having a friendly atmosphere.
  • Do not buy gifts for work colleagues in Ireland. To do so would be regarded as strange, inappropriate and unprofessional. On the other hand, on returning from a trip abroad, it is gracious to bring a food treat (such as a box of sweets) to be shared around.
  • Niceties such as saying "good morning" to a shopkeeper upon entering a store or "thank you" to the driver when disembarking a bus are prevalent in Irish society.
  • When noting the customs mentioned below in regard to the United Kingdom, many matters of politeness apply such as queuing up for items, saying "excuse me" whenever accidental body contact occurs, and not eating fried potatoes with the fingers in a restaurant.
  • If you are visiting Ireland, it is confusing to Irish people to say that you are 'Irish' just because you have Irish blood. To Irish people, you are only Irish if you grew-up or were born in Ireland, and claims of Irishness (as opposed to claims of Irish ancestry) are viewed as silly and may be greeted with amusement or even derision.
  • Do not stare at people. However, when talking to a person, it is considered more polite to maintain eye contact, as not doing so will imply you are not interested ignoring the other person or purposefully antagonizing them. If you have been approached by the person, and are busy or otherwise engaged, it is quite acceptable to inform them that you will chat "in a minute" (meaning soon, not literally a minute).
  • It is quite common for people in Ireland to say 'sorry' if you are in their way, rather than using excuse me or pardon.
  • Discussions of religion & politics are generally avoided in the company of strangers. This depends on the place and situation, and how familiar you are with company.
  • In rural areas it is quite common to greet people whom you encounter with a greeting, such as 'Good evening'.
  • When driving along rural roads, it is commonplace to give a wave, or a raise of the hand and a nod to any pedestrians encountered, out of courtesy.

Italy and the VaticanEdit

In general, modest attire is appropriate when visiting holy places worldwide. Certainly short pants and tank tops are not appropriate when visiting churches in Italy and Vatican City. Shown here is St. Peter's Basilica.
  • When visiting a home in Italy it is impolite to remove one's coat until asked. Also, it is customary to ask to enter the home, with "permesso."
  • Rather than biting into a piece of bread, it is more polite to break off (not cut with a knife) a small piece and place it whole into one's mouth.[2]
  • Putting one's hat on a bed is impolite and reminiscent of how a priest would lay his hat on a bed while performing last rites.
  • Upon entering a shop, it is proper to greet the proprietor with Buongiorno (good morning) or some other polite greeting, even if just browsing.
  • It is usually impolite to begin drinking before everyone has been served a drink and a toast has been made (even just raising glasses for a second). It is equally impolite to begin eating before everyone has been served.
  • Before eating, people typically exchange with one another Buon appetito (have a good meal). Such practice should be avoided in extremely formal occasion (e.g. a banquet in an embassy) because it could be seen as vulgar behavior.
  • It is inappropriate to rest one's hands under the table or to have one's elbows on it.
  • Complimenting on food and asking for more is widely regarded as a very polite thing to do and every host is expected to prepare food in abundance. It is also customary, since family lunches last until late in the afternoon, to ask guests to stay for dinner and help finish all the food.
  • Asking for the check immediately after finishing one's meal is impolite. One's dining companions will typically expect time to relax and enjoy un caffè (a coffee) and un ammazzacaffè (after-dinner liqueur). Doing otherwise is acceptable only if all the people having the meal are in a similar hurry (e.g. during a work lunch break).
  • In a related matter, Italians may conduct business at a different pace than that to which others may be accustomed. Attention is often paid to building relationships before getting down to the bottom line.
  • Whether coming to sightsee or to pray, it is improper to enter a church in Italy or Vatican City with short pants, sleeveless shirts, or immodest clothing. Violators may be denied admission or asked to leave, especially with larger churches.
  • While church scandals, personal piety and other religious matters are popular topics of conversation between friends, approach these subjects carefully. Likewise, Italy has a tumultuous political history and this topic should be approached with due consideration.
  • Many Italians take pride in una bella figura or what English-speakers might call “a sense of fashion”. This means formal business attire is often expected for the workplace and stylish clothing is typical for social situations. But keep in mind that "bella figura" can also simply mean to make a good impression, regardless of clothing, or it can refer to both. The opposite is "brutta figura."
  • Remember that Italy has strong regional and local traditions: assuming that a custom of Rome is also customary in Turin or in Palermo is usually a bad idea.
  • Avoid discussion of stereotypes about Sicily and Sicilian people, especially about the Mafia and poverty. Also the pseudo-historic myth on the racial origins of Sicilians are from Africa, is itself culturally biased and racist. This myth was popular among Northern Italians in political groups advocating secession from Rome and propagated hatred against those of Southern Italian origins.
  • Although politically part of Italy, Sardinia is an island with its own history and customs, and should be treated accordingly. It is considered offensive to refer to the Sardinian language as an Italian dialect. Further, Sardinia has a long history of shepherding as a mainstay of the economy. This has led to the (false) reputation of most Sardinians as being ignorant or backwards. It is considered impolite to make light of this.
  • When greeting a friend or a relative of either sex, it is usual to exchange a kiss on both cheeks. In some regions, three kisses are customary instead. Kissing a person that has just been presented is very unusual.


