Skip to content

20 Embarrassing Things You Do in Public

These embarrassing things you're probably guilty of will have you cringing.

Let's face it: Even the most poised among us fall guilty to some pretty embarrassing behavior every now and then. Thankfully, when these awkward acts happen in close company, they're laughed off and quickly forgotten. But when we're caught doing something embarrassing in public, that's when it's harder to get over. For instance, have you ever tripped over your own feet? Or slammed "play" on your phone only to realize your headphones aren't plugged in? These embarrassments—and more, which we've rounded up here for your amusement—are among the (admittedly) low-stakes shameful moments that stick with us for minutes, hours, sometimes days. And yes, we are all guilty of all them!

Check yourself out in the mirror or reflective windows.

man checking his reflection in the side of a building

It's hard to walk by a mirror or reflective window without at least glancing at your appearance—making sure your clothes, hair, makeup, and the like are all in order. But sometimes, it doesn't stop at a quick look—and suddenly, there you are, full on checking yourself out for an extended amount of time. Everyone's been guilty of it at some point, but it sure is awkward when you get caught. So it's best to keep the primping to the private sector.

Skip washing your hands, but run the water just in case.

run the bathroom water in the restroom sink

Look, we all know you should wash your hands after using the bathroom. But if you've ever been pressed for time or just really hate those public bathroom air dryers, you've probably skipped the washing part entirely and let the water run for a minute just in case someone happens to be in one of the other stalls.

But not only could someone walk in and catch you in the middle of this embarrassing act, you're also putting your health at risk. After all, a 2006 study published in Tropical Medicine & International Health revealed that regular hand washing could decrease someone's risk of respiratory infection by 16 percent.

Search for your credit card when it's time to pay.

checking wallet at the grocery line

Some everyday activities—like paying for your groceries—can become pressure-filled moments of stress. Case in point: You've been waiting in line for 10 minutes to pay at the supermarket, and when it's finally your turn, you suddenly can't find your credit card. Is it in your wallet? Your pocket? Your bag? Who knows? But you can feel everyone else's collective eye rolls as you search. So, try to start searching before it's your turn to avoid having the embarrassing spotlight on you.

Eat with your mouth wide open.

A senior man enjoys a bite of his toasted bread spread with sweet jelly jam preserves during breakfast at a restaurant.
Willowpix / iStock

Hey, we get it—your sandwich is amazing. But trust us when we say, no one wants to see it chewed up inside your mouth. When you're enjoying your food in public, do it with your mouth closed, please!

Talk loudly on your phone about personal things.

older woman on cell phone

It's one thing for the entire grocery store to hear you tell your wife you're picking up ingredients to make chili for dinner. But when they hear something about how one of your kids had an accident on the way to school? That's just a tad embarrassing, and by a tad, we mean very. Save all the personal phone conversations for at home or for somewhere isolated, like your car.

Play something on your phone without headphones.

girl pressing play on her music

While you may be enjoying your Britney Spears gym workout mix or the latest crime thriller on Netflix, it might not be something everyone else around you is keen on tuning into as well. That's why you should always check to make sure your headphones are plugged in and doing their job before you hit play on anything. Those looks when your volume blares for the whole world to hear is an embarrassment you can avoid.

Pretend you're texting when you're really just waiting for someone.

funny amazon alexa questionsCrazy Facts You Never Knew About Your Smartphone

While waiting for a friend, date, or partner in a public place, some people are comfortable passing the time just sitting around, people watching. But if you're not one of those people, you'll recognize the "looking busy" tactic of pretending to have a text conversation (or even phone chat, for the truly desperate) just to appear as if you're doing something important, even though you're not. And trust us, people know what you're doing—and they're not buying it.

Pick a wedgie.

making sure no one is following him Embarrassing Things

First, you look around to check if anyone's behind you. Then, you go for it. If no one sees it, no harm, no foul, right? But unfortunately, someone always sees, and you're left awkwardly trying to pretend it never happened.

