5 Bizarre Customs From Around the World

When you travel around the world, you may encounter many strange cultural habits that will surprise you.Here we listed a few.

1. Polterabend in Germany

It is customary in Germany for wedding guests to participate in a tradition known as “Polterabend” the night before a wedding. This involves close friends and family of the bride and groom breaking things such as vases, crockery and other items of porcelain which the couple must then endeavour to clear away as a sign of unity and hard work.

This has led many hotels, spas and casinos to offer “Polta-packages” or specials incorporating this tradition into tourism. Some now open their doors to stag and hen parties. Travelers venturing to Germany should be prepared for quite the noisy stay if they see a wedding party checking in!

2. South Africa

Around the world, countries ring in the New Year in fun and exciting ways, from watching a ball drop in Times Square to setting off giant displays of fireworks. But Chucking Furniture From Windows? Well, that’s another story. Such has been the tradition for many years in the crime-ridden Hillbrow neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa. According to The Wall Street Journal, the tradition started in the 1990s “after the end of South Africa’s white minority apartheid rule.” Naturally, the tradition has become incredibly dangerous over the years; according to the report, several years ago, a person was struck on the head and body by a falling refrigerator. As such, police have begun monitoring the neighborhood in armored vehicles to ensure the tradition comes to an end. In 2013, for example, police considered it a “mission accomplished” that no one in the neighborhood chucked furniture out the window that New Year’s Eve, even though the night was filled with fistfights, fireworks, and glass bottles being flung at pedestrians, according to The Wall Street Journal. Well…baby steps?

3. Boshintang in South Korea

Seasoned travelers will be familiar with unusual street foods, but many restaurants in Seoul and indeed much of South Korea may offer you a true taste of Eastern culture with Boshintang: a meaty broth made from man’s best friend, the dog.
Although outlawed in Taiwan earlier this year after a lengthy battle from animal rights activists, it remains quite common practice elsewhere in Asia and has been considered a staple of Korean cuisine since the 4th century AD.

4. Guest Etiquette in Russia

Etiquette — something paramount in the field of hospitality — is far more regimented in Russia than in many other Western cultures. So much so that the Russian government even released a code of conduct for cultural sensitivity earlier this year.

Travelers wanting to integrate with the Russian way of life should certainly do their homework beforehand, as even the act of giving flowers can be construed as an insult if not given in odd numbers. Guests may also be invited to indulge in a game of “Man Down,” a drinking game where men must drink vodka until one remains standing in triumph. Beware — your host may see refusing to participate as a monumental insult. Travelers should note this custom when deciding on how early in the morning to book their return flights…

5. Numerology in China

Travelers might notice a certain unease surrounding the number 4 in many East Asian cultures. In fact, it isn’t unusual for hoteliers and other customer-facing businesses to omit the use of this number altogether.

This is because in Chinese culture, the number 4 is believed to be inauspicious due to the pronunciation being nearly identical to that of the Chinese word “death” (死 pinyin sǐ). This may mean that buttons in an elevator jump from floor 3 straight to 5, or a corridor of hotel rooms from 39 to 50 — even hospital beds have been known to forgo the number 4 entirely. In the interest of being hospitable, in 2015 14 Spanish hotels also adopted this custom to meet the needs of a tourist spike in Eastern travelers.