We’ve discussed cultural customs in a previous lesson, which you can review here, but it’s wise to keep building upon your cultural knowledge as the world becomes more and more global. The more we learn about the world the better we can connect and form beautiful lasting relationships. So here are 7 more cultural customs that are not only interesting, but helpful to know.
1.Don’t Pass a Knife in Turkey
One taboo in Turkey is the passing of knives. This is particularly important to remember when dining, as I’m hoping you won’t be faced with other knife wielding situations. If you need to hand someone say, a cake knife, simply reach over and place it close to them on the table and they can pick it up for themselves. You want to avoid passing it from hand to hand. It’s viewed as bad luck and there’s a superstitious belief that it may cause bad blood between the giver and receiver.
2. Japanese Business Card Etiquette
Business cards are treated with great respect in Japan, and much of China as well. They are viewed as an extension of the person they are representing and therefore there’s a a certain protocol to follow. When both giving or receiving, use both hands to handle the card. When you receive the card make a point to study it quickly before carefully stowing it in your bag or pocket. Never bend or write on the card, at least not in front of the giver. When handing over your card, be sure to present it with the writing facing your recipient.
3. Expect to Wait in Saudi Arabia
If traveling to Saudi Arabia on business, expect to wait for any meeting. You may think you have a designated time scheduled, but it doesn’t mean you will be seen then. You should always arrive on time, but know there’s a large chance you will be kept waiting. In some unfortunate cases the meeting may be canceled all together, even after you are there. My advise is to go in with a lot of patience, your favorite game on your smart phone, and try not to take it personally.
4. Keep Hands Above the Table in France
In America it’s customary to keep your hands off the table while dining, however you may recieve some suspicious looks if you adhere to this rule in France. Although elbows on the table are never allowed, your hands should be seen at all times. You can do this by resting your forearms on the edge of the table when not eating. The reason for this rule is that those who keep their hands under the table are thought to be up to no good. Whether this harkens back to the olden days where one may be concealing a weapon, or for other naughty reasons, I’m not quite sure.. but either way remember, hands above the table.
5. No Gum in Singapore
Singapore is famous for it’s clean streets and publics places. Even knowing this it comes as a surprise that they go as far to ban gum. Yes, in Singapore it is actually illegal to buy and sell gum unless for medicinal purposes. As a tourist you may bring in a maximum of two packs for personal use, but any more than that and you may be charged with gum smuggling and even be threatened with jail time. Better safe that sorry and save your gum smacking for later.
6. Shake Your Coffee Cup in the Middle East
If you have the fortunate opportunity to be offered coffee by Bedouins in the Middle East be prepared for some cup wiggling. This means that once you’ve finished your coffee, and have had enough, it’s important to shake your cup, tilt it back and forth two or three times. This signals that you are finished and would like no more. If you neglect this practice you’ll be drinking more coffee than even a Gilmore girl can handle.
7. Avoid Tipping in Korea
Tipping is usually a much appreciated gesture no matter where in the world you are, but there are a few select countries where it may actually be viewed as an insult. South Korea, Japan and in many parts of China it can be offensive to give a tip. Waitstaff and other service personal consider themselves to be sufficiently paid and not in need of additional handouts. In these cases tipping can lead to annoyance, confusion and even genuine offense.
HOMEWORK: Let me know in the comments below if you know of any other important, interesting, or odd cultural customs we should be aware of. I’m very curious to know!