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12 Asian Etiquettes Western men should learn before travelling

Are you gearing up for a thrilling journey to the vibrant and culturally rich continent of Asia? If so, let’s take a moment to talk about the fascinating customs and traditions that make each destination so unique. From bowing in Japan to removing your shoes in India, mastering these 12 essential Asian etiquette rules will not only help you navigate the local culture with ease but also leave a lasting impression on the people you meet along the way. So, let’s get ready to embark on a journey of discovery and respect, where cultural exchange and mutual understanding reign supreme.

Difference between Asian and West

Asian and Western cultures are very diverse and complex, and it’s difficult to make broad generalisations that accurately capture their differences. However, here are some potential differences that are often discussed:

Individualism vs. collectivism

Western cultures tend to place a greater emphasis on individualism, meaning people are encouraged to be independent, assertive, and self-reliant. Asian cultures, on the other hand, often prioritise collectivism, which emphasises the importance of group harmony and interdependence.

Communication style

Western cultures tend to be more direct and explicit in their communication, often valuing honesty and transparency. In contrast, Asian cultures may place more importance on indirect communication, where meaning is conveyed through nonverbal cues or by implication.

Attitude toward time

Western cultures tend to place a high value on punctuality and efficiency, and time is often seen as a finite resource to be maximised. Asian cultures may have a more flexible attitude toward time, with a greater emphasis on relationships and social interactions that may not always adhere to strict schedules.

Relationship to authority

Western cultures often have a more critical or questioning attitude toward authority, valuing individual freedom and autonomy. In contrast, Asian cultures may place greater emphasis on respect for authority and hierarchy, with a focus on maintaining social harmony and stability.

Attitudes toward work

Western cultures often place a high value on productivity and efficiency in the workplace, with a focus on achieving measurable goals. Asian cultures may have a more holistic view of work, valuing interpersonal relationships and the process of collaboration as much as the end result.

It’s important to remember that these are broad generalisations, and there is a great deal of variation within both Asian and Western cultures. Additionally, many people in today’s globalised world are exposed to multiple cultural influences, so it’s increasingly common for individuals to exhibit a blend of cultural values and practices.

Asian cultural norms

Asia is a diverse continent with various cultures, traditions, and norms. However, here are some general cultural norms that are common in many Asian countries:

Respect for elders

In many Asian cultures, elders are highly respected and hold an important position in society. It’s customary to show deference and seek their advice and wisdom.


Asian cultures value community and family over individualism. People often prioritise the well-being of the group over their personal interests.

Saving face

In many Asian cultures, avoiding shame and preserving dignity are essential. People often try to save face, even in challenging situations, to avoid embarrassing themselves or others.


Politeness is highly valued in many Asian cultures. People use honorifics and formal language to show respect and avoid offending others.


Gift-giving is an important cultural norm in many Asian countries. It’s seen as a way to show appreciation, build relationships, and express gratitude.


Maintaining harmony and avoiding confrontation is highly valued in many Asian cultures. People often try to find a compromise or a peaceful resolution to conflicts.


Education is highly valued in many Asian cultures. It’s seen as a pathway to success and a way to improve one’s life and social status.

Hard work

In many Asian cultures, hard work and dedication are highly respected. People often work long hours and make sacrifices to achieve their goals.

Face-to-face communication

In many Asian cultures, face-to-face communication is highly valued. People prefer to have personal interactions rather than rely on digital communication.


Many Asian cultures have strong spiritual beliefs, and religion plays an important role in daily life. People often engage in religious practices and seek spiritual guidance.

Why is it important to follow etiquette when travelling in Asia

Firstly, Asian cultures place a high value on respect, and adhering to etiquette is seen as a way to show respect for others. In many Asian countries, there are specific rules and customs governing everything from how to greet someone to how to eat a meal, and failing to follow these customs can be seen as rude or disrespectful.

Secondly, following etiquette can help you navigate social situations more smoothly. When you show that you are aware of and respectful of local customs and traditions, you are more likely to be accepted and welcomed by the local community. This can be especially important when doing business or travelling in Asian countries, where building relationships and establishing trust are often key to success.

Finally, following etiquette can also be a way to learn about and appreciate a different culture. When you make an effort to understand and follow local customs and traditions, you show an openness to learning and a respect for the diversity of the human experience. This can lead to a deeper appreciation of the culture and a more enriching travel or business experience.

Asian travelling etiquettes to follow

As Asia is a diverse and culturally rich continent, it’s essential to be aware of certain etiquettes to avoid offending locals and show respect for their traditions and customs. Here are ten important Asian etiquettes for foreigners to follow while travelling:

Remove your shoes In many Asian cultures, it is customary to remove your shoes before entering a home or certain public places, such as temples. This is because shoes are considered dirty, and it is seen as disrespectful to bring outdoor dirt inside.

Cover up In many Asian countries, modesty is highly valued, and it is important to dress conservatively, especially in religious places. Revealing clothing may be seen as disrespectful and offensive.

Don’t point with your feet Feet are considered dirty in many Asian cultures, so pointing with your feet, stepping over someone, or showing the soles of your feet can be considered impolite and disrespectful.

Use both hands to receive or give items Using both hands to give or receive items, especially when dealing with older people or those in a position of authority, is a sign of respect in many Asian cultures.

Don’t touch people’s heads In many Asian cultures, the head is considered the most sacred part of the body, and touching it can be seen as an invasion of personal space.

Use chopsticks correctly When dining in Asia, it’s important to use chopsticks correctly. Do not stick them upright in your rice bowl, as this resembles a funeral ritual, and do not use them to spear food.

Bowing In many Asian cultures, bowing is a sign of respect, especially when meeting someone for the first time. The depth and duration of the bow can vary depending on the situation and the person you are bowing to.

Respect local customs and beliefs It’s important to be mindful of local customs and beliefs when travelling in Asia. For example, in some cultures, it is customary to remove your hat when entering a temple or other religious site.

Don’t be too loud or aggressive In many Asian cultures, being too loud or overly aggressive can be seen as disrespectful and impolite. It’s important to speak softly and be mindful of your surroundings.

Give and receive with two hands When giving or receiving items, it is common to use both hands, as it is seen as a sign of respect and gratitude. This is especially important when dealing with older people or those in a position of authority.

Learn basic phrases Knowing a few words in the local language can go a long way in showing respect to the locals.

Tipping In many Asian countries, tipping is not expected. It’s best to do your research on the local customs before tipping.

These rules are deeply rooted in the culture and social norms of Asian societies, and following them can show respect for local traditions and good manners. It’s important to be aware of these customs and practices when travelling to Asia to avoid causing offence and to help build positive relationships with locals.

In conclusion

In conclusion, if you want your trip to Asia to go smoothly and to your satisfaction, you should familiarise yourself with Asian etiquette before you leave. Gestures and actions that are considered polite and courteous in one culture may be seen as impolite and disrespectful in another, much as a handshake or a hug may have various meanings and implications in different cultures.

Learning about local customs and social norms is an important way for visitors to avoid offending people without intending to. This will not only lead to more genuine encounters with locals, but it may also serve to lessen misunderstandings between people of different backgrounds.

Learning proper Asian etiquette can help visitors to Asia better understand the region’s different cultures and make friends regardless of language or location. You’ll be pleased you spent the time to familiarise yourself with the norms of conduct in India, Japan, China, Korea, or anywhere else in Asia.

If you are travelling solo don’t forget to read this article as well.

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