  • Since it is such a small country it is important to locals that you make an effort to speak the language even if just to say hello "moien" or goodbye "äddi" at the end of conversations.
  • Never refer to it as part of Germany, France or Belgium and remember that none of those languages are the national language, they are official languages. The official languages are French, German, and Luxembourgish; the only national language is Luxembourgish. Sometimes conversations in two or more languages takes place because the average number of languages spoken by the locals is about four. The Luxembourgish language often uses foreign words to become richer.
  • When greeting anyone you know well kiss them once on their right cheek, once on the left, and again on the right.
  • Make no bad comments about the local wine (Riesling) or beers (Mousel, Diekirch, Simon Pils and Bofferding), like you would in any other country.
  • Do not make any negative comments on the country's size, its political importance, its population or the Grand Duke, like with royalty of any country.
  • Do not talk negatively about WWI or WWII, when the country was quickly overwhelmed by German forces, though in proportion to its size its four days of resistance was formidable (Luxembourgers are proud of this achievement in comparison to the French and Polish resistance taking the size of armed forces into consideration).
  • Do talk about crafts and imports made in Luxembourg. Other topics worth discussing are stamps, sports and RTL (Radio Television Luxembourg). Luxembourgers recognize you are interested in their country and to show some pride in these things their country is known for.
  • Since the flags are similar yet most of the culture and language is different, the locals don't like to be confused with the Dutch.
  • Also like in Germany and other parts of Europe, discussion about the Holocaust should never be brought up unless to someone you are more familiar with.
  • Luxembourgish self-deprecating humor includes jokes of why their country's size is 999 square miles: they once had more, but gave it back to the locals who couldn't speak their language. They also point out that their neighbor Belgium has a province called Luxembourg and joke about the Luxembourgish flag resembling the Netherlands' flag. You can engage in their light-hearted humor, but avoid "out of towner" comments like in any other country.
  • In the countryside it is considered polite to smile at or greet someone you do not know in public. This is not the case in the city. Here greetings are reserved for people you know.
  • Seens as the country's biggest city is the capital with slighly more than 110.000 inhabitants the Luxembourgers can't be considered city people. Therefore they cherish their personal space, also when on the bus or in shops. Don't stand or sit close to the person next to you when there is lots of space available.
  • The Luxembourgish are ofter polite in an almost exaggerated way. They don't like shopping in crowded shops and if people bump into each other they tend to both apologise.
  • Due to a great influx of immigrants who may or may not be permanent residents, some of the older generations feel that Luxembourg's identity is being threatened. However the high number of foreigners in the country (about 45% of the population) the younger people have a very tolerant attitude and know how to live well with cultural diversity without distinguishing between nationalities.
  • It is common to be stared at while traveling outside of Luxembourg City. While it will make you feel uncomfortable, the staring is just a cultural quirk and not an aggressive behavior. Most of the communities in Luxembourg are small and tight knit and they are usually just curious as to who you are.
  • The Luxembourgish have a reputation for coping quite well with foreigners and cultural diversity. Be polite and quiet in public and eventually that feeling will pass. Making friends with locals will help educate you on Luxembourgish culture and customs.
  • Shaking hands with people, using the polite 'You'-form for people you don't know and manners in general are very important.


