Top 10 Cultural Differences that Can Cause Embarrassment, Misunderstanding and Even Troubles

In a globalized world we need to know more about cultural differences because we communicate with people of completely different cultural origins - at school, at work, on vacation, on the street, and so on. To avoid troubles, keep in mind the significant cultural differences on this list.
While making this list I laughed hard at some possible embarrassing situations caused by cultural differences.
The Top Ten
1 People in the US use the “OK” hand gesture to convey that something is acceptable. In France, Belgium, Argentina and Portugal, the symbol means “zero” or “nothing.” In Japan, the same hand gesture means “money.”

This is a great list. I just learned something from it today.

Great list, M_T! I definitely learned a few things.

In Japan, it specifically means "pay me."

2 In most Western countries, eye contact is a sign of listening, truth and understanding. In Latin and North America eye contact also conveys equality among individuals. But in many Asian cultures, avoiding eye contact is a sign of respect.

I had no space in the item title for this part: In Ghana, Africa, if a young child looks an adult in the eye, it is considered an act of defiance.

3 In the United States, an employee disagreement with the employer / supervisor is more tolerable than in Japan. In Japan, an employee is unlikely to object against, or challenge a supervisor.

In a world of multinational companies, this cultural difference can create tense situations. An American employee who addresses a Japanese executive too casually can get into trouble, whereas Japanese employees may seem too subservient or aloof to their American co-workers.

4 In Latin America, winking is a facial expression that usually means a romantic or sexual invitation. In China, the gesture is considered rude. In Nigeria, adults wink at their children if they want them to leave the room.

A female Latino: *winks at a Chinese man because she wants to date him*

Chinese man: I demand an apology. That's incredibly rude, miss...

A confused Nigerian man: You think he is a kid?

An American female: Jeez, she was just joking...

I had no space in the item title for this: In some countries, winking after saying something may mean "I was joking."

5 Countries that are densely populated have much less need for personal space than those that are not. The Japanese are less likely to react strongly to an accidental touch by a stranger than Americans. Latin Americans don't need much personal space.

It's useful to know that the subjective perception of personal space and privacy varies greatly. You just don't have to stand too close to people from some countries, and vice versa: Latin Americans may think you don't like them if you stand too far from them.

In Brazil, business acquaintances stand close to build trust, so backing away may be construed as a rebuff.

6 In the Middle East, it's rude to accept a gift or a business card with the left hand because the left hand is customarily used to handle bodily hygiene. In China and Japan you should use both hands.

As business with China expands, learn to accept business cards with both hands if you badly want a contract or the job.

7 In America, standing with hands on the hips may suggest power or pride, but in Argentina, it may suggest anger or a challenge.

An American man: I'm a patriotic American and I will always stand on the side of America. *while standing with hands on hips*

An Argentinian man: Huh?! You want to challenge me?! *cracks knuckles* Let's see how strong you are!

It's a big "NO" to show power or pride with hands on the hips in Argentina or to Argentinians elsewhere in the world. For them, this would be a challenge, like "I'm angry and I'm ready to fight with you."

8 In Polynesia, people stick out their tongue to greet people which is taken as a sign of mockery in most of other cultures.

Another point to note: Maori (a Polynesian subculture) carved statues very frequently have their tongues out. However, the tongue out is not always a greeting in Maori culture, but can be an aggressive gesture. Thus, it is often invoked in a haka (war dance).

REALLY? I had no idea! Thanks for telling me! Now I won't have to get offended if a Polynesian sticks their tongue out at me.

Very unusual method of greeting, and it does raise questions of how this originated.

9 Touching children on the head is fine in North America and most of Europe. Yet in Asia, this is considered highly inappropriate, as the head is considered a sacred part of the body.
10 The Greeks use silence as a way to refuse things, while Egyptians use it to consent.

Egyptian: Want to eat?

Greek: *silence as a refusal*

Egyptian: Me too, let's go to a new restaurant.

Part Two

Greek: Hey dude, do you want to visit Athens?

Egyptian: *silence as acceptance*

Greek: You don't want to? It's a thousand-year world story teller that is very important for us Greeks! But since you're a foreigner, if you say so.

Well, considering that tons of Greeks lived in Egypt or still do live in Egypt, it must have been difficult.

The Contenders
11 In most countries, nodding your head means agreement and shaking your head means disagreement. In Bulgaria, it's the opposite.

I grew up with the worldwide common variant, despite being born and living in Bulgaria.

This is an example of communication misunderstandings from my coursebook.

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