A Story about Cultural Taboos – Part One

Australia and Oceania

The Journey of Global TaboosThere are so many risks to drop a brick during your travels or your negotiations in a foreign country. Therefore the best thing is to know the taboos of the country before you start your trip. In the next weeks these taboos will be the topic of my Blog. Our main character George will start his long journey in Australia and Oceania.

Not so long ago George started his world travel in Australia and New Zealand. As he learned from the mistakes of his father from 1992 he never showed the V-Sign (with the palm inwards) towards the citizens. Fortunately he was informed well enough not to use a raised middle finger instead which is even more aggressive.

After his arrival in Samoa he walked in a muscle shirt and with shorts through a village and suddenly all the people stared in anger at him. He was not aware what was wrong and in the hut of the Chief he got to know that his clothes have at least to cover his knees and his shoulders if he wants to walk through a village in Samoa, Tonga or Vanuatu. George stood up to thank the Chief for his advice but he insulted him instead because the Chief was still sitting and standing while others are sitting is a rude behaviour and in addition he pointed the bottom of his feet towards the Chief – this has the same meaning like the middle finger in Australia. As a result he was banned out of the country.

His next stop was Kiribati and there Samoa Tabooshe just needed one situation to break all taboos. A young boy was relaxing in the street. George went to him and his feet were very close to the head of the boy. And when the boy wanted to stand up George touched the boys head and so he disrespected that the head is a sacred part of the human body. At least he learned that he has to make a bow if he passes a talking group.

In Vanuatu the bow was not enough. George had to bend his knees and his upper body when passing two people – regardless if they are talking or not. The same gesture he used when he was late at the meeting with the Chief. Unfortunately George forgot to take his shoes off before entering the Chiefs’ hut and so he was banned again. At the airport he wanted to buy a souvenir but he thought the price was too high so he started bargaining but suddenly they refused to sell him something because bargaining in Vanuatu is disrespectful since the prices are always reasonable.

His next destination was Palau and there he was invited by a man to come for dinner. George refused and so he started with a fault again because in Palau it is better to accept the invitation and not showing up for the dinner than to decline. Afterwards he dropped another brick by saying negative things about the chewing of the betel nut which is a tradition in Palau.

Arriving in Tonga George hugged a woman he liked but since showing affection in public is not accepted he moved on to Papua New Guinea. There he was greeted by one native inhabitant and George simply greeted back. So the inhabitant was angry because he thought he was not good enough for Georges’ time who at least should have stopped for a short chat. When George stepped carelessly over food which was lying on the ground he had again broken all taboos of the country.

Georges’ last destination in Oceania was Fiji.Journey of Cultural Taboos - Map Part One He had learned to wear proper clothes in the village but he missed the fact that you should not wear sunglasses or a hat either in Fiji. So when the inhabitants reacted shocked George started swearing and cursing at them and so the people related their bad luck to him and he never made friends in Fiji.

Things we learn from George’s journey:

  1. always inform yourself before the trip and not only from one source
  2. be more reactive if you are not a hundred percent familiar with the culture
  3. always wear respectful clothes and adapt to the natives
  4. ask questions if you are not sure what is meant by some gestures or behaviours
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8 thoughts on “A Story about Cultural Taboos – Part One

  1. Hello ~ I cam by to thank you for visiting my blog and “liking” the video Notre Histoire en 2 minutes.I appreciate you stopping by.
    I found this post delightful and lived vicariously through George’s faux pas.~

    You have a fascinating blog I am glad I came over to have a peek..

    Be Expressed~ BB

    • Hi Jessica,

      thanks for commenting the post. Fortunately I didn’t do these mistakes on my own…I learned the lesson to be prepared but I think we all dropped a brick somewhere and sometimes…

      Best regards,
      Marcus

  2. Great advice. It’s so important to be culturally sensitive while traveling. Thanks for sharing and thanks for stopping by Travel Oops and liking the photos of Crested Butte. Steph

  3. Wow! I would never have known how easily one could offend in places like Fiji or Samoa had I not read this post. When entering another’s culture one really needs to be proactive in terms of etiquette and customs. America and Germany are both western cultures but is there enough Germans find offensive when dealing with American tourists?
    Warmth and Peace

  4. nice to read these types of things somewhere. not always easy to find. If you want to read about some travel experiences of my own, mainly about the little funny things that make this world such a crazy and different place, check out my blog!

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