Pick something out of your teeth.

checking for food in teeth Embarrassing Things

Everyone has had that moment of utter embarrassment when they realize how long they've been walking around with something in their teeth and no one told them. There are two ways to avoid this embarrassing public display: 1) Head to the bathroom after eating to check that there are no remnants between your pearly whites, and 2) Think twice before you make a deep dig to get that piece of lettuce out when everyone can see.

Or pick your nose.

man picking nose Embarrassing Things

You probably think, "If I just do it really quickly, no one will notice." But chances are, the exact moment you pick your nose is when you'll run into someone you know. Save yourself the embarrassment and get a tissue!

Stare at someone.

Young black man with shaved head leans against brick wall and stares into distance, things you didn't know had words

You might stare at someone because they're attractive, or simply because you're interested in whatever they're doing or saying. But it's extra weird when they catch your eye and realize you're staring them down, especially when you're on the same bus, subway car, or other inescapable enclosed space. And getting caught making awkward eye contact twice because you (of course) didn't learn your lesson the first time? Oof. That's just the worst.

Talk to yourself.

Woman Going To Work With Coffee Walking Near Office Building. Portrait Of Successful Business Woman Holding Cup Of Hot Drink In Hand On Her Way To Work On City Street health tweaks over 40

Maybe you're practicing a presentation on your way to work, reviewing phrases in a new language, or just muttering to yourself about something frustrating. But no matter the circumstance, it's always weird when someone catches you talking to yourself. Save the you-on-you conversations for the comfort of your own home to avoid embarrassment.

Leave the bathroom stall door unlocked.

toilet stalls

There's probably nothing more embarrassing than having someone walk in on you in the bathroom. No one likes being interrupted mid-business by a complete stranger and no one likes being the interrupter either! The good news? There's an easy solution: Lock the stall door to avoid this embarrassment every single time.

Pass gas.

man smelling a bad smell at smelly home, signs your cold is serious

When you're in an empty elevator, you might think you're safe to pass gas. But most of the time, that's exactly when the elevator car will stop and another person will walk in. As you see the stench register on their face, you'll really regret doing something so embarrassing in public.

Walking around with your fly open.

man zipping fly package rearrange public viagra

Whenever you leave your home or make your exit from the bathroom, make sure it's after you've check out your fly situation. This is one embarrassment that's hard to come back from and you can definitely save yourself.

Wave at someone you don't know.

waving to a stranger

You know when you spot your friend a block away and excitedly wave at them? And then, as you get closer, you start to understand why they're not waving back. It's not your friend, and now a stranger thinks you're crazy. Just wait to wave until you're sure next time!

Or think someone is waving at you or talking to you when they're not.

thinking someone is waving at you Embarrassing Things

Almost as humiliating as waving at someone you don't know is thinking someone's waving at, smiling at, or talking to you, when they're really trying to get the attention of someone—probably their friend—behind you. Awkward doesn't even begin to cover it.

Wonder if those people over there laughing are actually laughing at you.

two older women laughing outside, female friend

When a group of people are giggling and chatting and also looking in your general direction, it's natural to wonder if they're making fun of you. Rest assured, if they are strangers, the answer is probably not. Stressing over it just makes you look more odd than anything.

Trip over your own feet.

man tripping up and falling over himself in public

You're walking down the sidewalk, going about your business, and suddenly, you stumble. You dust yourself off and look around, searching for the thing in your way that made you trip, when you realize it was your own foot! There is truly nothing more embarrassing.

Accidentally spit when you're talking.

jealous husband

Whether you're usually a close talker or not, sometimes this just happens. What do you do? Reach to wipe it off? Pretend it didn't happen? There are no good choices here. So, the next time you decide to be a Chatty Cathy, make sure you watch your spit release. No matter who you're talking to, this embarrassing behavior is one you want to avoid.

Filed Under