These parliamentary buildings in The Hague lie within the region of the Netherlands known as Holland, as do such other well-known places as Amsterdam and Rotterdam. However, "Holland" and "Netherlands" are not synonymous and it is considered a lack of education rather than ignorance not to know this.
  • Holland is a historical region within the Netherlands. Referring to the modern country as "Holland" is incorrect; people from the North, South and East of the country may take offense.
  • Being invited to visit in the afternoon does not imply a dinner invitation and it is rude for the guest to extend such a visit into mealtime unless specifically invited further by the host. Splitting bills is also common practice.
  • Promptness is a sign of courtesy to the extent that being more than five minutes early or late (without a proper explanation) is impolite, even with close friends.
  • For women it is traditional in some regions to kiss family and friends three times on alternating cheeks upon each meeting.
  • When arriving at a birthday party, an often-practiced (but not obligatory) custom is to shake hands with everyone present and to congratulate everyone related to the occasion. For example, children are sometimes congratulated on the birthday of their parents and vice versa.[36] However this custom is not practiced in the southern part of the country.
  • When speaking to a Dutchman as a foreigner you might find the Dutch not very tolerant of different behaviors and lacking manners but this is often known are the Dutch directness.
  • When out with friends, co-workers or relatives, it is customary for people to take turns buying rounds of drinks or for everyone to lay money in to share for the rest of the night.
  • It is usually impolite to begin drinking before everyone has been served a drink and a toast has been made (even just raising glasses for a second). It is equally impolite to begin eating before everyone has been served, unless those who are not yet served collectively give permission to do so by their own account. Note that even then it is still considered to be impolite to begin, unless you are among very close friends and co-workers or family.
  • Strangers are addressed with "u", the formal pronoun. This extends to service staff. Outside these situations the use of "U" instead of "Jij" is becoming archaic. It is quite common for children to address older family members with "jij", which indicates closeness rather than disrespect.
  • Family gatherings include spousal engagements, marriages by the groom's and bride's families, to commemorate a pregnancy or childbirth, and a students' communion or graduation from school.
  • It is common for babies to be born at home (home births). Over 70% of children in the Netherlands are born at home and an extensive midwife network is in place to accommodate for this. In the Netherlands, this is regarded as a positive 'de-medicalization' of childbirth rather than a sign of poor health-care.
  • Be highly respectful about religion, esp. the North is mostly cultural Protestant and the South is predominantly cultural Catholic, but the whole country is secular in religious observance and practice.
  • As the Netherlands are Europe's most densely populated country people are used to the presence of others and living in the same limited space. Therefore they might have a different perception of what is too close. For example when queuing they tend to stand very closely behind you which should't be intimidating or weird. Everyone live his life next to everyone else's and the people don't easily take offence. Therefore a lot of people permit themselves some cheeky behavior like cutting queues for example.
  • The Dutch don't like people showing their luxuries. You might get very negative reactions.
  • The Netherlands are among the most liberal countries in Europe; it may be wise to anticipate liberal views in regard to issues such as same sex marriage.[40]


  • In many areas of Poland, traditions remain strong and it can be impolite to dress casually for Easter, Christmas or other family celebrations.
  • Raised with patriotic notions surrounding the Polish cavalry, most Poles are disgusted by the idea of human consumption of horse meat. cat and dog meat is unacceptable as well.
  • When offering a cigarette, one should open the box and allow the receiver to take one rather than handing the cigarette to someone directly. It is also customary to light cigarettes for others, especially for women.
  • When offering a sweet, a little toy for children or a similar small item from a set or an assortment, it is impolite to select one for the receiver. It's also very impolite to take more than one item when selecting one from an assortment.
  • In schools, children may celebrate their own birthdays by bringing wrapped candy for the whole class. it's also common for adults who celebrate their birthday to bring sweets for their coworkers.
  • When speaking to someone of equal or higher status than yourself (someone you just met or who is older then you are, teacher, lady in a shop, etc.) it is rude to address them as "you" unless you have agreed to be on first name basis. The accepted form is to address people as "Pani" (Polish for Mrs.) or "Pan" (Polish for Mr).
  • Guests offering to help with doing dishes or cooking meals is considered rude, since it implies that the host is not providing a good service to their guests. Also, refusing more than three times a food or other offer is considered rude for the same reasons.
  • When drinking it is polite to always pour for others first. Often, before drinking, everyone has to clink their glasses together with a chorus of "Na zdrowie" (Cheers). If someone is far away, eye contact and a raise of the glass suffices.
  • When visiting a Polish home, one is almost always expected to remove one's shoes, as it is considered unclean to wear the same footwear indoors as one would wear out in the street. If this is not the case, the host will explicitly reassure the guest that it is not necessary to remove one's shoes.
  • Men visiting women (and vice versa) at their homes is not considered flirtatious.
  • Trying to seat an unmarried women at the corner of a table may be considered impolite due the superstition that such a woman will never be married.
  • Polite gestures such as giving up one's seat in public transport for pregnant women or the elderly, holding a door for the person following you, or even helping a person with heavy baggage are widely expected.
  • In many areas of Poland, extremes of noise and space usage are experienced as intrusions upon others and thus considered, if not simply rude, marks of poor upbringing or perhaps even poor character. Such behavior includes: speaking loudly, calling for someone across a room (or multiple rooms), stomping, taking up multiple seats on public transport, etc..
  • When visiting a Polish home, it is customary (but not necessary) to bring flowers (this one's risky, many people will not appreciate cut flowers, but a small potted plant will often do as well), a bottle of vodka or wine, and/or a box of chocolates (bombonierka).
  • When meeting on the street, adult Poles typically incline their chins in a quick gesture of respect while simultaneously saying the proper greeting for the time of day.
  • Dropping by a Polish home without invitation is generally unappreciated.
  • In a semi-public setting (such as school or work) where one is surrounded by acquaintances, a Pole will typically offer to share with others whatever food he/she has brought for his/her own consumption. It is impolite to accept on the first offer; the offer is simply a gesture of openness. If the person insists, however, it means he/she really does want you to try some; in this case, it is impolite not to accept. Accepting is tantamount to sharing a small experience (the taste of the particular food--probably a favorite or sentimental item) together, and is a reciprocal gesture of openness in response to the offerer's gesture of openness.
  • Un-Americanized merchants in Poland are not typically customer service-oriented. Thus, a customer's experience in a Polish store may be shocking or even intimidating if one does not expect this. It is important to remember that this is not personal; the shopkeeper simply expects the customer to know what he wants and to make decisions quickly. If the shopkeeper were to be friendly, he may fear that customers would begin to haggle for lower prices, or that perhaps acquaintances would stay too long at the head of the line to chat, disgruntling other customers and hurting business. Thus, sharp boundaries are drawn so that the store becomes an efficient merchant-oriented dispensary of goods, not a sphere for entertainment or extensive socializing.
  • When staying the night at a Pole's house, one can expect the host's bed to be ceded to the guest. Likewise, when hosting a Pole, you will unintentionally insult him if he finds himself spending the night in a sleeping bag on the floor. Unless one explains the custom of relegating guests to such accommodations while the host sleeps comfortably in his bed, the guest will likely feel deeply disrespected to have been asked to sleep on the floor like a pet.
  • French fries are eaten with a narrow fork.
  • Continental table manners are used (fork stays in the left hand, etc.).
  • Pre-cutting multiple bites of food and then laying the knife aside is only overlooked in the case of children who cannot yet be expected to have mastered eating utensils. For all others, cut each bite of food as you go, and keep the knife in your right hand for the duration of the course (or until you no longer have any use for it).
  • It is impolite to sit at the table with one's hands in one's lap.
  • Napkins are not laid in the lap; this is considered juvenile. a napkin can be used by the elderly or bedridden people, but a healthy adult is simply expected to be careful with their food.
  • It is impolite to scratch one's head in the company of others, as this suggests lice.
  • Try to avoid letting your spoon "clink" your bowl, cup, or glass.
  • When passing people in a theater row, face them. It is considered rude to pass with your back toward the other person.
  • Avoid referring to the area as Eastern Europe, preferring Central Europe, or central Europe, in that context if possible .


