Travelbag research underlines the value of knowledge and cultural insight to avoid offence and embarrassment – and to get the most from a holiday

  • Just 14% of Britons habitually research local customs before travelling
  • 92% of UK travellers don’t feel very confident about how much to tip when eating out abroad
  • 79% didn’t know it’s considered rude to tip in a restaurant in China
  • Tailor-made holiday specialists, Travelbag, has launched a series of travel etiquette guides – ‘Travelbag Tips’ – to help customers get the most from their travels

According to new research from tailor-made holiday specialists, Travelbag, British travellers miss out on richer holiday experiences – and sometimes unintentionally commit cultural gaffes – because they haven’t learnt the customs of the countries they’re visiting. Just 14% of respondents claimed to research local traditions before they travel, with tipping etiquette being a particular blind spot.

This lack of research is causing some tourists to unintentionally offend people. Half of Brits would use a ‘thumbs up’ sign to communicate or show appreciation, even though it can be considered offensive in several countries, such as Brazil. Similarly, 63% would use the ‘OK’ hand gesture to show appreciation, not realising that it has different meanings in different countries.

When eating in restaurants around the world, the etiquette can vary hugely but we found that awareness is lacking. Whilst 67% know what the customary service charge is in the UK, just 8% felt ‘very confident’ about what to tip when abroad – or that in some countries, tipping is a big no-no altogether. Nearly 80% of respondents didn’t know it’s insulting to tip in China, for example, where it can be seen to imply the employee is not valued by their employer.

Eating out gaffes aren’t just limited to tipping:

  • Almost 80% would leave chopsticks standing upright in a bowl of rice, not knowing that in Japan it is offensive to do so; it’s a symbol of the death bed.
  • Whilst burping after a meal is considered a faux-pas in the UK, elsewhere it is considered a sign of appreciation and satiety. Two thirds of respondents to Travelbag’s survey didn’t know if it’s OK to burp in Japan, Australia, China or India.

According to the data, something as simple as how a person sits can cause offence if done wrong. The research showed, for example, that 70% didn’t know that they should avoid crossing their legs when sitting in Dubai. Showing the soles of your shoes or feet implies that you think the other person is ‘dirt’, so Arabs prefer to keep their feet flat on the ground.

Using the knowledge and unrivalled experience of its travel advisors, Travelbag has created a set of travel etiquette guides – Travelbag Tips – to give holidaymakers a helping hand. They contain dos and don’ts for key destinations and are designed to give customers a quick overview, to read beforehand or even en-route on the plane.

Paul Hopkinson, Marketing Director at Travelbag comments, “We think people should pack in as much to their holidays as possible. By taking a bit of time to learn about the traditions and customs of the places they’re visiting, they’ll get more out of the experience when they’re there – and avoid potential offence and embarrassment in the process. We’re really pleased to pull on the knowledge of our well-travelled team to help our customers get clued up before they go – and come home with a lifetime of great memories.”

The travel etiquette guides are available to download

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