Category: Culture and Tradition

5 Feng Shui Principles That Will Make Your Home A Nicer Place

Many people tend to place items in their homes where they want to based on their personal thought of what looks good. Not many, at least in the west, consider what the placement of these items means to them spiritually. Thankfully, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of feng shui, which is the Chinese practice of arranging your home so that good energy comes your way. If you aren’t familiar with feng shui, here are some principles to follow that will make your home nicer and improve your life.

5. Follow the Map

Every home should have a map that they follow called the bagua map. This map separates your home into nine different areas, with each area having its own theme. When you enter the home, there should be a career theme. To your left is knowledge and self-cultivation and to the right is travel and helpful people. The other segments of the home include family, wealth/prosperity, fame/reputation, relationships and children/creativity. The exact center of the home, though, should be focused on health and longevity.

4. Go Up

You may notice in the homes of people who practice feng shui that there is a vertical design for most of the home. While it might be impossible to actually make your living space taller, adding designs and shapes to make things appear taller is great for feng shui. Things such as trees, bookshelves and vertical blinds go a long way in making things seem larger than they are. Work with a professional painter to help with increasing verticality as they’re trained in the art.

3. Use the Elements

Wuxing is the use of all of the elements to create perfect feng shui. The elements are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. When you’re designing your home you should be balancing all of these elements to the best of your abilities. Everything should be balanced from clothing to fountains to plants. Every item in your home represents one of the elements, so each space in your home should contain a good balance between them.

2. Stove Savant

While it might not seem like something major, the stove in your house plays a massive role in proper feng shui. According to the practice, your stove should never be on an island, instead placing it with the back against a wall. The stove also represents a lot, including your resources, career and how you can help to provide yourself with nourishment. The more burners you have on your stove, the better. This is because the burners represent opportunities, so make sure that your stove is the star of the show in your kitchen.

1. Free Entry

The stove is the most important part of the kitchen in terms of feng shui, but your entryway is going to be the most important overall. That’s because the entryway is the source of all energy that comes into your home and you want to set the right tone. Finding the perfect front door can be done at any major hardware store, and you want it to be formal and inviting. Things should be very tidy in this area, too, with no clutter to come into your home as it represents clutter constantly entering your mind.

The Culture Guide: 5 Things You Should Not Do When Visiting England

Getting ready for a trip across the pond? Whether you’re visiting London or enjoying a vacation in the English countryside, you’ll want to be sure to avoid these five potentially offensive actions that can drive a wedge between you and your potential new English friends. 

1. Talk About Money

In America, many people are excited to share when they get a big raise at work or otherwise come into money. In England, you’ll want to steer clear of financial conversation. Instead of talking about how much your vacation cost or a great deal that you got on a flight, make small talk.

2. Walk Around With a Perma-Grin

In some English circles, smiling is a normal part of interacting, but in others, it’s a sign of an uneducated or poorly mannered person. Keeping a straight face while you’re out and about in England isn’t a sign of unfriendliness, rather, it will help you blend in like a local. 

3. Give the Palm-In Peace Sign

Throwing up the index and middle finger in photos or as a way to bid someone farewell is a common way to say “peace” in America, but in Great Britain, this is the same as throwing up a middle finger. Trust us–no one will be giving you well wishes in return if they see you giving this hand gesture in their direction. 

4. Talk About Your Accomplishments

In America, many college grads take a great deal of pride in talking about their alma mater, but this subject isn’t a common topic of conversation in England. Talking about one’s accomplishments–in both education and career–is looked at as over-the-top and rude. English people tend to steer away from talking about themselves, especially in new company. When you’re looking to connect with a new friend in England, make small talk about the pub you’re in, the park you’re visiting, or the weather–don’t try to find common ground by discussing potentially shared elitist experiences. 

5. Insist on Ice

In America, you’re used to being served an icy glass of water or iced tea with your meal, but in England, icy beverages are not as common. If you want to go with the flow and drink like a local, don’t ask for ice in your drink.

The Culture Guide: 5 Things You Should Not Do When Visiting Sweden

There’s some truth to the stereotype that Swedes are polite yet reserved. Still, most of them are happy to welcome tourists to their country. However, if you want to get the most enjoyment out of your Swedish vacation, it’s best to understand the culture and comport yourself in a way that Swedes find normal and acceptable. Here are five things you should never do when you visit Sweden.

