How Not to Embarass Yourself in a Foreign Country

Travelling is supposed to be fun, and you’d want to explore new places feeling as confident and relaxed as possible. But before you head to the airport to catch a flight to Korea, Japan or US, take a look at this cheat-sheet to manage your expectations on cultural customs and behaviors.

1. Know when (and when not) to touch a person
Whether to touch or not can be confusing when you are in a foreign land. In many European countries, invading personal space for a bit may not be a big deal. But with much of African and Asian countries, you wouldn’t want to appear clingy. In France and Italy, maintaining eye contact, touching the other person and reaching out are considered more polite gestures than just staring at the person with your hands crossed over your chest. However, in Nigeria, maintaining eye contact can be perceived as threat or an overly bold move.

2. Mind the table manners
Although you were always taught that elbows should always be off the table and do not leave anything on your plate when done eating, table manners vary widely from country to country. In India and certain parts of Africa, it’s more than just keeping your elbows off the table. You also have to be mindful of your left hand—it shouldn’t touch anything on the table or it will be considered dirty. In Japan, you can slurp the soup, but do that in China and you’ll get all the strange stares at the table. In China, eating your rice with chopsticks is customary, but in Thailand it is considered inappropriate (use a spoon, instead).

3. Know whether you need to tip or not
In America, people do not leave a restaurant without leaving 15 percent tip on the table. However, in many countries around the world, tipping is either already part of the bill, unnecessary because the staff are paid much higher or just plain rude. Do not tip in Australia, Brazil and Japan. Leave at least five percent tip in Germany, France and Italy, while at least 10 percent tip in Russia, Egypt, South Africa and Hong Kong.

4. Dress appropriately
Unless you are headed somewhere In U.S., it’s best to dress more conservatively when in a foreign land. Cover your arms and legs and avoid wearing shirts with graphics and slogans that are too loud to the sight.

5. Learn the most basic local phrases
This is an obvious one, but we’ll say it again: learning the foreign language of basic phrases like “Hi,” “Hello,” “Please,” “Thank you,” “Where’s the bathroom,” and “Do you speak English” will go a long way in making you appear more friendly to the locals. It only takes a few minutes to learn these magic phrases that can greatly help turn strangers to friends anywhere you are.

Above all, be observant. Try to be the tourist that does not make the locals roll their eyes behind your back.

5 Non-Awkward Ways to Meet New People During Your Travel

Solo travel can be enlightening and invigorating, but it can also get boring at some point when you do not make the effort to make friends.

Why not just say ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ to your co-travellers or to a local? Here’s why: because randomly approaching anyone and introducing yourself to a stranger can be creepy and plain awkward—especially when you do not have friends to back you up. If you are one of those people who find introducing themselves to people they don’t know intimidating, here are some tips to help you find strangers with common interest and effortlessly make friends with them.

Stay at Hostels
Staying at hostels is an essential part to becoming a sociable solo traveller. Sleeping quarters and dormitory style room promotes conversation, while communal areas provide an ideal place to bond with co-travellers over bottles of beer.

Join a Walking Tour
A walking tour is not only a great (and free) way to go sight-seeing, but the nature of this tour lends to easier conversation. If you are joining a group that isn’t too large, the host or the tour guide will ask everyone to say their name and where they are from, which will give you an easy way to strike up a conversation with anyone during the tour. Stopping for a drink or meal also gives you the opportunity to socialize.

Eat Your Meal at the Bar
Opting to eat at a restaurant’s bar area will not only allow you to bypass the awkward ‘table for one’ scenario, but also give you the chance to chat with other diners sitting beside you (who is likely also dining alone), people ordering drinks or even with the bartender. Staffs usually make the extra effort to be friendly and chat with solo diners.

Embark on a Group Tour
Whether it is hours of drive or a three-day hike, group tours offer travel experiences that aren’t possible to take on alone. Smaller groups create closer camaraderie, especially when under challenging circumstances, while long drives encourage conversation to make the long travel tolerable.

Offer to Take Photos
Offer to take a photo of someone who’s trying to take a selfie in a good spot. By doing the universally recognized ‘camera’ mime, you’ll be able to start a conversation with a stranger in a non-conspicuous manner. If you spotted another solo traveller snapping a decent photo of themselves, offer your expertise. It is a natural prelude to a small talk that could turn into a picture-perfect friendship.

Travelling alone is a great chance for you to grow and know yourself even more. Do not let being alone dictate how you should socialize. By now, you should have realized that there are many different ways to make friends that the only thing you need is the desire to meet new people. The bottom-line is that making friends is just like how you do it back home: be proactive about it, be open-minded and prioritize your safety always.

A Basic Guide to Dressing Smartly for Work

There are a lot of men in Singapore don’t pay much attention to fashion and dressing well. Although this is the case, there is still a perfectly good reason for it; the heat. We dress for convenience instead of style, which is really a good thing. What men have to know though, is that we don’t have to sacrifice style at all. Especially in an office environment where we are expected to dress smartly too.

Knowing how to dress, what to wear, and what not to wear in the office can actually have a lot of benefits, even if you don’t notice them. That’s why we’ve listed a really simple guide you can use for reference!

Find the right fit
This is already fairly obvious, but there are still a lot of men who make mistakes with this one. We tend to pick clothes that are somewhat bigger so that we can let some air in. Again, here’s the issue with Singapore’s climate. Anyway, the right fit will always look good and it won’t really be as hot as you think. Plus, if you’re still worried about not looking good even when you’re wearing the right size, there are still a lot of aspects that can come together to improve your overall style.

