Know the Rules

Cell Phone Etiquette Trends Around The Globe

Cell phones are perhaps the biggest communication technology advancement the human race has achieved and also the most annoying. People have complained about bad phone etiquette for ages, and that hasn’t seemed to help ease the problem. In the earlier decades of the twentieth century, having a home telephone quickly became less a luxury and more of a must-have utility. Soon afterward, concerns about their proper use arose. A majority of North American phone owners complained about disturbance from inappropriately timed calls, telemarketers, snoopers listening in on calls, people on the phone speaking too loudly, and much more.

Enter the age of the cell phones and things only seem to have gotten worse; gone out of hand at best. Somewhere between Alexander Graham Bell’s first practical telephone and today’s cutting edge cell phone, something went terribly wrong. A majority of North Americans seem to agree that cell phone etiquette has gradually worsened over the years.

Lady using a cell phone

Typical habits most people find annoying include:

– Using a phone during a face-to-face conversation.
– Speaking in loud tones in crowded places during a telephone call.
– Discussing private or intimate topics on the phone in a crowded area.
– Using a phone to either call or send text messages in social gatherings such as a church sermon or a family dinner.
– Using a phone while driving or operating sensitive equipment.
– Text messaging etiquette also falls into this category whereby, texting to convey sad news or failing to properly introduce yourself to someone who doesn’t have your number are the most common.

Cell Phone Etiquette Trends Around The Globe

In different countries and regions, some habits are considered rude or inappropriate as far as cell phone use is concerned. Recent statistics estimate that by the year 2020, the number of active cell phone users will reach a staggering 6 billion people. Despite the rise in the number of smartphone users, etiquette hasn’t improved. Smartphones have in fact worsened the situation. With tonnes of processing power and a myriad of features packed into a small handheld device, people now actively snub social interaction preferring to engage with others on the internet or messaging platforms.

In Russia, people often don’t say anything after picking up the phone. In some instances, Russians respond with a “who is it.” This can be considered quite rude in some parts of the world.

In Spain, discussing private or personal matters over the phone is considered quite normal. The Spanish find nothing wrong with communication using a mobile phone in crowded public spaces. Ignoring a Spanish person’s phone call is considered quite rude since voicemail is not as popular. The Spanish pick up phone calls with a “Hola, Buenos dias/tardes”, depending on the time of day.

In Finland, home of Nokia, cell phone use appears to have become popular over the years. Once considered introverts, the Finish have transformed into a chatty lot. Using cell phones in churches, meeting rooms and hospitals is however considered rude. People in Finland answer the phone by introducing themselves with their surnames.

In Germany, it is considered appropriate to say your name when picking up a phone call. Speaking on the phone in public places is quite common here. Germans prefer the person calling to also introduce themselves with a name.

In Egypt, it is considered customary to exchange pleasantries for a period lasting between five to ten minutes before initiating the actual conversation. Egyptians respond to phone calls with a basic “hello’.

Mexicans have a reputation for always carrying cellphones wherever they go. The need to constantly check messages, calls and emails. It is considered normal to perform operation on the phone while sitting at a restaurant table with your mates before the food arrives. Mexican even carry their cellphones to the toilet! I mean who doesn’t… but you get the point. Talking a walk on the street is an activity considered too boring without constantly using your phone. Mexicans respond to phone calls with either “Bueno?’ or “Alo”.

Speaking loudly on the phone is considered rude in France, The French tend to turn off or silence their phones during meals. They are also quite wary of discussing private matters on the phone. They answer the phone with “Allo”.

In Japan, speaking on your phone around strangers is rude. Japanese people answer the phone by saying, “moshi moshi”.

In the U.K, eating while talking on the phone is considered extremely rude and inappropriate. The English pick up calls with “hello”.

Italians prefer short and to the point conversations. They will most commonly answer the phone with the word “Pronto” which means “I’m ready, to listen”. If you need to leave a voicemail message – keep it short. Italians consider it rude to leave long messages.

The Chinese are known notorious callers who have no problem speaking on the phone in crowded places. It is alleged that the Chinese hardly utilize messaging or phone answering machines. This means that a Chinese person will likely call you a dozen times or until you pick up. Chinese respond to calls with, “weyi”.

In most parts of the world, calling past 10 p.m. is inappropriate. Speaking on the phone while driving is also unacceptable in most countries and is outlawed.
Know the Rules

Globally Accepted Cell Phone Etiquette

As is the case in the rest of the world, the cell phone usage rules are the same in North America. These include:

– Avoiding using a cell phone while driving or operating machines as this can pose considerable risks to other people and yourself.
– Avoiding using a phone during conversations. This shows disinterest in the person with whom the dialogue is being had.
– Avoiding using a phone during social gatherings such as family meals, church summons or other meetings. Switching the phone off or putting it in vibration is polite.
– Speaking in soft tones on the phone and avoiding discussing intimate or private matters in public.
– Properly introducing yourself when calling or texting a person who doesn’t have your number.

Despite all the rules, we may come up with regarding cell phone use; it is important to above all else retain the value of human interaction. Setting aside the phone for a moment and talking to the real person beside you is worthwhile. Responsible cell phone use not only enhances the way people relate to each other, but it also encourages a culture of respect and awareness of the feelings of others concerning phone use.


Have you ever come across a rude or inappropriate cell phone user? Or are you guilty of breaking some of the rules yourself?

Share your cell phone etiquette horror stories in the comments below!

1 Comment

  1. Marianne

    From my experience, when I worked and lived in China a few years ago, texting was just about the only mode of communication. However, if they talked on the phone taking public transportation was usually very loud, whereas in Japan it was the opposite.

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.