151+ Social Norms Examples (Cultures + Travel Tips)

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Practical Psychology

Have you ever traveled to a different country and found yourself lost or fascinated by the differences in how people are expected to act? These differences are called social norms.

These norms vary widely from one part of the world to another, giving each culture its unique flavor and identity. But what exactly are social norms, and how do they shape societies?

Social Norms are unwritten rules that govern how individuals act, respond, and interact within their communities. Here are some examples:

  • Shaking hands
  • Tipping
  • Holding the door open
  • Waiting in line
  • Standing when an older person enters

Social norms serve as guideposts, helping people navigate their daily lives within the context of their community. These norms can relate to anything from how to greet someone and what to wear, to deeper issues like gender roles and religious practices, or returning what we have been given.

Understanding these norms not only helps us appreciate the diversity of human experience but also fosters greater cultural awareness and empathy.

In this article, we've compiled an extensive list of over 150 social norms from various cultures around the world. These norms offer a window into the values, beliefs, and practices that define these communities.

Table Of Contents show

Norms and Tourism

Traveling is super fun and helps us learn a lot about the world. But when we go to new places, we enter a world with new rules and ways of doing things. It's important to respect these to make the trip better for everyone. Here are some easy-to-follow tips:

Do Some Research

Before you go somewhere new, look up what people there normally do and don't do. You can use the internet or read travel books to find out more.

Dress the Right Way

Some places have rules about what you can wear, especially at religious spots. For example, in some countries, women need to cover their hair with a scarf. Make sure you know these rules before you go.

Learn Simple Local Words

You don't have to speak the language perfectly, but learning a few words like "hello" and "thank you" can make people really happy and show that you care. Apps like DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone offer quick and easy language learning tools.

Be Careful When Taking Photos

In some places, taking pictures of people or certain places without asking can be seen as rude. Always ask if it's okay before you take a photo.

Eating the Right Way

Different countries have different rules for eating. For example, in Japan, there's a correct way to use chopsticks. Try to learn these rules before you eat with locals.

Join In but Don't Overdo It

People usually like it when visitors join in their traditions. But make sure you're not doing too much or doing it the wrong way. Always ask if you're not sure.

Small Gifts are Nice

In some places, like Japan, people give small gifts when they visit someone's home. If you're invited over by someone, a small gift from your own country is a nice way to say thank you.

Be Respectful to Special Places and Things

Some places have very old buildings or religious things. Always treat these with respect. Never touch or damage them.

Laws are Important

In some places, not following local rules can get you in trouble with the law. For example, in Singapore, throwing trash on the ground can result in a fine.

Be Ready to Adapt

Sometimes you might not know what to do. In such cases, it's a good idea to watch what the local people are doing and do the same.

By following these tips, you show respect for the places you visit. Plus, you make your own trip much more fun and interesting.

Common Social Norms Across Cultures

1. Saying "Please" and "Thank You"

It's considered polite to say "please" when asking for something and "thank you" when receiving something.

2. Shaking Hands

This is a common way to greet people in many Western countries.

hand shake

3. Making Eye Contact

When talking to someone, making eye contact usually shows you're paying attention.

4. Covering Mouth When Coughing or Sneezing

It's polite and hygienic to cover your mouth with your elbow when you cough or sneeze.

5. Waiting in Line

People are expected to wait their turn in line without cutting ahead.

United States Norms

6. Tipping in Restaurants

In the United States, it's normal to leave a tip of 15-20% for good service.

7. Taking Off Shoes in Some Homes

Some families prefer guests to remove their shoes before entering the home.

8. Holding the Door Open

It's common to hold the door open for the person coming in behind you.

9. Saying "Bless You" After a Sneeze

It's customary to say this as a polite gesture.

10. Not Talking About Religion or Politics at the Dinner Table

These topics are often avoided to keep the conversation light.

Japanese Norms

11. Bowing

In Japan, people bow to each other to show respect.

12. Removing Shoes Before Entering a Home

This is a must in many Japanese homes.

13. Slurping Noodles

Contrary to Western norms, slurping noodles is considered polite and indicates that the food is delicious.

14. Not Tipping

Tipping is often considered rude in Japan.

15. Using Both Hands When Giving or Receiving an Item

This shows respect and attentiveness.

16. Using “San” After Names

Adding the suffix “San” after someone’s name is a polite form of address.

17. Silence is Golden

Quietness is valued in public spaces like trains and restaurants.

Indian Norms

18. Namaste as a Greeting

Folding your hands and saying "Namaste" is a common greeting.

19. Eating With Hands

In many parts of India, eating with your hands is normal and even encouraged.

20. Avoiding Beef

Due to Hindu religious beliefs, beef is generally avoided.

