Don’t Be That Person: 11 of the Most Insulting and Shameful Things Travelers Have Done Abroad

While in a place where cultures we’re not aware of exist, it’s easy to unknowingly do some things that are either offensive or embarrassing. It’s all a part of the learning experience that comes with exploring new territories. But some actions, regardless of the location, could be perceived as universally shameful, as people have confessed in an online discussion board.

1. Yelling In Circles Around Buddha

Ulaanbaatar,/Mongolia - 07/06/2019 Men with Mongolian traditional Clothing
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Coming in first on our list is the first unfortunate case revolving around Buddha. Buddhism has deep roots in Mongolia, having been practiced there for a solid two millennia. So, imagine the shock when a traveler all the way from Scotland arrived in Mongolia, embarked off-road in their smart car, and proceeded to go around a Buddha statue. Amidst their wild ride, they were “yelling and screaming,” and looking back, the user thinks it’s pretty clear that this was far from a respectful gesture.

2. Buddha’s Head

Buddha's Head
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“I visited Angkor Wat, and there are a lot of Buddha statues that have had their heads removed from different times that the country was occupied. So I very stupidly posed with my head in place of a missing Buddha head. I almost didn’t post this because I still cringe thinking about it, but I didn’t know better. This happened almost a decade ago,” a traveler shares.

3. Asking About Protests

people sitting at bar at restaurant in boise
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While in Nicaragua, one jet setter says they stopped for a few drinks at a bar and kept asking locals how the political climate was with all the protests. They kept telling the traveler they were not allowed to give any information. The next day on a walking tour, the tour guide shared that undercover cops camp in establishments and reprimand those who share too much information.

4. Right Word, Wrong Language

tourists in france
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A few individuals reflect on arriving in a different country and pronouncing the words wrong for the first few days of their visit. One said oui in Mexico, another pronounced “nein” in German, “neen,” while another confused oui for si.

5. Refusing Kisses on the Cheek

woman kissing mickey mouse at disney
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In France, and some other countries, kissing once on each cheek is the traditional greeting, and everyone complies out of respect. This globetrotter articulates their experience, “I remember when her male friends came up to do it, I visibly winced and recoiled in horror lol. It felt very intimate, and I was super shy around guys at the time.

I definitely meant no offense, but I’m sure people were offended or at least a little put off; it was probably the equivalent of refusing a handshake in other cultures! Thankfully, one of her friends was super kind and understanding and helped me get comfortable with it over time.”

6. Moving a Religious Symbol

Religious Symbol
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We all do inexplicable things when we’re young, right? This frequent flyer recounts a childhood trip to Malaysia where they twisted the arrow pointing to Mecca 180 degrees.

7. Asking a Serbian Person About a Serbian Film

Selective blur on tamburasi, a traditional serbian folk band of tambura, playing in a restaurant in front of guests in Skadarlija street.
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A Serbian Film is a controversial film about a retired adult film star who moves into a different avenue of cinema. Cinephiles love or despise this movie. Some claim it is a metaphor for the Serbian government and how they treat residents, while others think its political commentary or exploitation.

However, according to an internet thread, asking a Serbian person their thoughts on the film is disrespectful. Many Serbian people say the movie paints a poor picture of Serbian people and gives the country a bad reputation.

8. Switching up Denominations

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS, UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 8, 2019 Basilica Altar Stained Glass Saint Mary's Catholic Church San Antonio Texas. Built in 1857, Stained Glass from 1914
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“We took the Tube to a station where the hotel clerk told us we could find a nearby church that was having mass at a convenient time. Stopped to ask a worker in the station for directions, but we made the mistake of referring to the church as Catholic rather than Roman Catholic.

He proceeded to give us an extensive lecture about how the Anglican Church is actually the Catholic Church, not that one based out of Rome,” a London explorer elaborates.

9. Disregarding Rules in Places of Worship

Anglican Church
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A few users comment about the times they entered churches, mosques, or temples and didn’t acknowledge or know the rules of the sacred spaces. For example, one male entered a mosque with shoes, a female entered a mosque without a hijab, another entered a synagogue without a kippah, and someone else kept their shoes on in a temple.

10. Ordered a Drink With an Offensive Name

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Many cocktails have names based on devastating events. For example, one person writes the most offensive thing a friend did while traveling, “Not me, but I know a guy that ordered an Irish car bomb in Dublin.”

Another user shares, “I think mine probably has to be ordering a B52 shot in Cambodia as an American (and son of someone involved in the fighting in the area).”

11. Using Dining Utensils for the Wrong Purposes

Table setting
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“I mistook matcha powder for wasabi and mixed it in my soy sauce. I got a scolding from the server, and my dip was confiscated, lol. I also poured the tsukemen broth into my teacup and tried to drink it; also confiscated my cup. I’m bad at Japan,” a sightseer writes.

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