Thank You For Picking Your Nose

Picture my family — two adults, three children, big appetites — in a charming bistro in Paris. Steaks! Wine! Chocolate gateau everywhere! Sitting next to us is another family of four (friends with whom we are traveling) and at the other end of the table a third family (more friends from home). At the end of the meal, the bill comes and we … split it.
This seemed perfectly reasonable at the time. Mais, non.
Talking about money over dinner in France is just not done. Tacky. As for splitting the bill? Bad, bad, bad. This is just one of many tips the editors at Lonely Planet are sharing, in time to arm travelers heading to unfamiliar territory during their summer vacation.
For instance, in Thailand it is OK to pick your nose in public (shows good hygiene). Waving an open palm at someone in Greece is rude (it’s like giving someone the finger). And in Russia, women never sit on the ground in public.
Local customs can be tricky to parse, no matter where you go. In Japan, where my husband lived for a year, he was told that sticking your chopsticks into a bowl of rice and leaving them there, like some kind of a free-form sculpture, is an insult because it symbolizes death. Of course, now that I think of it, sticking chopsticks into a bowl of rice and leaving them there would be considered rude even at my house. Note to daughters: So would sticking a fork into a bowl of rice and leaving it there.

I’m headed back to France this summer with friends. Maybe they'll pick up the check.

What about you? Have you made any inadvertent gaffes when traveling in a foreign country? If so, how would you handle the situation differently next time?

 

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