Eti­quette in Asia

Trav­el­ling nice when you cross the Pa­cific


Good man­ners are a dooropener no mat­ter where you travel. Bet­ter-be­haved va­ca­tion­ers get bet­ter ser­vice in restau­rants, ho­tels, nightspots and tourist at­trac­tions. But some­times even well-in­ten­tioned wan­der­ers ac­ci­den­tally of­fend. This is es­pe­cially true in Asia, where the cus­toms tend to be quite dif­fer­ent than they are here in the West. Here are a few com­mon goofs: (1) Los­ing your cool: When trav­el­ling in Thai­land, you should try to be as even-tem­pered as the Thai peo­ple them­selves, even when some­thing goes wrong. That’s be­cause, un­like in the West, out­bursts do not elicit quicker ac­tion. If a trav­eller’s lug­gage is lost, reser­va­tion dis­ap­pears or meal has a bug in it, he is ex­pected to deal with the prob­lem with equa­nim­ity. If the trav­eller melts down, the per­son he is deal­ing with of­ten will sim­ply walk away, as this type of re­ac­tion is seen as em­bar­rass­ing, and the Thai per­son as­sumes that you wouldn’t want some­one to wit­ness your loss of con­trol. (2) Leav­ing chop­sticks up­right in rice: In Ja­pan and many parts of China, it is the cus­tom to leave an of­fer­ing for the dead of a bowl of rice with chop­sticks stuck into it ver­ti­cally. If, in the course of a meal, a liv­ing diner places his chop­sticks into the bowl of rice in that fash­ion, it’s con­sider a grave in­sult to the chef (pun in­tended). (3) Foot point­ing, head pat­ting: The bot­toms of the feet are con­sid­ered the most un­clean part of the body in many parts of Asia, so if you point the sole of your foot at some­one, it’s the equiv­a­lent of rais­ing your mid­dle fin­ger to them in the West. Con­versely, the head is thought to be the most sa­cred part of the body, so touch­ing some­one on the head, or ruf­fling a child’s hair, is a big no-no. (4) Pub­lic dis­plays of af­fec­tion: While peo­ple of the same gen­der will of­ten walk around hold­ing hands as a sign of friend­ship, other acts of pub­lic af­fec­tion, be­tween straight and gay cou­ples, are con­sid­ered of­fen­sive in China, Thai­land, Viet­nam, Sin­ga­pore and other Asian na­tions. There are, of course, other eti­quette breaches, but these are the cru­cial ones. The lowdown? If you’re un­cer­tain as to whether a be­hav­iour will be ac­cept­able, grab a good guide­book — ei­ther a print ver­sion or one of the on­line sites. All will have com­plete in­for­ma­tion on man­ners and mores for coun­tries around the globe. Pauline Frommer is the Ed­i­to­rial Di­rec­tor for the Frommer Travel Guides and From­ She co-hosts the ra­dio pro­gram The Travel Show with her father, Arthur Frommer and is the au­thor of the best-sell­ing Frommer’s EasyGuide to New York City.

The rules of eti­quette are dif­fer­ent in Asia. MARC FISCHER/FLICKR

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.