1. Don’t Assume That All Swedes Speak English

Although more than 80 percent of people in Sweden speak English, not all of them do. It’s smart to have a few common phrases at the ready in case you need them. A “hej” (hello) or “tack” (thank you) shows your hosts that you’re making an effort to appreciate their language.

If you do attempt to speak Swedish, don’t use the exaggerated accent and gestures of the Swedish chef on the Muppets. Most Swedes don’t think he’s funny.

2. Avoid Loud and Animated Conversation

Swedes talk calmly and without much body language. What might be considered normal volume in America can come across as loud and obnoxious in Sweden. If your conversation becomes too expressive, you might see Swedes turn away and shade their eyes. That’s a sign to dial it back.

Also, Swedes value personal space. Don’t stand too close to other people, and don’t sit next to someone on a bus unless it’s the only type of open seat. And never cut a line. It’s unwelcome anywhere, but it’s shocking in Sweden.

3. Don’t Wear Shoes in a Swedish Home

If you’re invited to someone’s home, take off your shoes as soon as you walk through the door. There will likely be a rack where you can leave then, and your host may even offer slippers.

Even if guests are nattily dressed, perhaps for an evening on the town, the shoes still come off. That’s why it’s a good idea to wear clean, comfortable socks without holes. They look and smell better, and sometimes Swedish floors are cold.

4. Don’t Worry If There’s Silence

Much of the world is abuzz with conversation. If there are a handful of people gathered, it’s expected that someone (maybe more than one person) will be talking. Not so in Sweden.

Swedes are comfortable with silence. They avoid small talk and don’t speak unless they have something to say. To outsiders, it can feel funny when there’s a bus full of passengers and no one’s saying a word.

This may seem awkward to you, but for Swedes it’s comfortable. Relax and enjoy the fact that you don’t have to think of anything to say.

5. Don’t Dress Down When Stepping Out

If you go to a nightclub in Stockholm wearing your grubbies, they probably won’t let you in. It’s called “face control.” Often it’s at the bouncer’s discretion who is well-dressed enough and who isn’t. You’ll find some fashionable clothing in Swedish stores if you didn’t bring along enough stylish threads.

The Culture Guide: 5 Things You Should Not Do When Visiting Malaysia

Malaysia is known for its friendly, relaxed people, but you’ll still want to ensure that you don’t take part in any cultural faux-pas behaviors that could offend locals. Here, we’ll take a look at five cultural don’ts when you’re visiting Malaysia. 

1. Point With Your Forefinger

Pointing is seen as bossy, rude, and overbearing in Malaysia, as this gesture is used to scold, not direct attention. Simple solution: instead of using your forefinger to direct someone’s attention, use your thumb.

2. Show Anger and Frustration

When traveling, it’s likely that you’ll encounter at least a handful of tough situations, like struggling with translation or being late to the start of a tour. As mentioned above, Malaysian people highly value politeness, and often feel embarrassed when others show anger or frustration. Instead of blowing up when things get tough, work hard to smile and keep your cool. 

3. Dress Inappropriately

In Malaysia, most people dress modestly but comfortably. Many historical landmarks in Malaysia are affiliated with a religion, and it’s important that you do your research on how to dress appropriately for the temple, monastery, or other religious building you’re visiting. Don’t just look to others in the area to clue you in on how to dress–many tourists (unfortunately) disregard best practices and dress in a way that Malaysians find offensive for visiting religious sites. 

4. Touch Someone’s Head

While it’s not likely that you walk around touching people’s heads, it’s especially important that you don’t do this while visiting Malaysia or other Asian nations. In Asian culture, the head is considered a sacred part of the body. It’s considered especially offensive to touch children or elderly people on the head. 

5. Go Overboard with Public Displays of Affection

In America and many European countries, PDA is the norm. This isn’t the case in Malaysia. Giving quick hugs or a kiss on the cheek is fine, but don’t go beyond that with your significant other. Malaysian people greatly value acting respectfully in public, and many feel uncomfortable witnessing others giving or receiving affection. 

The Culture Guide: 5 Things You Should Not Do When Visiting Australia

Australia has a rich culture, and as a visitor, there are some things you should not do to respect their way of life.  Here are five things you should avoid doing when visiting Australia.

1:  Don’t be late

Punctuality is essential in Australia, and being late can be disrespectful. If you’re meeting someone, arrive on time or a few minutes early. For Australians, casually being late tends to be seen as wasting someone else’s time, and probably won’t go down too well.

