1. Switzerland — Honesty shopping
Tiny little shops in the middle of the Swiss Alps share the idealism of this society in the form of honesty shops. These are little shops that allow you to buy your fresh cheese, milk, bread, honey, and butter without anyone there to watch you indulge in the delicious dairy products of the area. In fact, most of the day, no one watches these shops because they are owned by farmers who are out taking care of the animals, so all you do is leave your money behind in a little basket. And what’s amazing is that this form of consumer trust results in incredible customer loyalty and honesty among the communities.
2. Colombia — “Tranquilo“
The flights will likely be canceled, the buses won’t run on a schedule or sometimes at all, and you’ll probably show up to school as a teacher and there won’t be any class — for two weeks. No importa. Tranquilo. It’s not important, don’t worry, chill-out. This prevailing attitude in Colombia creates a constant air of tranquility because everything will work out, especially with the overwhelming kindness of every Colombian who will go out of their way to help you when you’ve missed a bus, don’t have a plane, or need something to do when you have no work for two weeks. And I’m convinced this tranquilo lifestyle is why all Colombian maintain the look of eternal youth.
3. Turkey — Heart-warming hospitality
The idea of hitchhiking made me nervous but with my only ticket out of Istanbul, 900 km away, and no working forms of currency, I stuck out my thumb. I was overwhelmed by Turkish hospitality, I was always welcomed to the homes of those who gave me rides, be it to share giant meals of kebab or be given a place to stay; and I could never part ways without sharing the richest Turkish coffee.If we happened to end up at a restaurant, my hosts always picked up the tab. Maybe it was the luck of arrival during Ramadan, but Turkish hospitality needs to be adopted worldwide.
4. South Korea — NOT tipping
For someone who was raised in the United States and has worked in the food service industry throughout university, tipping is in my blood. I want to tip everyone as a way of showing my gratitude for their service, and solidarity with them in their work. But no sooner did I attempt to display my gratitude in a charming cafe in Seoul, then my tip was snatched quickly by my host with a sharp glare. In South Korea along with many other countries, employees in the food service industry are given fair wages and take pride in their work, and it is insulting to attempt to tip them. A habit and concept maybe the world would do well to consider.
5. Colombia — Tinto time
Tinto is a tiny cup of rich, dark coffee sweetened with panela (sugar’s sweeter relative), and tinto time is all the time. You simply stop at one of the hundreds of carts of tinto being wheeled around, or at stands in the street for ten minutes to enjoy your sweet-caffeinated pick-me-up, catch up on the local gossip, and chat with friends. Tinto time means you’ll probably be late for that meeting, but since everyone stops for tinto, so will everyone else.
6. China — Noodle slurping
After a long train ride, we were starving and were drawn to a ramen restaurant by its alluring aroma and the promise of warmth. But as soon as we entered, we were hit by the sound of slurping. For such a polite Asian culture, this seemed out of place and rude. Clearly, this was a custom I had yet to understand, but as soon as my host explained it, I was excited to partake. The slurping makes the food more enjoyable, the meal more comical and tells your host you loved it. The world would enjoy meals more if we allowed ourselves the polite Chinese custom of slurping (and the childlike delight of noisy, interactive eating).
7. Japan — Pushers on the subway
The Japanese subways are pristine and quiet enough that I’ve heard many pins drop, except when there are tourists aboard and you can hear them from two train cars away. But just like any other metro system, Japan’s subway is crowded during rush hours. But instead of settling for the inefficiency that personal space demands, Japan has “pushers.” They are exactly what they sound like — employees whose sole job during rush hour is to push more people onto the train cars. You thought there wasn’t space enough for you? Wrong. There’s space for you AND ten complete strangers.
8. Germany — Crossing the street
We could go on and on about the efficiency of Germany — from the buses and the trains that run perfectly on time to the incredible timeliness of every citizen — but one of the best German organizational habits that should be adopted worldwide, is pedestrians waiting for streetlights. In New York if you don’t jaywalk, you’re an obvious tourist; in Vietnam traffic NEVER stops for pedestrians; and in Mexico, pedestrians are just as sporadic as drivers. If the whole world was to adopt the organized and predictable street of Germany, the world would be a safer place.
9. Iceland — Christmas Eve books giving
We obsess over the eternal question of Christmas gifts; do we spend tons of money on new technology for our loved ones or just stick with the always-safe gift card? Will they read too much into a “fitbit”? Iceland has solved this problem with the Christmas Eve tradition of giving a book. After everyone unwraps the books, they spend the evening reading together. Iceland has preserved the culture of books in this beautiful Christmas custom which many countries would do well to emulate!
10. Russia — Offering vodka
It is the custom to welcome new friends with shots of vodka, and this is even expected from older generations. What better way to break the ice than with some stomach-warming shots of this Russian tradition? I think friendships would form faster worldwide if we all adopted this idea, and that’s something we can all toast to, or, as they say in Russia, “Na zdorovye!”.