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Minding Your Manners in Europe

Being Polite

Danielle Wright
03 March 2011

It’s hard enough teaching your children to be polite at home, let alone when in a new country. Here's a few tips on being polite in Europe.

  • In England, make sure you stand on the right side of the elevator so that people can walk fast down the left side. If you don’t you will get all manner of stiff upper lip grunts in frustration. Underground staff may even tap you on the shoulder to make you move over.

  • In Germany and Latvia, if you want to buy your host some flowers, make sure you present them unwrapped. Don’t worry, your host or hostess is used to taking the paper ball off you discreetly.

  • In Turkey, it’s rude to show the soles of your shoes because they believe it’s the lowest and dirtiest part of the body. Keep them hidden by sitting on them if cross-legged or tuck them underneath you. Revealing the soles of the shoes is an insult in all predominantly Muslim countries.

  • Be careful of using the Kiwi hand gesture for “OK”. In France it means “worthless” and in Germany and Spain it’s obscene.

  • If you nod your head up and down to say “yes” just remember that in Bulgaria and Greece, this gesture means “no”.

  • In France, it’s polite to eat sandwiches and fruit with a knife and fork and in Germany, always knock before opening a door.

  • Never push in line in Britain but in Greece, there’s often pushing and shoving in lines. It’s also okay in Greece to say hello to someone you know in the morning but turn your back on them in the afternoon, or later in the day if you see them.

  • In Sweden, put your coat on AFTER you have stepped outside the door and remember that eye contact is important in this culture.

Above all, remember that we all smile in the same language – teach your children to be friendly and they’ll be popular in every culture.

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