2: Don’t skip out on tipping

While tipping isn’t mandatory in Australia, it is still considered good manners to leave a tip for good service. 10-15% is standard, but you can always give more or less depending on the quality of service.

3: Don’t talk about personal space

Australians are generally quite laid back regarding personal space and don’t tend to stand too close to strangers. So, if you’re talking to someone and they step back, don’t take it personally – they’re just respecting your personal space.

4: Don’t be too loud

Australians are pretty relaxed, but that doesn’t mean they like noise pollution. Avoid being too loud in public, and be mindful of how your voice carries.

5: Don’t forget your manners

Manners are essential in any culture, but they’re necessary for Australia. Say please and thank you when appropriate, and always mind your P’s and Q’s.

Wrapping Up

The rule of thumb for visitors visiting Australia is to respect the local culture and customs. This means punctuality, tipping for good service, being aware of personal space, and being mindful of noise levels in public places.

Additionally, remember to use your manners when interacting with others. Following these simple guidelines, you can avoid cultural faux pas and have an enjoyable and memorable trip to Australia.


The Culture Guide: 5 Things You Should Not Do When Visiting Greece

Ready to see the stunning islands and ancient ruins that Greece has to offer? You’re going to have a great time–and you’ll want to be sure to avoid doing these five things while you’re in the gorgeous southern European country. 

1. Only Carry Credit Cards

We get it–when you’re in a foreign country that you are not familiar with, you may feel more comfortable carrying credit cards than cash. In Greece, however, you’ll likely run into quite a few stores and restaurants that are cash-only. Be sure to carry cash on hand so you don’t have to deal with the hefty fees that come with using an overseas ATM. 

2. Forget a Gift

In the exciting event that you’re invited into a Greek’s home for dinner, it’s common courtesy to arrive with a gift. Showing up empty-handed shows as lack of respect for local tradition and culture, and a lack of appreciation for the invitation. 

3. Toss Your Toilet Paper into the Toilet

To most Americans, this one isn’t going to come naturally. Greece is an old, old country with old, old plumbing systems that struggle to handle modern-day toilet paper. When you go to the bathroom in Greece, you’ll notice a trash can with every toilet. Throw your toilet paper in there instead to avoid an embarrassing and costly mistake. 

4. Speak Your Mind to Smokers

Nearly half of all Greeks smoke cigarettes, and it’s not a smart move to criticize locals who are lighting up. The country attempted an indoor smoking ban, and it failed miserably. If you’re not a smoker, you’ll be happy to know that the weather in Greece is typically fantastic, and there’s no need to be cooped up in a smoky bar or restaurant if that’s not your thing. 

5. Ask For Butter With Your Bread

When you sit down to dinner in Greece, you’ll (almost) always be served a bread basket. Don’t ask for butter to go with your bread–instead, Greeks dip their bread in the communal salad bowl to soak up the dressing. Tear off a small piece of bread and dip it in the salad bowl so that you’re not double dipping.

The Culture Guide: 5 Things You Should Not Do When Visiting Egypt

Whether trekking through the desert to view pyramids thousands of years old or perusing the stalls at a Cairo marketplace for delicious food and delightful souvenirs, there is no doubt that Egypt offers an unforgettable place to visit and explore. To get the most out of your trip, however, you want to be conscientious of a few key don’ts that could hinder your trip. Keep these in mind to help you stay on good terms with your hosts and experience the beauty of Egypt.

DON’T Forget about cultural differences in clothing

Remember the expression, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” In Egypt, that means watching your dress to avoid offending the locals. Wearing tight-fitting clothing or showing too much skin through tank tops or shorts can make you seem rude. This is amplified even further if you want to enter any religious buildings. Wear loose-fitting, light clothing throughout your trip. Women should also have a loose scarf available if they want to visit any religious buildings. As an added bonus, covering your arms and legs will also help protect your skin from the strong Egyptian sun.

DON’T Assume you want to wear sandals everywhere

Sandals might seem like a great footwear choice because of the comfort they offer in the heat, but they can actually be a poor choice when exploring Egypt. Even major cities like Cairo tend to have streets that are dirtier than what some people might expect. Additionally, you should expect to do a lot of walking as you explore the areas around the major sites. Sensible shoes, such as sneakers, will likely serve you better throughout your trip.

DON’T Take a picture of everything you see

As you look around at all of the amazing sites, you might feel tempted to take pictures of everything you see. However, you should familiarize yourself with the cultural expectations surrounding pictures. Specifically, regulations dictate that you cannot take pictures of certain infrastructure in the country, such as the Suez Canal. Therefore, you want to verify that you can take pictures of your target before you start snapping.