Portugal is a south European nation, the Portuguese were always a very open society and most are well traveled and see themselves an international nation, there are more Portuguese outside Portugal than residing within its borders. There is a close fraternal relation with Spain, with an especial closeness with Galicia. Of note that due to its smaller size and past invasions the Portuguese have and like to preserve a very distinct national identity from Spain, this can be simply reduced to the popular statement "De Espanha nem bons ventos nem bons casamentos." (meaning, "From Spain, no good winds nor good marriages"), that reflects the intrinsic Portuguese resistance to be acculturated by Spain.

The Portuguese share also a very close relation with England that is reflected in the habit of tea and Porto wine. With France due to the large number of immigrants during the dictatorial Estado Novo (1928-1974) especially fleeing the military incorporation to fight in the colonial wars. Portugal has also kept good relations with all ex-colonies from Brazil to Timor, it has spread and absorbed cultural influences, one factor that distinguishes the Portuguese expansion and colonial empire is that Portugal has never attempted to culturally dominate other people. Portugal also has had historically a close relation with Marrocos (Morocco), due to an intrinsic Arab influence in Portuguese language and economic complementarity.

  • Portuguese, like most Mediterraneans (Southern Europe and Northern Africa) or of strong Latin culture (mostly Portuguese and Spanish diaspora, from Brazil to the Philippines), take extra pride non only in their local cuisine but how it is executed, presented and appreciated, it is central to their cultural identity. From the olive oil to wine and beer or regionally distinctly fermented, cured, smoked meat products and cheeses. If one does not have anything polite to say about them, silence is best as not to cause offense.
  • Talking about politics in casual conservation may be deemed inappropriate. Since during the dictatorial Estado Novo, politics is something that is discussed only privately amongst close relations.
  • When being introduced to someone or greeting a friend in Portugal, it is common to shake hands (if both are male or in formal situations) or to give a kiss on each cheek (in informal situations and at least one is female). Some upper society people will just give one kiss. These also applies for good-byes.
  • Most Portuguese people can understand Spanish well, but it is very impolite to assume that they do and, even worse, to think Portuguese is some Spanish dialect. Responding "I don't speak Spanish" when speaking to in Portuguese is likely to both offend and make you seem idiotic and uneducated. Also, if you want to speak Spanish, ask first if people speak it, or else people might get offended.
  • During meals, it is considered impolite to place your elbows on the table or put your hands below it.
  • During meals, it is impolite to eat before the hosts and everyone invited must be present at the table before starting. Even if you are hungry do not seat and nibble at the food.
  • The Portuguese are often a very formal people; you should, as they do, emphasize formality by being extremely polite and modest.
  • It is impolite to insist that you are correct. The Portuguese rather simply disagree than impose.
  • Men are supposed to take their gloves off when shaking hands.
  • Pointing with your finger is considered rude.
  • Referring to a colored person as a "preto" (black, dark) is similar (but not as offensive) as to using the word nigger in the USA. Negro (neger) or "de cor" (of color) is less offensive to colored persons in Portugal (and most ex-colonies of Portugal). Racial integration was never an issue in Portugal; the nation was the first inter-continental melting pot.
  • Using red ink or any non-blue ink may be inappropriate in many situations. Teachers are allowed to use red ink to mark errors in students' papers and they do so by default, but a student is supposed to not use any red ink. Note also that green color is culturally linked with the way censorship was done during the dictatorship years.

