5 American Behaviors Considered Rude in Other Parts of the World

Different cultures have different customs. Even simple things, such as hand gestures, can have entirely different meaning in other areas of the globe. When visiting an international destination, or meeting with a diverse group of colleagues, it is important to understand how your non-verbal behaviors may be interpreted in effort to avoid being rude and creating unnecessary conflict. Below are some common behaviors in the United States that are considered rude in other areas of the world; be sure to watch for these habits when interacting with others of different cultures.


While a thumbs-up in the United States means “good job,” in the Middle East, Latin America, and Western Africa, a thumbs-up is equivalent to the middle finger in the US.

One Hand In Your Pocket

Keeping one hand in your pocket in the United States is hardly interpreted as meaning anything, but in some Asian countries it is considered arrogant.

Refusing Food

Refusing food in the United States is acceptable, especially when you’ve already had drinks, an appetizer, and dinner. However, in most Arab countries refusing food is considered incredibly rude.

Personal Space

Couples in the United States can hold hands, kiss, and cuddle in public without so much as a sideways glance. Such affectionate gestures in public are considered offensive in the Middle East, China, and Thailand.

Opening Gifts Quickly

Hastily opening gifts is expected in the United States. It’s thrilling to watch your loved ones quickly open a gifts you gave, and it’s even better when they love the present. However, opening gifts in front of the giver without waiting is considered greedy in other parts of the world, such as India and China.