21. Wearing Modest Clothing

Especially for women, wearing revealing clothing is often frowned upon.

22. Arranged Marriages

Arranged marriages are still prevalent and socially accepted.

French Norms

23. Cheek Kissing as a Greeting

In France, it's common to greet people with a kiss on both cheeks.

24. Not Rushing Through Meals

Meals are often long, social events.

25. Not Speaking Loudly in Public

Speaking loudly is often seen as disruptive.

26. Drinking Wine During Meals

Wine is often considered a staple during lunch and dinner.

27. Using "Monsieur" or "Madame"

Formal titles are important in social and business settings.

28. Bread at Every Meal

Bread is commonly served with most meals.

29. Fashion Sense

Dressing well is considered important in many social situations.

30. Being Direct

French people often appreciate directness and candor in conversation.

wine and bread

South African Norms

31. Ubuntu Philosophy

The idea that "I am because we are" is prevalent in South Africa.

32. Braai (BBQ)

Social gatherings around a grill are common and encouraged.

33. Using Local Languages for Greetings

"Hello" in Zulu is "Sawubona" and in Afrikaans, it's "Hallo".

34. Being Punctual

Being on time is considered respectful.

35 Respecting Elders

It’s considered very important to show respect to older individuals.

36. Being Called by Your First Name

First-name usage is often acceptable even in professional settings.

37. Community Events

Participation in local community events, such as festivals, is common.

British Norms

38. Queuing

British people are known for forming orderly queues and waiting their turn.

39. Afternoon Tea

Taking time in the afternoon for tea and snacks is a cherished tradition.

40. Avoiding Small Talk With Strangers

It's generally not customary to engage in small talk with strangers, especially on public transportation.

41. Punctuality

Being on time is highly valued.

42. Using “Sir” or “Madam”

Using these formal titles is considered polite in various social settings.

Chinese Norms

43. Giving and Receiving Business Cards with Both Hands

This is a sign of respect.

44. Not Sticking Chopsticks Upright into a Bowl of Rice

This resembles a funeral ritual and is considered disrespectful.

45. Red as a Lucky Color

Red is often used in festivals, weddings, and other celebratory events.

46. Avoiding the Number 4

The number 4 is avoided as it sounds like the word for "death" in Chinese.

47. Avoiding Public Displays of Affection

It's rare to see public displays of affection, like hugging and kissing.

Brazilian Norms

48. Cheek Kissing as a Greeting

One or two cheek kisses are common when greeting someone.

49. Sharing Food

Sharing food from a communal dish is often seen at social gatherings.

50. Being Expressive

Brazilians are known for their expressive body language.

51. Being Late is Acceptable

Being a bit late is often considered normal and acceptable.

52. Soccer as a Social Activity

Watching or playing soccer is a popular social activity.

Australian Norms

53. Casual Greetings

Using "G’day" or "How ya goin’?" are popular ways to greet someone informally.

54. Bringing a "Plate"

When invited to someone's home, it's often expected that you'll bring a dish to share.

55. Respect for Nature

Australians value their natural surroundings and often engage in outdoor activities.

56. Mateship

Friendship and solidarity are important cultural values.

57. No Tipping

Tipping isn't generally expected in restaurants or bars.

German Norms

58. Punctuality

Being on time is considered very important in Germany.

59. Formal Titles

Using “Herr” for Mr. and “Frau” for Mrs. is common and considered polite.

60. Not Jaywalking

People wait for the green pedestrian light, even if no cars are coming.

61. Separating Trash

Recycling is taken seriously, and people are expected to separate their waste.

62. Shaking Hands

A firm handshake is a common greeting and seen as a sign of respect.

Russian Norms

63. Not Smiling at Strangers

Smiling without a reason can be viewed as insincere.

64. Bringing a Gift When Visiting Someone’s Home

It’s considered polite to bring a small gift or flowers.

65. Toasting Before Drinking

Offering a toast before drinking, especially vodka, is a common ritual.

66. Not Whistling Indoors

Whistling inside a building is considered bad luck.

67. Sitting Down Before a Journey

It's a tradition to sit for a moment in silence before embarking on a journey.

flower bouquet

Italian Norms

68. Kissing on Both Cheeks

A light peck on both cheeks is a common greeting.

69. Gesturing While Talking

Italians are known for using hand gestures to emphasize points.

70. Dressing Well

Appearance and fashion are considered important.

71. Serving Coffee After Meals

Coffee, especially espresso, is often served after meals but rarely during.

72. Never Serve Cappuccino During Dinner

Cappuccino is considered a breakfast drink.

Mexican Norms

73. Late Arrivals

Being a little late is generally accepted in social settings.

74. Using Formal Titles

Using “Señor” or “Señora” is considered respectful.