Additionally, most locals will consider it rude if you take pictures without asking permission. Therefore, even if you can take pictures in the area you explore, make sure that you have asked permission of those around you as well.

DON’T Forget to tip

Tipping plays an important role in the local economy, so you should carry coins and some small bills with you to provide a tip to those who offer you services throughout your trip. For example, you will want to tip your room cleaners, taxi drivers, and tour guides as you travel.

DON’T Write off the potential of a guided tour

You might feel tempted to try and save some money or to give yourself more flexibility, and explore the different sites on your own with the help of a guidebook. However, booking some guided tours can help you get significantly more out of your travels. You can ask your guide questions that might arise as you explore. You also get to find all of the hidden gems that you might have missed if you relied solely on what you could find in a book. 

However, as you look for your tour guide, be sure to check their government license. Failing to do so can result in accidentally falling for a scam.

Egypt can offer you an adventure of a lifetime. Keep these tips in mind and experience all that this incredible country can offer.


The Culture Guide: 5 Things You Should Not Do When Visiting South Africa

No matter where your travels take you in the world, the last thing you want to do is act like a tourist. And that goes double when traveling to South Africa. Tourists often end up an easy target for opportunistic criminals – and run the risk of getting into trouble otherwise. Thankfully, you can avoid all that by simply using these tips on five things you should never do while visiting South Africa.  

Don’t Be Impatient 

Slow and steady is the way to go while visiting South Africa. The big city hustle just doesn’t fly here. Instead, you want to bring all the patience in the world as you travel the roadways and stop in at venues along the way.

Traffic moves at a slow pace almost everywhere, so give yourself extra time to get from place to place. Then, add even more time to your stops, especially while eating out at popular restaurants. Service comes just as slowly as everything else.

Never Flash Your Valuables

Jewelry, electronics, and other valuables serve as a homing beacon for opportunistic individuals looking for a quick score. You’re especially at risk if you end up visiting a relatively bad neighborhood with your valuables out in the open.

Overall, it’s best to just leave all your jewelry at home. Yes, that includes your wedding ring. And while you should carry a cellphone, try to keep it out of sight, out of mind, as you enjoy exploring the cityscape.

Avoid Visiting Dark Alleyways

As you travel across South Africa, remember the risk of falling victim to theft, assault, and worse increases under the cloak of darkness. If you can end your adventures before nightfall, that’s often best.

You can enjoy all your accommodations have to offer after that, and then hit the road bright and early the next morning. If not, then at least stick to well-lit passageways along the city streets. Dark alleyways are a no go always.

Don’t Skip the Sun Protection

The sun shines brightly across South Africa more often than not. While that’s part of the allure, the harsh sun rays can also put a damper on your trip, especially if you get sunburnt.

To stay protected, be sure to put on sunblock at the start of the day. Then, reapply it every two hours after that. Consider wearing UV-protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses as well.

Never Get Too Close to Wildlife

At least one safari tour is a must while visiting South Africa. You’ll get to see elephants, rhinoceros, buffalo, giraffes, wild dogs, warthogs, kudu, and so much more. Cheetahs, lions, and other big cats are common sights as well.

Although it’s tempting to try to get a closeup, even the most docile wild animals can prove deadly. So, heed your guide’s warnings and stay in the vehicle at all times. Never attempt to get too close to the animals or you might end up in serious danger before you know it.

If you’re ever unsure how to be while visiting a new place, like South Africa, pop into a local eatery and ask the owners for advice. They know just how tourists can avoid trouble and can provide key insights into all the best sights in the region.

5 Weird Laws That Are Still Technically In Force In England

It’s always fun learning about weird laws. Usually, you end up thinking, “Seriously? That was a thing? What were they thinking? Weird laws are almost as good as the stories of strange things people do in Florida and Germany.

England is no exception to the weird laws universe, and here are five excellent ones for today’s amusement.

No Betting in the Library

Want to bet your friend $5 that Jane Austin did not write a book translated into the tv movie that was on last night. Don’t do it. Gambling is not allowed in libraries under the Library Offenses Act of 1898.

Can it be assumed that libraries were once used as a place to play poker and drink ale? Time to look that up.

