The first time I came to Japan, I was coached to be worried about offending. Do things exactly right, or you’ll offend. Hold the business card the right way. Don’t show the bottom of your feet. Bow exactly so at exactly the right time. Otherwise you’ll offend and ruin everything.
It’s important to learn about a culture you’re going to visit. You don’t want to offend. You don’t want to make an obscene hand gesture by mistake. You don’t want to say something that means something different than you thought.
But my experiences in Japan have been very different from what I was led to expect. The people are so kind, so patient, so polite. People give gentle advice on the train when they see you sitting in the wrong seat, or when you’re likely on the wrong train. People help one another with luggage. And nobody seems itching to get offended when I forget and cross my legs or write a note on their business card.
Traveling around the world is awesome because people are so different in different parts of the world, but it’s also awesome because we’re all so much the same.