Good to know! Local rules and customs for happy travel

Want to avoid the stinkeye in Singapore?

How do you say ‘I’m ok’ in Paraguay?

“The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become until he goes abroad.” – Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad

These tips can help elevate you from tacky tourist to welcome visitor.

Respect the chope in Singapore

Want to save a spot at a table in Singapore? A packet of tissues will hold your place whilst you fetch your food. Choping, or the practise of using a small personal item to reserve a space, is similar to laying a towel on a deckchair, but more binding. If you see a random item on a table in a busy cafe, keep looking for an empty seat. Even better: chope your own spot.

You must be bare-a** naked in German saunas

Germany’s public saunas celebrate a body-positive, egalitarian approach to sweating in groups. (It’s hard to divine social status when everybody’s naked) It’s also hygienic. Sauna participants shower thoroughly beforehand and enter only with a towel for sitting.

Innocent gestures can be anything butt

Thumbs down to the thumbs up in Sardinia, West Africa, Russia, Greece, Iran. In many places, the ok is not ok!

People in some parts of the world indicate (in a friendly way) with their middle, not index fingers. Memorably, I went through a lease, line-by-line with an elderly gent from Germany, who pointed out every essential detail with this digit, unaware that he was flipping me the bird!

No selfies with centurions in Rome

Despite a 2015 law banning people in historical costume from bilking selfie-crazed tourists, sandal-clad entrepreneurs still prowl the Colosseum. While tourists aren’t liable for the offense, it’s notable that the Italian government felt the need to crack down on the re-enactors who charge 20 euros or more for a photo op.

Centurions felt differently.

Don’t pee in the sea – Spain

In an effort to clean up both tourist behaviour and its coast, Spain enacted new rules for beaches. These include a ban on smoking, barbecues, and using soap in outdoor showers. A wee in the sea can land violators with a fine of over 600 pounds, though the Spanish government has not been forthcoming in how it plans to enforce the ruling.

The world’s weirdest laws (and how NOT to break them)