Members of Parliament May Not Wear Armor Inside Parliament Quarters

A statute codified in the 1313 Bearing of Armour Act is still in effect today, and wearing a full suit of armor into the Houses of Parliament is strictly forbidden. Edward II first implemented the statute to stop the violence between the two factions of parliament, the pro-royalist Lancastrians and the anti-royalist Earl of Glouchester’s party.

Oh, how fun would those fights have been to watch?

Beached Whales Need to Be Offered to the Reigning Monarch

Edward II was a busy monarch, decreeing in 1322 that the “head and spermaceti of a whale” would be given to the king. The finder of the beached whale got to keep the rest of the carcass.

How much fun would it be to go up to the Queen’s Guard and say, “I have a whale head and spermaceti for the queen, just as the law instructs.”?

Never Breed Your Corgi With One of the Queen’s

It’s tempting to win the Westminster dog show with some true royal corgi heritage, but it is illegal to let your pet mate with another from the royal household. Dreams now dashed, and there shall be no Westminster Legend Trophy anytime soon.

This law was punishable by death until 1965! Don’t take your corgi anywhere near that palace.

Do Not Walk Your Cows Down the Street in Daylight

Farmers or pet cow owners (who owns a pet cow?) are not allowed to walk their cows through the streets between 10 am and 7 pm. This law comes courtesy of an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom called the Metropolitan Streets Act 1867.

It is a well-known fact that pet cows get bored, especially in a small garden, and their owners should walk them. Not to mention, it is a cow and owner bonding experience.

You may take your cows down the streets of London if you have a note from the Commissioner of Police.

These are just five weird laws, and we didn’t even get into ten-year-olds and unclothed mannequins yet. The UK has some epic rules that make you grin when you read them. Go online, and you’ll find plenty more to fill your afternoon.

The Culture Guide: 5 Things You Should Not Do When Visiting India

India is like nowhere else on earth. You have the chance to step into a swirling, exciting mixture of ancient and new. You can explore majestic ancient ruins and wonders of the world, enjoy delicious cuisine, and meet incredible people on your voyage.

When you step into a foreign country like India, however, you want to know how to act so that you can enjoy every aspect of your stay. Fortunately, we have compiled a list of the top 5 behaviors you want to avoid when traveling to India. Let’s dive in.

DON’T leave your shoes on when entering holy places, houses, or even some stores

Traditionally, Indians do not wear shoes in their homes or holy places. You might even see people take off their shoes to enter some stores. Therefore, if you visit temples or private homes, plan on leaving your shoes outside. You will likely see a pile by the door.

If you see people taking off their shoes to enter other establishments as well, follow their lead.

You do not want to inadvertently step on anyone’s toes, literally or figuratively.

DON’T expect everyone to speak English

You will find that a number of locals speak English. This is particularly true in major cities or near common tourist sites. However, that does not mean that everyone in India will speak English.

India has a rich and beautiful tapestry of languages and cultures. While many associate languages in India with Hindi, it is far from the only one. 

Learn about the languages spoken in the areas you will visit. Even if you can communicate in English with them or if you have a translator with you, being able to say ‘hello’, ‘please’, and ‘thank you’ in their language will go a long way in showing your respect for their culture.

DON’T point at things with your finger or use your left hand for certain tasks

Pointing at something with your finger can make you seem very rude. Instead, to gesture at something in particular, you want to point with your thumb or with your head. While some Indians might be somewhat accustomed to seeing foreign tourists make this faux pas, it will not help you ingratiate yourself with the locals and can earn you stares or glares. Best to just avoid it.

Similarly, don’t reach for things or offer something to someone else with your left hand, such as giving alms in a temple or paying your taxi driver. The left hand is generally only used for tasks like personal hygiene and is considered unclean.

DON’T expect everything to start right on time

Many people in India function on their own understanding of time. Do not expect things to start on time. If you get invited to someone’s home, they will not really expect you until 20-30 minutes after the start time. Meetings and public transportation will also operate behind schedule.

Knowing what to expect can help you limit your frustration. Just build the extra time into your itinerary. Embrace Indian culture as you immerse yourself.

DON’T be afraid to step off the beaten path 

There is no doubt that stepping off the beaten path in India can be immensely rewarding. You can venture to Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh to see early cave dwellings and incredible prehistoric art. You can also explore the trails of the Western Ghats and see unique plants and animals. Don’t limit yourself in India to what everyone else does. Explore this beautiful country for yourself.

Exploring India is an opportunity to experience a rich and astounding place. Keep these guidelines in mind and go have the time of your life.