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Did you know that in Bulgaria, nodding your head actually means no?

A woman nodding her head stands on the steps of a brick wall with ivy.

If there’s one thing you’ll learn on your travels, it’s that sometimes things do not mean what you think they mean. Usually this leads to max. confusion, but also a lot of laughs once you figure out what’s going on. Here are some of our favourite quirky differences from cultures around the world so you’re in the know before you go.

In Bulgaria nodding your head means no

The most common way to show agreement and say ‘yes’ in Bulgaria is to shake your head from side to side, a gesture that in many countries means no. And it’s not just Bulgaria! Greece, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt all follow the same method.

A man in a top hat is nodding at the camera.

In Cyprus waving goodbye means something awful

You do not want to show your palm to the locals in Cyprus when you’re bidding them farewell. Unlike other countries where the wave of a hand is a casual way to say goodbye, in Cyprus it means “sh*t on your face”, and naturally, is considered pretty rude.


A man and a woman nodding heads next to each other.

In Israel it’s rude to NOT interrupt people

Turning rude behaviour on it’s head is Israel, who believe if you fail to interrupt someone while they’re speaking it means you’re not really listening and aren’t engaged with what they’re telling you. Honestly, that’s one cultural difference some of us could get used to amiright?

Nodding head while saying

In Iran giving a thumbs up is the same as flipping the bird

Telling someone you’re all good with a quick thumbs up ain’t cool in Iran, where the thumb acts as the middle finger. In Western culture the middle finger is a an offensive gesture to show someone you don’t like their vibe.


A man in a suit nodding head inside a car.

In Sweden you agree with someone by sucking in air

Not all cultures are verbal, and in Sweden (and Norway) to show you’re on the same page as someone you make a sharp sucking noise instead of saying ‘I agree” or nodding. It’s their way of letting you know they’re listening without interrupting the flow of conversation.

The Simpsons interact with a woman in a red dress, nodding their heads.

In Georgia ‘Mama’ and ‘Papa’ mean the opposite

You might get some strange looks if you introduce someone in Georgia to your mum and produce a woman, because to them ‘mama’ means father, and ‘papa’ means mother. In fact, in the Georgian language a lot of words you find familiar are ‘backwards’ in terms of Western linguistics!

A man in a black shirt nodding his head.

In Korea a check mark means the answer is wrong

If you sit an exam in Korea and start celebrating when your results are a row of ticks, think again. A check mark is the same as a cross to them, and a circle denotes a right answer.

A man is nodding his head in front of two mannequins.