When in Rome
April 9, 2008 9:17 AM   Subscribe

So, you're planning to take a trip around the world, are you? Well, in that case--you'll need to know a couple of things before you leave (in order not to offend the sensibilities of the local population). Let's see--suppose you're making your way through Azerbaijan for example, and your host happens to be a businessman who is about to embark on a journey to the city: what would you do to give him the appropriate send off? Would you: Don't know, well, that's okay.

Let's try another one, shall we? Let's say you're in Croatia this time and have been invited for dinner:

Now, do you...
    a) Finish all of the food on your plate to show how much you've appreciated the meal. b) Finish almost all of the meal and leave a little portion behind to show that you are finished. c) Finish almost all of the meal and leave a little portion behind to show that you'd like a second helping.
Are we getting anywhere? Alright, alright: last question--I swear!

Now, say you're in Indonesia and you need to buy gifts for your Chinese-Indonesian, Muslim-Indonesian, and Hindu-Indonesian friends: which one of these gifts would be advisable for whom?
    a) A nice leather calf-skin wallet. b) An ancient Samurai Sword that you got for a bargain. c) A bread basket from Drake's that's just opened round the corner.
posted by hadjiboy (25 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
(source)
posted by hadjiboy at 9:18 AM on April 9, 2008


"The British might seem a little stiff and formal at first. " Depends where in Britain you are. Chichester can be cold and alienating, in Liverpool people won't leave you alone. I'm sure there's some useful information here, but most of it is just a set of vaguely sterotyping generalisations.
posted by MrMerlot at 9:30 AM on April 9, 2008


Since "Leave a small amount of food on your plate when you have finished eating" is indicated for the USA too and I've never heard of that, I'd take these rules to perhaps be a little overcautious. Then again, if someone wipes their plate utterly clean, I might think it a little odd--maybe that's what this means.

It is quite common for the recipient to put your card in their wallet, which may then go in the back pocket of their trousers. This is not an insult.

Heh. Also, the USA page goes on and on about informality. Are we really that much less formal than other countries? I guess there are more (explicitly) hierarchical setups elsewhere....
posted by DU at 9:39 AM on April 9, 2008


"Americans socialise in their homes and ‘backyards’, in restaurants and in other public places."

Please, tell me more about these 'backyards' and how I can bring one back to my country with me.
posted by Paid In Full at 9:42 AM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


in Liverpool people won't leave you alone

We love visitors so much, we can't bear to be without them. That's the real reason we break into your cars. We want a little keepsake to remind us of all you visitors to our wonderful Capital of Culture.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:49 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Great link, with the usual caveats of giving information about an entire culture at a time.

I'm actually inclined to agree with a lot of the stuff about the USA, particularly the unusually high levels of informality. Not to say that it keeps companies from getting stodgy, but I always seem to get this impression that American companies tend to be less hierarchy-based in their decision-making than other nations'.

NOT STEREOTYPIST
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:59 AM on April 9, 2008


1. a) Bid him farewell and shake his hand.

2. b) Finish almost all of the meal and leave a little portion behind to show that you are finished.

or

c) Finish almost all of the meal and leave a little portion behind to show that you'd like a second helping.

(b and c are essentially the same here - i'm always glad to eat more but do not want to seem greedy)

3. a) A nice leather calf-skin wallet for the Chinese-Indonesian. b) An ancient Samurai Sword that you got for a bargain for the Muslim-Indonesian. c) A bread basket from Drake's that's just opened round the corner for the Hindu-Indonesian.

That last one can't be right because they're in the same order you listed them, but maybe you're tricky.

...reads links...

2/3? I had a hard time figuring out 3.

Site feels a little spammy; not sure if it's the design or the bullet points. Screams SEO creepy, though the info is OK.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:06 AM on April 9, 2008


According to this site we have no etiquette, customs or protocol in Ireland. Etiquette fine, but we do have customs.
posted by Elmore at 10:10 AM on April 9, 2008


It's quite interesting, but the single link does make it feel a bit like you're shilling for Kwintessential. It's not like dozens of other companies don't offer cross cultural training, etiquette tips etc.
posted by rhymer at 10:22 AM on April 9, 2008


Hmmm...you know, I've never really bothered all that much to learn the etiquette or customs of other countries (heck, I barely know the etiquette here). In my experience, though, so long as you are friendly, not too loud, open to modeling others' behavior, and refuse things offered at least once (in non-Western countries, at least) then you will come across okay. Remember, the novelty of you being an "ignorant" foreigner goes a long way. They are usually understanding that you don't know their customs and so long as they see your intent is to be respectful, they will judge you by the intent rather than your behavior.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:27 AM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


"In Brisbane or other tropical areas, depending on the job function and company culture, men may wear shirts, ties and Bermuda shorts."

Shirts, ties, and Bermuda shorts? I've never seen a picture of that, let alone on the street. Would you also be wearing business shoes and socks? I don't - I can't even begin to imagine!
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 11:15 AM on April 9, 2008


I didn't even think about etiquette in other countries.. I am thinking, a little later on in life, to go around the world. I want to follow as close a route to Philieas Fogg as I can, and either make it in 80 days or less, using similar transport (i.e. not cars or planes, but mainly ships and trains).
posted by ralph9 at 11:35 AM on April 9, 2008


Hmm, hadjiboy, is this post an indication that you're reading up for your trip to the USA to study diner culture?
posted by Quietgal at 11:57 AM on April 9, 2008


The fork is held in the right hand and is used for eating. The fork is held tines down. The knife is used to cut or spread something. To use the knife, the fork is switched to the left hand. To continue eating, the fork is switched back to the right hand.

