10 Unique Customs from Different Countries

Many different and unique cultures are found all over the world. These tradition often migrate with the nationals as they travel around the world, some of these might have spread to your community. Some of these unique customs from different countries are delightful, while some are quite the opposite.

1. Taarof

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Iranians practice this gesture of respect and submission which they call “taarof”. These gestures are generally understood to be refused. The merchant in some establishment might refuse the payment of a high-ranking customer as it is considered polite, but the customer should understand that this is merely a gesture of respect and should insist on paying. The merchant may then refuse the offer several more times before accepting the payment. This may be very confusing for foreign customers as they might accept the offer instead of refusing it.

Taarof is also used in social invitations. Iranians understand that an invitation to a celebration or to one’s home is just an act of formality. It should not be accepted as if someone accept, they may put their host at an awkward situation especially if they don’t actually want that someone in their house.

2. Mano Po

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Filipinos and some part of Malaysia and Indonesia practice this gesture of respect for their elderly, which they call “pagmamano”. It is their version of bowing, with the addition of taking the elder’s hand and putting it to their forehead. It is said to have developed from the culture of kissing one’s hand, or it may have been borrowed from Chinese some centuries ago, when Chinese merchants would travel to the Philippines to sell goods. It is quite common for families to instruct their children to as for the blessing of the elders by doing this gesture while saying “mano po” at family gatherings”

Another respectful custom of the people from the Philippines include the use of the word “po” and “opo”. “Bakit?” (Why?) would be “Bakit po?” if one is addressing to the elderly. They would also use opo instead of “oo” (yes) when being asked by an elderly. Some people also use these terms for others of equal ranking.

3. Bayanihan

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Another custom from the Philippines is the practice of bayanihan, which is literally the moving of someone’s entire house from one location to another. Some of the villagers, mostly neighbors, would gather and carry the house to the new location. Often this is done to prevent the house from being damaged by floods or landslide caused by typhoons. It is also done sometimes just to oblige a good neighbor.

This usually just happens mostly at rural places, where most of the houses are built from light materials such as bamboo and nipa palm wood. The heavy materials used in urbanized areas such as concrete and steel makes this a difficult task, so bayanihan in urban areas are usually limited only to light constructions such as playgrounds.

4. Henna Weddings and the Blackening

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Weddings in Islamic culture are filled with centuries-old rituals and traditions. It is believed that the best day for a wedding is on a Thursday, as Friday is the holy day for Muslims. Another tradition is that of the “henna” night, or what they call Mehndi, where two nights before the wedding the bride is painted with designs by women from her side of the family. It symbolizes her entrance to womanhood. There are also some symbols that are used to bring luck and fertility to the bride.

There is also another practice in Scotland called “the Blackening”. While mehndi is very artistic and beautiful, the blackening involves the bride and groom getting tied into a bathtub, crates, or on the back of a pickup truck by their friends and then subsequently be pelted with disgusting materials such as feathers, rotten eggs, curry, soot, mud, and shoe polish in which the couple would be covered with. This tradition is believed to keep off any evil spirits and provide a moment for the couples to bond. It symbolizes the endurance of their marriage through the hard times that they are about to endure and pass through.

5. Mudras

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Hinduism and Buddhist cultures are famous for these seals, gestures, and marks that they call mudras, most notably in India. There are more than 500 different gestures using the hands and fingers that expresses several meanings. These hand movements are believed to control the flow of the person’s life energy, or “prana”, and help them achieve a certain goal. You could see them in statues, dances, paintings, plays, meditative techniques, and yoga.

One of the most popular meditative mudra used is the “gyana mudra”, in which the thumb and index finger touch each other while the rest of the fingers extend away from your palm. This mudra was believed to promote calmness and mental clarity. Another popular mudra would be the “abhaya mudra” where you simply raise your right hand with an open palm and fingers extended upward. This generally have a universal meaning with similar gesture from other religions and cultures. It usually communicates honesty and openness. A gesture for better digestive process is the “agni mudra” where the thumbs touch the middle finger while the rest of your fingers extend away from the palm.

6. Arriving Late

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Contrary to the many parts of the world where being late is considered rude, it is usually accepted, sometimes even enforced, in South America. For example, if a host in Chile says that dinner would be ready at 8:00 PM, the guest are expected to arrive 15 to about 30 minutes late. Arriving to early could mean that you might arrive when the host is not yet ready to entertain guests, and you would be considered “too eager” for the meal. The same can be said to the people of Ecuador, where being 15-20 minutes late is considered to be “on time”, while people in Brazil consider the time to be elastic, in which you can show up whenever it pleases you.

