We were grabbing dinner at the local open-air restaurant on a hot Tanzanian night. My Swedish friend across the table wondered aloud why the waiter had left her bottle top on our table after having opened her coke, wasn’t that rude? While a smile on his face, our Tanzanian friend nicely rested the bottle top back over the opening of her coke bottle and replied, “because now you can cover your coke and keep the bugs out.” Touché.
So often what we label as rude, weird, or annoying about the actions and behaviors of people from different cultures is simply different. When we understand why other people do the things they do, more often than not it makes total sense.
When I work with people traveling internationally, one of the biggest limiting beliefs they have to overcome is “my culture is right, theirs is wrong.”