75. Offering Food to Guests

It's common to offer food to guests, even if it's not mealtime.

76 Avoiding Conflict in Conversation

Direct confrontation or disagreement is often avoided in conversation.

77. Family is Paramount

Family values are deeply ingrained in the culture.

Canadian Norms

78. Saying "Sorry" Often

Canadians are known for being polite and saying "sorry" even when it might not be necessary.

79. Holding the Door

Like in the United States, it's common to hold the door for others.

80. Regional Language Differences

In Quebec, speaking French is the norm.

81. Ice Hockey Etiquette

Cheering for the local ice hockey team is a popular social activity.

82. Removing Shoes When Entering a Home

Many Canadians prefer guests to take off their shoes.

Spanish Norms

83. Late-night Socializing

It’s common for social gatherings and dinners to extend into late hours.

84. Siestas

Afternoon rests or naps are culturally accepted.

85. Two Kisses as a Greeting

A kiss on each cheek is standard when greeting someone.

86. Speaking Loudly

Compared to other European countries, talking at a higher volume is more socially accepted.

87. Tapas Culture

Sharing small dishes, or tapas, is a common way to enjoy a meal.

Nigerian Norms

88. Respect for Elders

Older people are treated with a great deal of respect, including using specific greetings for elders in tribal languages.

89. Sharing Food

When you have food, it's customary to offer it to others around you.

90. Avoiding Left Hand for Gestures

The left hand is considered unclean, so avoid using it to make gestures or to eat.

91. Religion in Daily Life

Religious practices and references are incorporated into daily life and conversations.

92. Dressing for Occasions

Special events call for colorful and elaborate traditional attire.

Saudi Arabian Norms

93. Gender Segregation

In many public spaces, men and women are separated.

94. Dress Codes for Women

Women are expected to wear an abaya, a loose-fitting black cloak.

95. Avoiding Pork and Alcohol

These items are prohibited due to Islamic law.

96. Frequent Prayer

Muslim residents pause for prayer five times a day, and many businesses close during these times.

97. Use of Titles

Using a person’s full title is considered a sign of respect.

Swedish Norms

98. Fika Break

A coffee and socializing break known as "fika" is common in workplaces and social settings.

99. Personal Space

Maintaining a comfortable distance during conversations is important.

100. Taking Off Shoes Indoors

Like in many other countries, it’s customary to remove shoes when entering someone’s home.

101. Gender Equality

Gender-neutral language and roles are highly encouraged.

102. Recycling

Swedes take recycling seriously, even separating food waste for composting.

South Korean Norms

103. Bowing

A slight bow is a common form of greeting.

104. Using Both Hands

Offering or receiving something with both hands shows respect.

105. Avoiding Eye Contact with Elders

Direct eye contact with someone older can be seen as disrespectful.

106. Not Writing Names in Red Ink

Writing someone's name in red ink is considered bad luck or symbolic of death.

107. Spicy Food

The love for spicy food, especially kimchi, is a shared cultural norm.

Filipino Norms

108. "Mano Po" as a Greeting

Touching the hand to the forehead is a traditional way to greet elders.

109. Karaoke as a Social Activity

Karaoke is often part of social gatherings and celebrations.

110. Community Support ("Bayanihan")

Helping each other in the community, especially during events like moving houses, is encouraged.

111. Eating with Hands ("Kamayan")

In some settings, eating with your hands is considered normal.

112. Late-night Social Meals ("Pulutan")

Late-night meals shared with company often accompany social drinking events.

karaoke microphone

Turkish Norms

113. Offering Tea or Coffee

Offering tea or Turkish coffee to guests is a sign of hospitality.

114. Kissing on Both Cheeks

A kiss on each cheek is a common greeting, especially among close friends and family.

115. Taking Off Shoes

Removing shoes when entering someone’s home is customary.

116. Using "Abla" or "Ağabey" for Strangers

These terms mean "sister" and "brother" and are used for strangers to show respect.

117. Breakfast as a Family Event

Breakfast is often an elaborate family affair, especially on weekends.

Argentine Norms

118. Late Dinners

Dinner often starts late, sometimes around 9 PM or even later.

119. Mate Tea Sharing

Sharing this traditional tea from a communal gourd is a social activity.

120. Speaking Loudly and With Gestures

Expressive body language and a louder volume are common in conversation.

121. Argentine Tango

This dance form is not just popular but also a significant aspect of national identity.

122. Football (Soccer) as a Religion

Football is more than just a game; it's a cultural cornerstone.

Egyptian Norms

123. Using "Inshallah"

This term, meaning "God willing," is often used in conversations about future plans.

124. Offering Food to Visitors

It’s a custom to offer food or drink to guests.

