Experiencing new things is one of the best ways to grow as a person. You get to broaden your horizons and find out more about what you like and dislike. Different cultures, especially, have a lot to teach. The differences between various cultures even today are fascinating.
One way to get hands-on learning experiences with different cultures is to travel to different countries, of course. But you shouldn’t limit yourself to only learning when you’re there. Some research beforehand will do wonders to avoid offending anyone and embarrassing yourself. Everything you consider the norm may not be the norm, depending on where you travel.
If you live in the West, you’re probably used to the notion that slurping while eating or drinking anything is bad manners. However, if you’re planning on visiting Japan, put those thoughts on pause.
In Japan, when you slurp while eating your noodles, it’s a sign of appreciation towards the chef. Thus, it’d actually be rude not to slurp while eating ramen or the like.
However, not all Asian cultures accept slurping, so it’s best to do your research on table manners before visiting.
A lot of us don’t really think twice about using knives, forks, and spoons when eating. But in some countries, it’s important to know how they use their utensils.
For example, in Thailand, knives are never used at the dinner table. Also, though spoons and forks are typically used together to eat, you’re not supposed to stab the food with your fork. Your fork is basically used to help move food onto your spoon.
In India, the only utensils you really need are your hands. More specifically, Indians use their thumb, index finger, and middle finger to gather up and eat the food on their plates. However, be cautious: don’t eat with your left hand in India because it’s considered unhygienic and disrespectful. In India, the left hand is usually reserved for wiping your bum, while the right is for eating.
Finishing your plate
If you’re like me, you grew up constantly being told to finish your plate, whether you were full or not. It can be considered rude not to, as it’s as if you’re showing that you didn’t like the food.
But in certain countries like China, finishing your plate is actually the rude move. You might think that finishing your plate means you enjoyed the food and found the experience satisfying. However, in other places, clearing your plate is taken to say the chef didn’t give you enough food. Thus, it’s a good idea to leave at least a bit of food to show that you’re satiated.
Taking your shoes off before entering
I’ve mentioned dining-related differences in etiquette so far, but there are other ones, too, like removing your shoes before stepping into someone’s house.
This is something I’ve seen debated even between people who come from the same culture. It’s not that strange for Americans to do it, for example.
However, there are certain cultures where taking your shoes off before entering someone’s house is pretty much a must, like in parts of the Middle East.
There’s also a debate about whether or not it’s rude to ask someone to take their shoes off before coming into your house. Personally, I think it’s fine to ask if it’s what makes the host most comfortable. It doesn’t take much time or effort, so why not?
Now, if I tried listing every single difference in manners between cultures, I’d never finish writing. However, I chose these examples to show how even the smallest things we might not think about can have very different meanings in different parts of the world.
That’s why it’s important to research the basic norms of whichever culture you will be a guest in. This won’t only save you from potential embarrassment, but research also shows that you genuinely respect other people’s cultures. And who knows? You might just adopt some of these things into your own way of life!