Participant blog: Wait? Did you kiss me on my cheeck?

We’ve asked Study Tour participants to write a blog post for our website with a view on the Tour from their perspective. This week, Tobias will share his expectations and experiences so far.

The summer vacations are over, the students had a chance to recharge their batteries, the new semester and so the course International Study Preparations is starting soon. Days left until departure to San Francisco: 69.

I went back to Stockholm during my vacations. First time I arrived at Arlanda Airport for my studies abroad has been already two years ago. But it was a really nice experience being back in this beautiful city and meeting old friends. Being again in another foreign culture was refreshing. Getting to know another culture, talking about the differences and similarities can be very interesting and inspiring.

Cultures can differ in a lot of aspects like directness, extroversion, acts of friendship, norms of what is kind or rude. Knowing about those aspects before visiting a foreign country as a tourist shows respect to the country and its inhabitants. Doing business with a partner in or just from a foreign country can make knowing these things crucial.

The course „International Study Preparations“, according to the description of our University’s course management system, shall prepare us for our visit at the US west coast and Brazil by exploring the „macro and meso contexts of destination country(ies) and compare it to their home-country.“ I do not know to which extent social norms will be covered during the course, but in any case I searched the web and made a small summary. I included points that I judged as most relevant. Sometimes websites give some contradictory advice so there is no prove or claim for correctness. But nevertheless for your interest:

United States

  • Shaking hands is not a usual address of welcome.
  • Introduce your company to friends or acquaintances you meet.
  • “Wait to be seated!“. Wait at the entrance of a restaurant until a waiter guides you to a table.
  • First cut then eat. Eating with fork and knife in hands at the same time is unusual but not in any case seen as crude.
  • Tips – 10-15% for a cab – 15-20% in a restaurant – 1$ per drink in a bar
  • Never ask for the „toilet“ but the „Lady’s or Men’s room“ or just the „bathroom“.
  • Wait in line. Going first in a queue is seen as rude.


  • A good strength hand shake is a good address of welcome.
  • Do not be on time. If you are invited or have an appointment it is expected of you to be late. They are no rules on how much too late but as it seems 30 minutes for a dinner and one to two hours for a party.
  • Brazilian people are quite extroverted. People especially women can be quite flirty. A kiss on the cheek is equivalent to shaking hands. So do not read too much in extrovert of flirty behavior.
  • Do not avoid body contact especially during a conversation. Backing off when somebody tries to touch or kiss you on the cheek is seen as rude.
  • Do not ask randomly a Brazilian person whether he likes Samba. Samba is a great thing in Brazil, everybody knows it but not all people like it. So asking people about this cliche is seen as rude.
  • Do not blow your nose or use a toothpick while seated at a dining table.
  • First cut then eat. Same as in the US Brazilian people first cut their dish and then eat it just with the fork. That is also the reason the position of the cutlery is interchanged in comparison to what we are used to.
  • Tips are appreciated – Round of the total sum in cabs, but its not that common – In bars and restaurant you will get your bill and then you can decide how much you want to pay, sometimes also a 10% service fee is added to the bill on payment.
  • If you get invited be a little too late and have a little present to thank the host for the invitation. Preferably flowers but no purple ones since this is the color for death and sorrow. No business talk except the host starts the conversation.
  • Do not criticize somebody directly in public or when other people are present. Brazilians are proud people so direct critic is seen as insulting and rude.
  • If you enter a church wear preferably a top with long sleeves and long trousers.