125. Male-Female Interactions

Public displays of affection between men and women are usually frowned upon.

126. Respecting Ramadan Rules

During Ramadan, eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight is discouraged.

127. Not Using the Sole of Your Foot to Point

The sole of the foot is considered unclean; avoid using it to point at things or people.

Thai Norms

128. Wai Greeting

A greeting involving a slight bow with palms pressed together.

129. Respecting the Royal Family

Criticizing or disrespecting the royal family is a serious offense.

130. Removing Shoes

It’s a common practice to take off shoes when entering someone's home.

131. No Touching of Heads

The head is considered the most sacred part of the body; avoid touching anyone’s head.

132. Eating With a Spoon

Rather than using forks or hands, a spoon is often used as the main eating utensil.

Colombian Norms

133. Dance Culture

Salsa and other forms of dance are integral to social gatherings.

134. Offering Coffee

Offering a cup of coffee is a common social gesture.

135. Using Formal Titles

"Señor" or "Señora" is often used in formal or business settings.

136. Loud Conversations

Talking loudly is generally acceptable, especially in informal settings.

137. Visiting During Holidays

It's customary for people to visit their families in their hometowns during major holidays.

Swiss Norms

138. Punctuality

Being on time is highly valued, both in social and business settings.

139. Recreational Hiking

Hiking is a common social activity and widely considered a part of the national culture.

140. Discreetness

Privacy and discretion are highly valued; people usually avoid sharing personal information in public.

141. Neutrality in Discussions

In line with Switzerland’s political neutrality, people often avoid taking sides in arguments.

142. Waste Sorting

Much like in Germany and Sweden, waste sorting and recycling are taken seriously.

Greek Norms

143. Saying "Opa!" in Celebrations

The exclamation "Opa!" is often used during celebrations and gatherings, especially during dances.

144. Name Day Celebrations

In Greece, celebrating one's name day— the feast day of the saint one is named after— is often considered more important than a birthday.

145. The "Mati" or Evil Eye Symbol

The "Mati" is a blue and white eye-shaped symbol thought to ward off the evil eye. You'll often see this symbol in homes, cars, or worn as jewelry.

146. Fasting During Religious Periods

Fasting from certain foods is commonly practiced during specific periods in the Greek Orthodox Church, such as Lent and Christmas.

147. "Philoxenia" or Love for Strangers

The concept of "Philoxenia" describes a cultural obligation to be hospitable to strangers or guests. It's common for Greeks to offer food, drink, or even lodging to visitors, sometimes going to great lengths to ensure their guest's comfort.

148. Group Dancing at Celebrations

Traditional Greek dances are an important part of social gatherings and celebrations. At events like weddings, festivals, and family gatherings, it's common to see people participating in group dances like the "Sirtaki" or "Kalamatianos."

Kenyan Norms

149. Harambee

A Swahili term meaning "all pull together," often used to describe community self-help events and collective action.

150. "Hodi!" When Entering a Home

In many Kenyan communities, it is customary to shout "Hodi!" which means "May I come in?" when entering someone's home.

151. Wrist Snap Handshake

In Kenya, especially among men, a popular informal form of greeting is the wrist snap handshake, which involves snapping each other's middle finger during a handshake.

152. Nyama Choma Socials

Nyama Choma, or "roasted meat," is more than just a meal; it's a social event. These gatherings often take place on weekends or during special occasions and holidays. Families and friends come together to roast meat, usually goat, beef, or chicken.

153. Offering the Right Hand

In Kenya, as in many other cultures, it is important to give and receive items, including money, with the right hand.

154. Carrying Objects on the Head

Especially in rural areas, it's common to see women carrying heavy loads balanced on their heads. This technique is often used for transporting goods like food, water, or firewood.


We've covered a lot of ground, from what social norms are to how they show up in different places around the world. We also gave you some tips for how to respect these norms when you're traveling.

Knowing about social norms isn't just interesting; it helps us connect with people in a better way. It shows we respect them and their way of life, which is super important, especially when we're guests in someone else's home country.

So the next time you're getting ready to travel or even just curious about how people do things in other places, remember the power of understanding and respecting social norms. It can make your experiences richer, and hey, it's also just the right thing to do!

And if you're interested in how these norms are constructed, you can check out our article about social constructs.

It's essential to note that these are general or stereotypical norms and may not fully represent the diversity within each culture, sub-culture, or individual.

This list is not exhaustive and serves as a brief overview. Many of the norms mentioned may have deeper cultural significance or complexities that are not captured here. It's always best to approach each culture with an open mind and a willingness to understand its unique nuances.

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2023, August). 151+ Social Norms Examples (Cultures + Travel Tips). Retrieved from https://practicalpie.com/social-norms-examples/.

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