Romania and MoldovaEdit

  • The region within Romania known as Transylvania is a major area of the country and home to over 7 million people, including a sizable numbers of Hungarians, Roma and Germans. Don’t trivialize it by mentioning Dracula or the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
  • Romania is a diverse country, having many cultures (Romanian, Hungarian, Roma, German, Serbian, Ukrainian, Turkish and Bulgarian). Moldova is also a diverse country (with Romanians, Ukrainians and Russians). One must take into account the quite significant differences in culture of each ethnic group. However, because of the diversity of the country, people tend to be lenient when an outsider makes a mistake.
  • Never sit on the corner of a table - it is considered bad luck for you and for everybody else at the table.
  • When offering a cigarette, open the box and let the person taking the cigarette take one.
  • The T-V distinction is widely used, and so is the usage of last names in formal and even some informal situations. Titles are also used when referring to a person in a formal situation. In employing T-V, consider that Romanians are not very formal.
  • Names do not change according to the Russian system, since Romanian is a Romance language. For example, Mr. Popescu's wife is Mrs. Popescu.
  • Kissing the hands of women as a greeting in Romania is less common, though still used in circles claiming to be well educated. It is, however, expected by older women. The handshake is a very common form of salute. The higher ranking or elder person is expected to initiate the handshake. Kissing on the cheek is another form of salute - although more intimate then the handshake, it is not considered impolite even in some formal occasions.
  • Parts of Moldova follow a very special form of toast involving the use of just one glass, filled with wine or plum brandy, which is passed around in a clockwise circle amongst all at the table. The tradition is to drink, refill the glass and pass it to the next in order at the table. Refusing to drink or forgetting to refill it before passing it is considered a strong offense.
  • Polite gestures such as giving up one's seat in public transport for the elderly or very young, holding a door for the person following you, or even helping a person with overweight baggage are widely expected. Failing in this regard may prompt strongly voiced criticism.


  • In Russia, leaving an empty bottle on the table is widely frowned upon. When a bottle is empty it should be placed in the trash or even moved to the floor so that it is off the table.
  • When passing people in a theater row, face them. It is considered rude to pass with your back toward the other person.
  • As shoes are often taken off and left in the foyer before entering a home, it is polite to ask one's host if they should be removed.
  • In rural areas, close friends and family are known to rub pregnant women's bellies, usually a sign of good luck and to communicate with the unborn.
  • Another tip is a stranger should not approach her, they may do a "cross" sign to ward off a potential demon (a fear of a false angel or Satan himself will take the soul of the pregnant woman or baby).
  • Do not give a baby a gift until after the baby is born. It is bad luck to do so sooner.[37]

Scandinavian CountriesEdit

Many Scandinavian people take pride in their heritage as explorers and colonizers. Shown here is the Gokstad Viking ship on display in Oslo, Norway.

As Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden share aspects of a common cultural heritage, some guidelines about etiquette may apply throughout the Nordic countries. It is still inconsiderate, however, to blur the distinctions between these nations, particularly Finland, which is not a Scandinavian country and whose majority language is not a Scandinavian language (although there is a Swedish-speaking minority and the country is officially bilingual). One should also note that the term Scandinavia is somewhat ambiguous in the English language but generally refers only to the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden in the region.

