Top 5 Ways To Offend Your Hosts In Asia


The world of international travel and living can be hazardous, you might miss your train, book accommodation in the wrong part of town, or pay too much for a tacky souvenir—but perhaps the hardest thing to recover from is offending your hosts.

These are the Live and Invest Overseas top 5 ways to offend your hosts in Asia…

  1. Resist Ruffling…

Those children are so irresistible, posing for photos and flashing their cheeky grins. You just want to pinch their cheeks or ruffle their hair… But wait, stop! Don’t do it!

The Vietnamese never touch each other on the head. The head is considered sacred in the Buddhist faith and is the place where the spirit resides. Touching children on the head is something only parents and grandparents are allowed to do. You should also avoid passing anything over someone’s head.

  1. It’s Not What You Give, It’s The Way That You Give It…

Although the Cambodians don’t generally celebrate birthdays (many older Cambodians don’t know when their birthdays are), gifts are given at New Year and occasionally to the host when you have been invited for a meal. While it might be the thought that counts, it’s important to keep a few things in mind when giving or receiving gifts.

First, always use colorful paper—never white—even for a wedding. In Cambodian culture, white signifies death and mourning.

If you are being given a gift you should always politely refuse it at first and remember not to open it until later. Presents are never opened at the time they are given.

Finally, always give or receive a gift with both hands; this symbolizes graciousness.

  1. Watch How You Walk Through The Door…


In Thailand, you’ll notice that thresholds of temples and homes are often raised. Thais believe that a guardian spirit resides in the threshold, protecting the building and the people in it from evil spirits.

For this reason, visitors should remember always when walking through a doorway to step over the threshold, not on it, and never under any circumstances sit on it.

  1. Careful With That Finger…


Beckoning someone with your index finger can cause a great deal of offence in Malaysia. In Singapore, a curled index finger represents death, and, in the Philippines, it’s a signal used only for dogs. But in Malaysia it’s just plain rude.

The alternative is to hold your hand out palm down and move your fingers back and forth.

  1. Keep Your Hands By Your Sides…

If you are standing for a long period of time, talking with a friend in the Philippines, don’t relax with your hands on your hips. In the Philippines, putting your hands on your hips means you’re angry, no matter the topic of discussion or tone of your voice.


About Author

Rebecca Adams

Rebecca Adams is a New Zealander living in Panama City. She has visited more than 35 countries around the world and is actively working to up that number.