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Know Before You Go
- The American "okay" sign signifies "money" in Japan, "zero" in Southern France, and is considered a profane expression in Greece.
- In the Middle East, a shared cup of thick coffee or mint tea usually precedes any business dealings.
- In Sweden, toasting can be more formal than in other Scandinavian countries. Never toast your host or anyone senior to you in rank or age until they toast you. And don't touch your drink until the host has said "skoal".
- In Zambia, at dinner, you should ask for food, as it is considered impolite for the host to offer food first. It is also improper to refuse food.
- In Haiti, at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., a bugle is played and a flag raised. If in the vicinity - either on foot or in a car - you are expected to stop, get out of the car, and stand respectfully.
- In Peru, an eyebrow raise means "money" or "pay me".
- In Chinese cultures, including Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, it is customary for elders to give local money in a red envelope during the lunar New Year.
- In the Middle East, eating, giving and taking are never done with the left hand.
- In Japan, sticking chopsticks directly into your food, especially into rice, is considered bad luck. Only at funerals are chopsticks stuck into the rice that stands on the altar.
- Before you travel, jot down the serial numbers on your Travellers Cheques, and leave them with someone who can be reached in an emergency.
- Always count your money before you leave a currency exchange office. Use a calculator for accuracy.
- Be sure to keep all receipts when exchanging currency. Customs may request proof of money exchanged at the border.
- Blend with the locals. Tourists are targets for thieves, so if possible, dress like a local. Hide all valuables, such as cameras and passports, in pockets or in a money belt around your waist or neck, tucked under your clothes.
- Tie a colored ribbon or place a distinctive marker on your bags to distinguish it from similar-looking luggage.
- Know the difference between reserved and guaranteed. A hotel room is usually reserved until 6 p.m. It can be guaranteed with a credit card number prior to check-in.
- Nonstop and direct flights can also be confusing terms. Nonstop means just that - no stops. Direct means you may stop at least once before reaching your final destination.
- Most rental car companies have more large cars than small ones. It's possible that if you reserve a compact car, and none are available when you arrive, you will be upgraded to a larger one, free-of-charge.