  • Many people of Scandinavian descent are proud of their heritage as explorers and colonizers during the Viking Age, but it is impolite to trivialize that heritage by suggesting that all that Vikings did was to go on raids, perpetuating false stereotypes such as the wearing of horned helmets, or implying that Vikings are what one should think of when Scandinavia or Nordic countries are mentioned.[38]
  • Eating only very little of the food placed on ones plate implies that the taste or quality was poor and it could not be eaten.[2]
  • Never fill your plate with more than you can eat.
  • Using your personal utensils to help yourself to more food will taint the dish and prevent others from eating it.
  • Although it is considered impolite to start eating before all people have food on their plate many Scandinavians ignore this rule.
  • The legal ban on smoking in public places (including bars, restaurants and offices) is almost universally observed. Rather than lighting a cigarette in someone's house or asking permission to smoke, ask to be excused to step outside for a cigarette.
  • In some homes, shoes and outerwear are removed in the foyer.
  • In some regions, that of Finland most notably, people tend to be more reserved and soft spoken than others. In social situations, they may be more comfortable with periods of silence than people from the English-speaking world are accustomed to and may regard behavior appropriate in many other places as boisterous.
  • Prolonged eye contact with strangers may be considered intrusive. When making eye contact smile politely. Elderly people (70+) will appreciate a polite nod and smile.
  • Physical contact with strangers should be avoided, and apologized for if accidental.
  • If hosting a meeting or receiving guests, coffee is expected.
  • In the Nordic countries, titles such as Mr., Mrs., Professor, Doctor, etc. are very rarely used. Younger people usually call each others by first name regardless of relationship, and the T-V distinction is seldom used even though it exists. In formal written communication, a person should be addressed by first and surname.
  • It is important to be on time for appointments or meetings.
  • In Iceland, most people do not have surnames but patronymics. A person's last name is his/her father's first name in genitive with -son or -dóttir added according to the person's sex. Icelanders do not change their name upon marriage (this being illegal) so asking a spouse's last name is not impolite. Icelanders never refer to each other by last name only. In formal situations the whole name is used.
  • It is considered polite to stop for pedestrians on roads.
  • It is generally considered polite to hold a door open (or give it an extra push open) rather than let it close in the face of someone following you. If someone opens or holds a door open for you, you should thank them.
  • In Denmark, Norway and Sweden, display of the flag is very common and is considered a display of celebration and not a display of nationalism.
  • As a man when lighting a cigarette for a woman you should be holding the lighter in your hand and holding the flame to the tip of her cigarette. The lighter should be removed only when the woman removes the cigarette. When a man asks you for a light you should just hand him the lighter.
  • When toasting in wine or champagne the glasses should not be clinked. Clinking is appropriate when toasting in beer or spirits.
  • When having toasted with someone it is polite to look into the eyes of the other people in the company for a short moment before lowering your glass. This rule is widely ignored.
  • Giving tips to waiters is not common in Scandinavia as the service charge usually is included in the bill. A small tip can be given as a sign of good service. The tip could either be 10 % of the charge or you could tell the waiter not to give you change.
  • Important to know - the Sami people are indigenous ethnic minorities living in Northern Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden or Finland). They do not like to be called "Lapps" (they find the term derogatory and offensive), and dislike racial theories of their origins. As far the issue is concerned, the Sami are part of Scandinavian and European culture, and should be given a great deal of respect.
  • Scandinavia has laws against hate speech in the public, esp. based on race, religion, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • Scandinavian countries still have (can be light-hearted) ethnic and national jokes about each other, but are best left in private among family or close friends and to be about differences not to belittle the other, and they are not to be muttered in public.
  • When visiting someone and there is a plate full of biscuits, it is considered impolite to take the final biscuit, which should be left uneaten.


  • In Serbia, leaving a glass full when one is done drinking is a traditional way to invite wealth and prosperity into a home.
  • People kiss each other three times for greetings (does not matter if they are male or female) if they are relatives (not appropriate for another relationship such as business. Strangers shake hands.)
  • Sharing bills in the restaurants or café is unusual in some parts of a country. If the people go out together, they buy rounds of drinks.


  • As Czechoslovakia ceased to exist in 1993, it is inconsiderate to use this name to refer to Slovakia.
  • When drinking it is polite to always pour for others first. Often, before drinking, everyone has to clink their glasses together with a chorus of "Na zdravie" (Cheers). If someone is far away, it suffices to go for eye contact and a raise of the glass.
  • The prejudiced view that Slovakia as a backward country (same applies to all former Communist European countries) is considered to be very offensive because the country is highly developed.
  • Do not bring up or discuss World Wars I and II along with the Holocaust and persecution of Roma people (less formally known as Gypsies) as Slovakia was a German satellite state at the time the same goes for Communism or the Soviet Bloc occupation and the historic Hungarian rule of Slovakia.
  • Avoid referring to the area as Eastern Europe, preferring Central Europe, or central Europe, in that context if possible.


  • Slovenia and Slovenes themselves are proud of their country, culture and history. They are one of the smallest ethnic groups in population in Europe. Historic Slovenia includes Carinthian Austria, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia of Italy and Medjurgorje of Hungary.
  • They were formerly part of Yugoslavia, so do not assume they are (nor still) Yugoslav(ian), and they rather disassociate with that identity.
  • Slovenia is a member of the European Union and was the most developed Yugoslav republic.
  • Avoid referring to the area as Eastern Europe, preferring Central Europe, or central Europe, in that context if possible.
  • It is impolite to begin eating before everyone has been served.
  • Before eating, people exchange with one another Dober Tek (have a good meal). It is impolite to begin eating without saying this.
  • It is customary to eat poultry on the bone with your hands. Equally, when fish is served whole (on the bone), it is customary to eat it with your fingers, after you have lifted it from the bone with a knife.