This is a stupid custom. It make eating an endless round of cut and switch. I have been eating with fork in the left hand and knife in the right for years, and no one has ever said anything about it. And while they may very well be cursing me for an uncouth barbarian in their minds, I sincerely doubt that anyone has ever even noticed.

If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife. Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate.

What?

If you are more comfortable eating in the Continental manner, go ahead. It will not offend anyone.

Like in a silk smoking jacket? With a flute of shammmpaaaahnya?

This site is silly.
posted by rusty at 12:41 PM on April 9, 2008


It's not silly; I've had to use similar guides before traveling to Asia, and it really does help you get comfortable and avoid the basic f-ups -- for example, does it bother you when someone crosses their leg and points the sole of their shoe at you? How about when someone gives you the finger? Those are more or less equivalent gestures between North America and parts of Asia.

Still...

If you are more comfortable eating in the Continental manner, go ahead. It will not offend anyone.

Damn straight nobody will be offended; WTF does that even mean? On a plane? Oh, that's in the trans-continental manner.
posted by davejay at 1:10 PM on April 9, 2008


davejay: All you really need is a simple phrasebook.
posted by rusty at 1:53 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife. Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate.

What?


You need to know this sort of thing in American restaurants, otherwise they either keep trying to take your plate away, or never bring you the bill.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:04 PM on April 9, 2008


Trying to communicate in Sophia, Bulgaria, I often nodded my head as encouragement. Trouble is, they nod their heads to indicate no and shake it for yes.

Perhaps if I had just spoken much louder....
posted by bigskyguy at 4:23 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Slower, bigskyguy, slower.

The Greek segment seems a bit over-cautious.
posted by ersatz at 4:54 PM on April 9, 2008


Just Can't Say No

. Indians do not like to express 'no,' be it verbally or non- verbally.
. Rather than disappoint you, for example, by saying something isn't available, Indians will offer you the response that they think you want to hear.
. This behaviour should not be considered dishonest. An Indian would be considered terribly rude if he did not attempt to give a person what had been asked.
. Since they do not like to give negative answers, Indians may give an affirmative answer but be deliberately vague about any specific details. This will require you to look for non-verbal cues, such as a reluctance to commit to an actual time for a meeting or an enthusiastic response.


It's funny because it's true!

"I need to get to Bangalore by tomorrow. Can I travel on tonight's Karnataka Express without a reservation?"

"Achcha" *wiggles head*
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:02 PM on April 9, 2008


Wow. Some interesting food for thought here. It had never occurred to me that certain traits may have been transplanted to Australia.

Privacy Please

Although friendly and informal with close friends and family, Latvians are reserved and formal when dealing with outsiders. They are private people and do not flaunt their possessions or readily display emotions. They believe that self-control is a behaviour to be emulated. They do not ask personal questions and may not respond should you intrude on their privacy.

Personal life is kept separate from business. If a friendship develops at work and is carried into the personal arena, this camaraderie is not brought into the office. Personal matters are not discussed with friends.

The Latvian Communication Style

Latvians are polite and courteous. They can be extremely reserved. They do not readily smile, especially at strangers, and are not comfortable making small talk. They often appear to have little difficulty accepting what would be considered awkward silences in other cultures. This behaviour can make them seem austere. Once a relationship has developed though, some of the veneer will disappear. Personal matters are seldom touched upon in business.

Latvians are not especially emotive speakers. If you are from a culture where hand gestures are robust, you may wish to moderate them to conform to local practices. At the same time, they can be extremely direct speakers and task focused. Soft voices are expected. If you have a booming voice, you may wish to moderate it when conducting business with Latvians.

Latvians can be direct communicators, although they often temper their words to protect the feelings of the other person. As a group, they are slow to pay compliments and may become suspicious of compliments offered too readily and without sufficient reason.

Since good manners dictates that you do not publicly embarrass another person, it is important not to criticize someone in a public venue. Even the hint that you are unhappy could cause irreparable harm to your personal relationship.

Latvia is a low context communication culture. They do not require a great deal of background information and may become irritated if you attempt to explain too much. When asking questions, strive to be specific and ensure that the question is germane to the subject at hand. Do not ask questions for the sake of asking them.

posted by UbuRoivas at 5:08 PM on April 9, 2008


"Do not remove your suit jacket unless the most important Filipino does."

LOL WUT
posted by brownpau at 6:47 PM on April 9, 2008


Rusty:

If you are more comfortable eating in the Continental manner, go ahead. It will not offend anyone.

Like in a silk smoking jacket?


I presume they mean 'the way the rest of the world uses a knife and fork', being pretty much what you described.

I don't think the smoking jacket would be a dealbreaker, but surely a dinner jacket would be more appropriate?
posted by pompomtom at 10:39 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


c) Throw a bowl of water in his wake.

I don't know, they're probably quite occupied with the funeral and everything, without getting wet.
posted by Grangousier at 11:23 PM on April 9, 2008


From the section about gift-giving in Mexico:

  • If you receive a gift, open it and react enthusiastically.

  • There's something weirdly reassuring about etiquette guides (silly/obvious as some of the stuff may be). It's very soothing. It suggests, you may be in another country with a culture and language you do not understand remotely, but everything can be smoothed over if you use the correct fork.
    posted by eponymouse at 5:47 AM on April 10, 2008


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