In order for polite society to remain polite society, we have developed a set of rules that make no sense whatsoever. We call these rules etiquette. Why the heck are there two forks for my place setting? I suspect that the cutlery industry had a hand in starting that etiquette rule. Either that or it harkens back to the time when having two forks instead of one was the only thing separating life and death.
And just when we think we’ve made sense of all of these stupid rules, we do something even more idiotic like go to another country. That country’s etiquette rules are likely drastically different than yours. So if you try to insult someone in Italy by giving them the middle finger, you are actually wishing them a full and prosperous life (results may vary).
I am pleased to say that the good people at Swisotel (purely out of the kindness of their black multinational conglomerate hearts, I’m sure) have a handy online guide to etiquette from around the world. It’s a little simplistic, but it does cover the bare minimum nicely. How to greet people, tipping, basic dining tips, and various dos and don’ts.
Despite the fact that etiquette rules almost universally don’t make sense, these things are important when travelling. Don’t be that rude American who can’t do even basic research before travelling to another country (or State for that matter!).
I remember when I was travelling in Italy and this obviously well-to-do couple from the U.S. joined us in our train car. They were doing one of those all around the Mediterranean cruises and were either just finishing or had a few days in Italy to kill between hops so they were heading to Lake Como. The entire train ride there, they were expressing their shock that there were all these people that didn’t speak English. It wasn’t in a way where they were travelling for the first time and were coming to terms with the variety of humanity either. It was more indignation. How dare the rest of the world not speak English! I assume that they kept previous vacations to safe tour group sojourns. Don’t be those people. Please.