  • In Spain, observe the same guidelines regarding handshakes and kisses on the cheek mentioned in regard to Portugal.
  • At restaurants it is considered rude for the staff to bring a customer the bill without the customer first requesting it.[24]
  • Within Spain there are at least the four distinct ethno-linguistic groups: Galician, Catalan, Spanish and Basque. Nearly everyone speaks the dominant language, Castellano Spanish, but being ignorant of the other cultures is impolite. Also, do not refer to the other three languages as dialects of Spanish.
  • Basque is a language unrelated to Romance languages (including Galician, Catalan, Spanish, French and Portuguese), or any other Indo-European languages; in fact Basque has no known relationship to any existing language.
  • In a related issue, there are independence movements within Spain among the groups mentioned with strong feelings on both sides of the issue. Be careful and respectful when discussing this.
  • Some other "hot issues" in Spain are bullfighting, religion, and political issues surrounding fascism and nationalism. Regarding the last one, as Spain suffered a civil war within living memory, emotions run deep.
  • Radical political views (communism and fascism) are not proper topics of discussion, they require a proper context. Spanish society is scarred by a extremely bloody civil war that preceded the second World War and established a dictatorship that lasted long after the end of WW2.
  • Differences in race/ethnicity as well the possibility of "Moorish Arabic" blood in Spaniards, are also subjects to be avoided. Spaniards take pride in being a Western European Christian (Catholic) nation that fought for its freedom from the Moorish occupation from the 7th to 15th centuries.
  • One usually waves and/or says hello to people in such situations as entering a shop and seeing shopkeeper or spying a neighbour, even someone with whom one has never had conversation.
  • When entering a place where there are people eating, it is polite to tell them to enjoy their meal que aproveche. Of course this wouldn't apply in a large restaurant.
As Turkey is a Muslim majority country, many points of etiquette in the Middle East apply here as well. Shown here is the interior dome of the Selimiye Mosque in the city of Edirne.
  • Spain is among the most liberal countries in Europe; it may be wise to anticipate liberal views in regard to issues such as same sex marriage.[39]
  • In Spain, burping is considered far more rude than in most countries.


  • As Turkey has a Muslim majority, many points of etiquette in the Middle East apply here as well. As much of Turkey is mostly in Asia, many points of etiquette in Asia also apply, such as notes regarding the respect paid to older people.
  • Any comment to a person about the appearance of the latter's female relatives or wife might be seen as rude.
  • If invited to dinner, one is expected to bring something (usually dessert). Avoid bringing alcohol unless sure that the host partakes.
  • During toasting, eye contact is not necessary. Toasts should not be more than a slight touch, since otherwise is considered a challenge of manhood or toughness of one.
  • Friends might greet each other by handshaking and touching or kissing the cheeks. This is inappropriate for business.
  • Shoes are often taken off in the foyer (not outside the house unless they are especially dirty). Slippers may be offered. It is a faux pas to refuse slippers unless one's socks are extremely clean and in good condition.
  • Hosts typically insist that guests keep eating. One needn't eat much, but should at least taste a bit of everything on the table and express appreciation for the taste and quality.
  • The American okay sign should not be used, as it's regarded as the symbol for homosexuality and might offend the people around you.
  • Putting your thumb between your index and middle fingers is an extremely offensive sign (more specifically, non-verbal swearing) and should be avoided at all times.

Turkish-Armenian relationsEdit

  • It would (not) be advised (for only political reasons) to bring up Armenia, Armenians or anything having to do with the Armenian Genocide (and vice versa). Most Turks hold views on those subjects that could best be described as "divergent" from the rest of the world's and many would feel offended or insulted on international views on the issue. In 2008, the Turkish government enacted a law to made it a crime in Turkey to insult "Turkishness"; one of the offences is the Armenian massacres during World War I (1914-18). The law is now in national court review and could be repealed if it interferes with human rights (Freedom of speech) and to clear the path for admission to European Union membership.

