If you’re traveling to any of these countries, here are some of the quirky local customs they observe in case you want to get in on the fun!
1. La Tomatina Festival In Spain
There are very few competing festivals, but as far as we know, La Tomatina in Spain is the biggest tomato fight in the entire world. Basically, everyone in the town of Bunol, plus roughly 50,000 visitors from all over the world,engage in the biggest food fight known to man.
This year the festival is on August 29, so bring a pair of goggles and get ready to get messy!
2. The Monkey Buffet Festival In Thailand
You’ll find some bizarre things (compared to North American culture) when you travel to Thailand, but perhaps the most bizarre is the annual Monkey Buffet Festival in Lopburi, Bangkok.
If you arrive around festival time (November 24, 2018), you might be surprised to find monkeys sitting on buffet tables while they stuff their faces with food.
This is an annual festivity that involves nearly 4,000 kg of food, mainly fruit and vegetables, and draws thousands of visitors. It makes for a hilarious and interesting event because it draws around 3,000 monkeys — and as we all know, monkeys are hilarious!
3. Saluting Lone Magpies In The UK
If you’re walking down a street somewhere in the United Kingdom and you see someone salute a magpie, rest easy knowing that they’re not crazy, they’re just following an ancient tradition.
There’s an old Lincolnshire nursery rhyme about magpies that goes like this: “One for sorrow, two for mirth.” So meeting a single magpie is associated with extremely bad luck.
By greeting the magpie with a salute, people believe that they deter the bad luck. Feel like a local and try it yourself!
4. Welcome Drinks In Fiji
There are lots of good reasons to visit Fiji, and one of them is the special welcome that visitors get when entering villages.
Upon arriving in a Fiji community, visitors are greeted with a unique cocktail called Kava. It’s made from squeezing roots into a wooden bowl, and it has a rather… “special” flavor to it.
Let’s just say the bitterness is an acquired taste!
5. Camel Wrestling In Turkey
You might feel like interfering if you see two camels fighting, but in Turkey, feel free to jump right in! Similar to cockfighting or bull running in Spain, camel fighting is a common phenomenon in the local Turkish culture.
Fortunately, injuries rarely happen as two male camels fight. Caution is advised, though, as they can get quite rowdy and they also tend to work up quite a nasty smell to go along with the saliva discharge.
6. Pulling Fingers In Austria
There are a lot of strange sports out there, but competitive finger-pulling might top the list! Austrians, especially in Fingerhakeln, take finger-pulling very seriously and even have a set of rules to accompany it.
The point of the game is to drag your opponent across the table using just a finger, so if you’re feeling bold, challenge someone to a finger match if you’re in a Fingerhakeln pub. The same sport is practiced in Bavaria, Germany as well.
7. Throwing Cinnamon At Single People In Denmark
Being single late into a person’s 20s and even 30s is becoming much more common, but apparently, Denmark hasn’t gotten the message.
If you’ve turned 25 and have yet to marry, expect your friends to randomly ambush you with a shower of cinnamon at any time, in any place. It gets worse the longer you stay single with the 30s bringing on a full-out pepper shower.
8. Piercings In India
Religious traditions can be quite elaborate, but none are nearly as aesthetically obvious as the intricate piercings that Indians undergo as part of their Hindu beliefs.
There’s a ritual called Hindu Thaipusam Piercings, and it involves tongue piercings, nose piercings, etc. If you notice a lot of piercings during your travels to India, don’t stare too long since it’s likely due to the person’s commitment to their religious beliefs.
9. Wife Carrying In Finland
Sonkajarvi, Finland is apparently a little behind the times as they still have an annual “wife-carrying” competition. Every year, competitors from around the world gather for the championships, and the sport actually has a history dating back to the 19th century.
Who knows: maybe in the midst of the current feminist movement we’ll soon see a “husband-carrying” competition to level the playing field. Either way, at least now you know what you’re seeing when you see a flock of men run down the street with women on their backs!
10. Looking For Fern Blossoms In Estonia
If you’re doing some hiking in Estonia and stumble across a young couple “picking fern blossoms” in the woods, know that it’s actually a long-running excuse that couples will use to get some “alone” time.
Simply walk in the opposite direction and hope they’re the only ones!
If your travel goals follow a pretty basic itinerary, try carving out some room to observe (or participate in) some of these quirky local customs. You won’t regret it: diversity is the spice of life.