Hospitality Customs Around the World

David Soffer, September 12, 2018 2:07 pm

Worldwide Hospitality

Whilst travelling, you may find that you encounter different traditions and customs in the destination that you are in, and of course, this can also apply to the hospitality customs around the world which you may encounter. Many countries, cities and cultures vary in their practices with regards to hospitality. Knowing what to potentially expect in some of the lesser-known as well as some of the better-known places around the globe, could stand you in good stead whilst travelling.

We take a look at some that you could encounter whilst on holiday or perhaps a business trip abroad.

Numerology in China

You may find that when travelling around East Asian culture, there is an inauspicious omission of the number 4 wherever you go. This is due to the number in Chinese culture, sounding almost identical to the Chinese word for death in terms of pronunciation. As a result, it can be common for buttons in lifts in hotels to skip directly from 3 to floor five, or, you may encounter the corridor of a hotel from 39 to 50 to skip 4 entirely.


Traditions of Gursha in Ethiopia

This gesture of hospitality in Ethiopia has been a ritual for many years. It involves taking a large piece of food and wrapping it in a flatbread (known as injera) and then placing it in the mouth of the person you are dining with. In Ethiopia, this is seen as a sign of honour.

Not tipping in South Korea

Across Europe, and in the United States, it is commonplace for customers to provide a tip to waiters providing food or drink services in a bar or restaurant, as a way of showing their gratitude for the experience and service they have been given. However, in the food service and hospitality industry in South Korea, as well as in a number of other countries it can be seen as an insult to tip. This is partially because continuously improving guests’ experiences in Asia is part and parcel of how they believe hospitality should be delivered.


You may have found when staying at a hotel or spa in Germany the concept of ‘Polta-packages.’ Polterabend is a tradition in Germany in which wedding guests of the bride and the groom break items (such as those made from porcelain, vases or other pieces of crockery) and then the couple to be, clears this away; demonstrating their commitment to unity and hard work. This customary practice takes place the night before a wedding. This has led to the proliferation of ‘polto-packages’ in some German hotels, specifically catering for hen and stag parties.

Russia and Vodka Traditions

If you find yourself opening a bottle of Vodka in Russia at restaurant and do not finish it, it may be this considered rude and it is also considered impolite to add mixers to the vodka too, as is custom in many European destinations. For example, Russians will not drink vodka-cranberry, or similar. Rather, they enjoy their vodka ‘straight.’ Therefore, you might want to think a little carefully before ordering the vodka whilst abroad in Russia!

Turning Up Late in Mexico

If you are visiting friends or family members in Mexico and find yourself being invited to a dinner party, forget UK customary practices and remember to be late! Don’t take too much advantage of this though. It is generally expected that a guest can be around half an hour late, as opposed to many hours late. On the other hand, make sure you don’t arrive early, or exactly at the time that has been stated, with both being particularly frowned upon.

Refusing food in the Philippines

If you are you travelling to the Philippines soon, make sure that you are aware of hospitality traditions here. One of the most important being, that you are considered ill-mannered if you refuse food given to you by a host. That means you should avoid saying no, even if it’s the seventh or eighth course, to avoid offending, just smile and eat slowly.

Tipping in the US

One of the biggest etiquette issues in hospitality in the United States is when tourists do not tip. Tipping is customary, perhaps even obligatory in the USA, as it is often the case that restaurant workers such as waiters, or other types of hospitality workers, rely heavily on tips in order to maintain their income. For example, in some cases, it may be the case that a person in this role is paid just two dollars an hour. Therefore, not providing a tip is considered very rude in America. Tipping is most notably customary in restaurants, taxis and hotels.

Making Noise During Meals in Japan

Contrary to Western cultures where making a considerable amount of noise whilst eating would be considered rude, and with children even discouraged from doing so at younger ages, in Japan, this is considered in a completely different way. The more noise made, the merrier, indicating both your satisfaction and enjoyment with the meal that has been provided to you. There are similar hospitality traditions in China too, where belching can be seen as indicating your appreciation to the chef who cooked your meal.

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