United KingdomEdit

When visiting a pub in the United Kingdom (such as the historic The George Inn in London) friends customarily buy rounds of drinks for one another.
  • In the United Kingdom, a "V sign" made with palm towards the viewer can signify either "V for victory" or the "peace" sign of the 1960s. Done backwards, with the palm towards the one giving the signal, this gesture is the equivalent to "the finger".[24]
  • It is generally considered polite to hold a door open (or give it an extra push open) rather than let it slam in the face of someone following you. If someone opens or holds a door open for you, you must always thank them.
  • A small gift for the host given upon entering such as flowers for the table or wine or chocolates for the meal combined with subdued thanks is common.[8]
  • In business mentioning when the person who called a meeting is late can be seen as impolite; if they are important enough to call the meeting they are important enough to wait for.
  • It is never acceptable to write an anonymous letter or one signed by a name other than one's own.
  • Tea or coffee are offered to guests almost universally. Among some groups, especially at night, a glass of wine or beer may take its place.
  • Touching someone to get their attention (except in extremis) or accidentally touching someone without saying "excuse me" or "sorry" is impolite. This especially counts if said person is a stranger, such as in a shop or pub.
  • Eating chips (french fries) with fingers is not done in a restaurant or at a meal in someone's home. Use a fork instead. This does not apply in a fast food establishment. Fingers are used to eat meat on the bone, such as chicken legs.
  • Queuing (i.e. "lining up") is expected when there is any demand for an item. The only exception to this is a pub. However it is still rude to accept service from a barperson before someone who has been waiting longer. A simple nod or subtle gesture towards the person who has waited longer will be understood by any experienced server.
  • When out with friends, colleagues or relatives, it is customary for people to take turns buying rounds of drinks.[40]
  • Whereas "asking nicely" is often sufficient for politeness in the USA, tone of voice is not adequate for polite requests in the UK: one should include "please" with all requests.
  • In England there is high importance placed on how one speaks. Do not be abrupt or too direct, as this is considered rude. Do not interrupt somebody who is speaking. Do not speak too fast as this will be interpreted as nervousness and you will make other people feel uncomfortable and intimidated. Do not speak in monotone as this will be interpreted as boredom or depression. Try to use facial expression when describing emotion to show you are interested in what you are saying.
  • In social situations, frequently in London and the south of England, striking up a conversation with a stranger is considered odd.
  • Summoning shop workers or servers with gestures, or particularly with snapping of fingers, is considered rude.
  • It is considered rude not to bag one's own groceries at the check-out. This is a faux pas commonly committed by Americans as bags are commonly packed by store employees in the US. In some shops, particularly supermarkets, help with packing may be offered by the cashier before they begin checking out your items.
  • England is a nation within the United Kingdom. Ignoring the subdivisions of the United Kingdom and referring to the whole as "England" is insulting to the inhabitants of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Sensitivity is appreciated regarding national identity (some prefer to be "English", some "British", some "Scottish", etc.).
  • Especially true for Cornwall,as a large percentage of locals identify with the ancestral heritage of the Cornish people.
  • Respect different languages when one is in Wales (the Welsh language or Cymraeg}; as well as not to using "Welsh" improperly as it can be offensive.
  • Scottish nationalism is a topic not to pick on in Scotland, but do show respect to Scottish cultural differences one may find.
  • In Northern Ireland, be particularly aware that some people identify as "Irish" while others identify as "British" and a faux pas made in this area will rarely pass without comment. The term "Northern Irish" is perhaps least likely to offend. Asking people whether they are Catholic or Protestant is insensitive.

See AlsoEdit


  1. Leo Hickey, Miranda Stewart (2005). Politeness in Europe. ISBN 1853597376. 
  2. a b c d e f g Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Window on the World
  3. Victorian Age Etiquette
  4. Victorian Age Etiquette
  5. Hervey Sandor, Ian Higgins, Sandor G J Hervey. (2002) Thinking French Translation, Routledge (UK). p. 46. ISBN 0-415-25522-8.
  6. Michel Walter Pharand. (2001) Bernard Shaw and the French, University Press of Florida. p. 113. ISBN 0-8130-1828-5.
  7. Almanac
  8. a b c Cultural Tips
  9. Erin Richards Cultural Etiquette September 19th, 2006
  10. Ongeloofwaardige opiniepeiling van De Standaard/VRT [1]
  11. Jorge Arditi (1998). A Genealogy of Manners: Transformations of Social Relations in France. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226025845. 
  12. Sally Adamson Taylor. (2004) Culture Shock! France (Culture Shock! France), Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) Pte. Ltd. ISBN 1-55868-767-X.
  13. Les Français toujours aussi faibles en anglais
  14. Ming TV
  16. Les collections de L'Histoire, « Quand les femmes prennent le pouvoir », n°34, 2006, page 79.
  17. Sifflets à l'Assemblée : Duflot n'avait «jamais vu ça», Libération, 19 juillet 2012. online.
  18. IPSOS & Les Échos Data, 2014
  19. Law HPST, July, 21 2009
  20. Giving Gifts
  21. Food and Culture
  22. Law of separation between State and Church, 1905
  23. French stereotypes: faille to wash
  24. a b c ACIS Travel Talk August 2006
  25. Door Raymond Hickey, 2002, A Source Book for Irish English, John Benjamins Publishing Company: Netherlands
  26. Door Christopher Whyte, 2004, Modern Scottish Poetry, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh
  27. Door Raymond Hickey, 2002, A Source Book for Irish English, John Benjamins Publishing Company: Netherlands
  28. Door Christopher Whyte, 2004, Modern Scottish Poetry, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh
  29. Door Raymond Hickey, 2002, A Source Book for Irish English, John Benjamins Publishing Company: Netherlands
  30. Door Christopher Whyte, 2004, Modern Scottish Poetry, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh
  31. Door Raymond Hickey, 2002, A Source Book for Irish English, John Benjamins Publishing Company: Netherlands
  32. Door Christopher Whyte, 2004, Modern Scottish Poetry, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh
  33. Door Raymond Hickey, 2002, A Source Book for Irish English, John Benjamins Publishing Company: Netherlands
  34. Door Christopher Whyte, 2004, Modern Scottish Poetry, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh
  35. SIRC [2]
  36. The Undutchables by Colin White & Lourie Boucke, page 135
  37. Russia: Culture, Customs & Etiquette [3]
  38. Cavendish International (Asia) Pte. Ltd. ISBN 1-55868-767-X.
  39. New York Times, "Spain..most liberal
  40. SIRC [4]