Each country in this world (or even different parts of the same country) have different sets of norms and customs that come into play on a day basis. As a responsible trip leader, it's important to educate yourself and your students on these differences as you would never want to offend someone abroad. Also, it's an important part of the development of student empathy and perspective to better understand the differences of the peoples that exist around the world. The list we've created is not all encompassing, but it offers a good starting point to developing awareness of the very place you're traveling to!
#1 - Gifts
Is it typical to bring gifts to your hosts? If so, how much $$$ is necessary to drop on a given gift? Although this aspect is much less important in some cultures, it's a very important sign of respect and friendship in others. Something as simple as a gold coin from your school at home, or a memento from an organization that is unique to your home area, are usually thought of as unique and meaningful gifts.
#2 - Gratuities
Is tipping acceptable? If so, where do you and do not tip? Also, how much is expected? Answering this question can be very challenging for a trip leader, as locals in that country will likely dance around the question and not give a straight answer in order to maintain the surface harmony of the experience (they don't want you to feel compelled). That being said, cultures like the United States have a mandatory tipping expectation of 15-20% in restaurants, so it's smart to do your homework on that country beforehand.
#3 - Basic Etiquette & Mannerisms
In the United States, we say "Thank You!" for just about anything at all. But in some cultures, "Thank You" or the equivalent of that in another language is only used in certain circumstances, therefore increasing the value of the phrase. For example, India is a country where this is the case. On another note, do research on how locals communicate and act. Some cultures shake their head in approval of a question or comment, whereas others shake their head in disapproval.
#4 - Dining
Have you ever tried dining in France and it's almost like they don't want you to leave? Conversely, in the United States, they can't wait for you to leave? Much of which as to do with traditional dining culture, and how servers are compensated. In France, they say when you do dinner, you're "paying rent". No matter how much you fight tooth and nail, you're going to be there for an hour and a half because hey that's a part of that dinning culture. Plus, unlike the United States, staff is not paid on tips (so there is no incentive to turn tables).
If you want to learn more about identifying these customs and norms for a specific location, or are perhaps interested in creating an itinerary for your group, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org!