Go to a tailor
This is somehow a continuation to the first point. If you’re really having difficulty looking for your size, you can try going to a tailor. It will be good for a man to at least have a few shirts, pants, or suits that are tailored for them.

Match colors
One of the more concrete examples for this one is with belts and shoes. As a rule, the color of your dress belt should match the color of your dress shoe. If your belt is brown, your shoe should be any shade of that color although preferably the same or a little lighter. Also, wear darker tones as they convey a stronger impression. Avoid neon colors, obviously because it passes off as informal for some reason. And wear black or gray socks only!

Get a trim
It is quite known that Asian men and beards don’t exactly go together. With some exceptions, of course, many cannot grow beards and look slick with them, unlike many westerners. Nevertheless, having no facial hear is still considered most professional. If you are one of those who can grow a thick beard and look good in it though, you can try to maintain it and keep it clean-looking.

Pay attention to footwear
The first thing people subconsciously notice is someone’s shoes. Now, whether this is true or not, it still shows that shoe style can mean a lot. That’s why you should not forget to clean them once in a while. Lastly, you should avoid wearing ankle socks with your dress shoes. Although it looks trendy, it’s deemed unprofessional.

How Does Human Touch Affect Us?

At one point in life, you may wonder why holding hands or hugging feels so good. Sometimes you may find yourself yearning for human touch, whether from your family, friends, boyfriends, or girlfriends. After all, there’s good reason for that.

The importance of human touch
Compared to being able to “feel” our surroundings with our hands, being on the receiving end can have just as much importance. Infants, for example, who are usually exposed to human touch can gain healthy weight faster and have improved mental development.

This, of course, carries on as we grow older. Sometimes though, social expectations limit our tactile interaction with others. A naturally touchy person will usually restrain himself/herself from hugging or touching strangers or people they just met, well, for obvious reasons.
Benefits

Reduce stress and anxiety
There are some Singaporeans, for instance, who walk along nature parks with their partners as a stress reliever. If you happen to try this out, you’ll know that it is effective. Human touch, especially non-sexual acts like hugging or holding hands can provide a feeling of comfort and assurance that can ease anxiety and stress.

Can improve mood
During tactile interactions, our body gets a boost of the “happy hormone”, oxytocin. This mainly helps to improve our mood, hence encouraging positive thoughts and increased feelings of compassion for others.

Strengthen relationships
Occasional tactile interactions with our family, friends, and partners can help strengthen our bond with them. Hugging, holding hands, light touches, or even massaging can promote trust and compassion between both parties.

Boost our immune system
Just like how human touch can increase oxytocin, it can also lower the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol in the body. This then contributes to a stronger immune system and better health overall. Also, it is said that hugs can promote the maintenance of our white blood cells. This is also said to help improve immunity.

Different body parts and human touch
• Hands – hands are obviously the most common because they are what we mainly use for our sense of touch. Although that’s the case, our hands can also be on the receiving end (e.g. when someone holds our hands).
• Neck – for many people, the neck is the most sensitive to human touch. Although much exposed to others, our neck is considered an intimate area. You may notice that if someone is anxious or afraid, they will usually cover their necks with their hands or clothes. While a person who is comfortable sits back and opens up with their neck usually exposed.
• Back – Majority of men and women also prefer their back to be stroked and caressed. This is probably because the back is the most easily accessible. We are also usually fine when friends and companions touch our back every now and then.

5 Foods You Didn’t Think Would Give You Gas (But Actually Do)

Even though you may think your day is going well, you can easily make it worse by eating the wrong foods that interfere with the good bacteria in your gut, which can cause indigestion and force you to make a run for the bathroom.

Here are a few foods you might want to skip out on if you want your belly and your life to run as smoothly as possible:

1. Broccoli
Complex sugars called raffinose are usually found in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and vinegar, which only break down when they enter the small intestine and can cause bloating and gas.

However, there’s no reason why you should give up on broccoli. If you want to munch on them for dinner, try not to overcook them to preserve their health benefits.

2. Artificial sweeteners
Even though sweeteners are sugar-free, that doesn’t mean they come with their own downsides. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin can alter your gut bacteria, resulting in more weight gain.

Sugar-free foods such as candies and gum can also make you feel bloated, or act as a laxative when you eat too much, as well as trick your stomach into producing more acids than it needs to.

If you want to sate your sweet tooth, there are still plenty of alternatives to sugar and artificial sweeteners, such as honey or coconut sugar.

3. Corn
Corn isn’t the easiest food that your system can process. If you don’t chew corn well enough, there’s a good chance that it will simply pass through undigested and cause an upset stomach when you’re not careful.

However, you can simply get around this by thoroughly chewing corn whether it’s canned or on the cob.

4. Fried foods
Fast food may not exactly be the definition of a healthy meal, but you’ll be surprised how quickly fried foods can go through your system undigested and make you feel more bloated.

Additionally, fried foods can either stay too long or too short in your system, and neither are good options for you.

The good news is there are plenty of alternatives for fast food in Singapore, and since you can easily get healthier foods for cheap, you have even more reasons to switch to a more tummy-friendly diet.

5. Citrus fruits
It might be tempting to add citrus fruits to your diet when you want to live a healthier lifestyle, but acidic fruits might only upset your stomach and further imitate the lining, which can lead to acid reflux and burping.
If you experience these symptoms, you might want to cut out the citrus fruits and opt for fruits such as bananas, which are great at easing heartburn.

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