You could also see some of these tradition being adopted in the United States, because many of the immigrants are from the countries who practices these traditions and have brought it with them. In Miami, it is common for the mean to be serve late so guess tend to be less punctual than most od the people in rest of the country.

7. Alcohol in Russia

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It may be considered true that Russia is first when it comes to alcohol consumption compared to the rest of the world. While the Russians love alcohol, it is also their leading cause of death, ranging from liver diseases, alcohol poisoning, to accidents and crimes.

There are a lot of etiquette surrounding the drinking of alcohol in Russia, coming from the fact that it is an integral part of their culture. This includes the tradition of drinking the whole glass after a toast before putting it back to the table bottoms up, and being obliged to drink a full glass of vodka if you arrived late so you can catch up with the rest of the group. There should also be no interruption between the first and the second shot. You should also not toast with an empty glass, unless you want to drink a whole bottle of liqueur.

They also believe that you should spit three times over your left shoulder whenever you curse another person’s health without malice, which is the reason they love to swear. This is believed to symbolically represent spitting in the eye of the devil, thus avoiding any bad omens.

8. The Tooth Fairy

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Many countries as over the world have their own version of the legend of the tooth fairy. In most of these cultures it is actually believed to be a mouse, which the French people called La Petite Souris, the Spanish as Ratoncito Perez, and the Columbians as El Raton Miguelito.

In some countries, children don’t just simply leave their teeth beneath pillows, they throw it as far and as hard as they can toward the roof of their house, particularly in Greece and in Mauritania. Greeks believes that it provides the child good luck and strong teeth, while people in Mauritania believed that the child could keep the tooth if a rooster is crowing by daybreak. Filipino mixed some of these beliefs, in which they try to throw the tooth at the roof of their house, and believe that there is a mouse that collects teeth and that if it got your teeth, your going to have front teeth just like a mouse’s.

Some other beliefs includes the tooth being used as a noise maker while place inside a can to stop a calf fom taking a child away in Jamaica. Meanwhile, Malaysians bury their tooth in the ground, as they believe that what once was a part of the body must always be returned to the earth. In addition to this, Turkish people used the teeth of their children to convey their expectations to them, like how a parent would bury his child’s teeth near a hospital if he wants his child to be a doctor.

9. Bushido and Seppuku

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In Japan, Bushido is considered to be the warrior code of Japan, which emphasizes strenght, integrity, and loyalty. Many have recommended its implementation in the business world, particularly analysts and academics, due to the irregularities faces by corporations today and in the past. This would result to work being done effectively and honestly, as the essence of bushido would be to keep up with the best interests of your superiors with the general public in mind.

On the other had, Seppuku is another ritual that has a far lesser vaunted reputation. It is a ritualistic suicide commited as an alternative to defeat. It was heavily performed during the World War II, where thousands of Japanese soldiers performed the ritual by choosing to commit suicide rather than to surrender to the enemy. The tradition continues up to this day in many countries in Asia. Some of the notable people who commited seppuku include Yukio Mishima while protesting against Japan’s military policies and Masaharu Nonaka after he was laid of by the company he is working for in 1970 and 1999, respectively.

People in Korea also use suicide when they feel an unbearable guilt and shame in the event of a tragedy. When hundreds of students died in a trip on MV Sewol when it sunk in April 16, 2014, the vice principal of the school felt too guilty that ended his own life.

10. The Haka

The spectacle of showing menacing facial expressions, guttural howling, grunting, chanting, stomping, chest-thumping, clapping, and tongue wagging intented to scare away opponents is one of the traditions of the Maori people of New Zealand that they call the haka.

Even through this modern times the tradition had made its way to their culture. New Zealand’s national sports teams usually perform haka during most games. All Blacks, their rugby team, performs this tradition prior to the game. Even during the 2014 FIBA tournament, the “Tall Blacks” basketball team performed the haka during their game against the US team.

The haka isn’t just used as a war dance or to intimidate opponents in a fight. It is also used to communicate peace, a welcoming greeting, or as a show of respect. One such example happened after the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Viggo Mortensen, a Kiwi actor as the film was shot in the island and thus included local actors, performed haka for another crew member.

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