Quiz: Have you ever committed a cultural faux pas?

The free online course “Intercultural Communication” begins on FutureLearn soon, to help you appreciate and adjust to different cultures. To mark the occasion, we’re asking you to tell us about any embarrassing moments you’ve had while working, studying or travelling abroad.

An example of a potential cultural faux pas.

Eating dinner can be a tricky business if you’re not aware of certain cultural habits.

When you’re visiting another country – or simply talking to someone from a different culture – it can be easy to commit a faux pas.

faux pas
a slip or blunder in etiquette, manners, or conduct; an embarrassing social blunder or indiscretion.

Take our just-for-fun quiz to find out just how easy it is – how you eat, drink or even smile could get you into trouble in certain parts of the world.

Then tell us if you’ve ever been guilty of these or other social blunders.

Share your cultural faux pas

You can share your faux pas in the comments below and on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #FLintercultural. We’ll be collating the best faux pas and offering some advice for avoiding them soon.

Have you ever been guilty of these or other cultural faux pas? Share your blunders in the comments below and on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #FLintercultural. Or join the free online course “Intercultural Communication” to learn more about avoiding them.

Category Learning

Comments (58)


  • Fatma Mbaruku Kitundu

    very interesting

  • Hortense

    I think a lot of the comments contradicting the quiz itself are a proof that Intercultural Comms is not about learning the big cultural guidelines, but about training yourself to be in-tune with whoever you interact with as their upbringing and expectations might be very different from what you read in a book or online…

  • maris

    one Chinese new year I gave red envelopes to workers and not to the boss. All the red envelopes were returned to me! 🙁

  • Ricky Sjöberg

    It is considered rude in UK to make a “V” sign with two fingers with the palm facing you. I got a funny look when ordering two pints in bar. I put two fingers up and said “two pints, please mate”. Also, it is quite common to be called “love” (if you are female) or “mate” (if you are male) when being served by complete strangers in some regions of the UK. In the US it is more formal; “sir” or “ma’adm”

  • Natalia

    As a Russian person I can say that the importance of vodka is exaggerated in the quiz (as well as in many other foreign sources). Don’t be afraid to refuse a drink, if you don’t feel like drinking.
    I don’t drink at all and nobody here makes me do it 🙂

    • Hortense

      It’s funny I also know a lovely Russian Natalia who doesn’t drink… definitely goes to show it may no longer be that common!

  • MN

    NUMBER 1. in this quiz is wrong, so other questions could be wrong too. Greeks Never wave with their palm facing in ! It would be considered silly and goofy!

    • Connie

      However, this gesture is used to signal “come here” in Costa Rica. The kids I was teaching didn’t get it when I used the American gesture of sweeping the hand and arm towards oneself.

  • Ana

    When I was studying in France when I was 12 years old I had a cold and instead of telling people that I I was telling them that I was constipated.

    • Juno

      it’s said that Cantonese eat all that can be eaten, like snake, mouse, cat, etc. But!!! Remember! Not all Cantonese. So please, do not ask every Cantonese you meet ” Do you really eat mouse/cat?” … it may make someone sick.

  • Tamerat Letta

    I went to an Indian restaurant and when they gave finger bowls with a piece of lemon in them, I thought I was supposed to drink it, it turns out I was supposed to “wash” my hand in it.

  • Celia Goh

    Eating chewing gum is not vulgarity in Singapore! They ban it just cause it affects street ‘beauty’. I’ve known Singaporeans smuggling chewing gum from Malaysia cause they can’t get it in their country. =.=
    And being a Chinese myself, I can say that belching is extremely rude on the dining table. Maybe it’s excusable among friends and family during casual occasions but a big no no at a formal event.

  • fiona allen

    i went into a small grocer’s shop in Tenerife, and while looking at an item on a shelf, dislodged a couple of other things which fell to the floor. I exclaimed “sch….e ” ; and then noticed that the shop was owned and staffed by German people. Oooops.