Be friendly, patient and follow the rule of the law. Oh, and don’t you fucking dare get drunk, scream praise to Chernobog and bring a shovel (“or other digging tools”) into your Mongolian yurt.
That’s pretty much the gist of Russia’s “General Elements of Behavior,” a new travel etiquette guide that outlines how Russians should behave when traveling in 52 countries around the world.
Much of the guide centralizes on don’t-be-an-asshole travel tips like: “be patient, do not be rude, do not humiliate the dignity of representatives of the local population;” “Respect customs and traditions, do not show arrogance and disregard for the local culture, do not allow insulting statements towards the leaders of the country, do not conflict with law enforcement officials;” and, the ever so necessary, “Do not abuse alcohol.”
In a strange way, the guide gives an oddly anthropological look into what’s “normal” by Russian standards. For example, travelers to Japan should avoid a common Russian gesture for “fed up, fed up,” which, in Japan, can come across as a physical threat. “General Elements” also cautions against discrimination and hate speech against LGBT groups, even going so far as to caution travelers to France, “not to address representatives of the LGBT community” with insults. Strangely, too, the guide advises “observe the rules of the road and be polite at the wheel,” something considered expected in, say, the U.S., but based on this guide, along with 90 percent of LiveLeak content, Russians need a warning or two.
All of the advice sounds pretty obvious. That is, until it gets weird in its thoroughness.
In Guinea-Bissau, for instance, the Russian ministry warns travelers against a raised thumb, “signifying in most countries of the world a positive assessment of what is happening, bears offensive connotations here.” Travelers to Kenya better not poke anyone to get their attention because it’s considered a cultural offense—which brings to light what Kenyans must have thought of Facebook’s “poke” button.
Even more strange, the guide dedicates more than 600 words to any and every cultural faux pas in Mongolia, which includes gems like: “It is forbidden to pour water or sprinkle milk on fire;” “it is forbidden to take out meat from a boiler with a knife;” “if one person accidentally steps on another foot, the guilty must necessarily apologize and shake hands;” and “to visit the owners of the yurt with their sleeves rolled up, with a shovel or other digging tools is considered bad form,” because that’s obviously how you greet your neighbor.
Surprisingly, or perhaps sadly, the United States didn’t make the etiquette list—though it did stress the importance of not confusing Canadians for Americans. That said, a handful of countries have issued U.S.-specific travel advisories. The Bahamas, for instance, warns “of recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by police officers.” Britain notes that “attitudes toward LGBT people differ hugely across the country.” Even the U.A.E. advises travelers against wearing the traditional gerab for fear of prejudice—or being mistaken for an ISIS agent … like that one time.
Tom is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? but with more sunscreen and jorts.