gmhTODAY 24 gmhTODAY Feb March 2019 - Page 44

Karen La Corte manners MATTER Karen La Corte is an etiquette and manners expert trained and certified by the Emily Post Institute in Vermont. Karen is happy to answer your questions — email her at Manners Around the World A t a recent dinner party, the conversation came up about customs around the world and most specifically if other countries practice etiquette like we do here in the United States. The answer is yes, but differently. In every country respect and regard for others' feelings are a universal code—in today's modern world as it was in ancient times. Philosophers have been documenting social behavior and codes of appropriate conduct since two thousand years before Christ. Both Ptahhotep (vizier of ancient Egypt) and Confucius came up with rules for everyday things like eating and speaking just as our Emily Post did here in America in 1922. So, manners are not new, they just change with the times and vary from culture to culture. In China, Taiwan, and much of the Far East, belching is considered a compliment to the chef that you have enjoyed your meal. Can you imagine belching in a restaurant here in the United States or even at your own dinner table? And, when dining in China, don’t clear your plate out of politeness. It would be very bad manners for your host not to keep refilling it. You should leave some food on your plate at each course as an acknowledgment of your host's generosity. In addition to this, in China and Japan, slurping your noodles shows appreciation for the meal. Another good tip to know is to never rest chopsticks in or across a rice bowl. This is how food is offered to the spirit of a dead person. Place them on your plate or use the chopsticks rest. And we thought the placement of our fork and knife was hard to remember here in our country! In Muslim countries, you are not to eat with your left hand. It is considered unclean. And in many countries including parts of Asia, much of Africa and the Middle East, you will find no utensils of any kind 44 and will be expected to eat with your hands – a personal favorite of my grandchildren! In most Asian countries, a business card is seen as an extension of the per- son it represents. By folding or writing on it, or just putting it in your pocket, is to disrespect the person who gave it to you. Here in our country a nice firm hand- shake is a positive way to greet somebody, but in the Philippines too firm of a grip is seen as a sign of aggression. In Japan, a bow is customary over a handshake. But if a hand is extended, make sure you shake everyone’s hand in the room using a much gentler grip. Orthodox Jews will not shake hands with someone of the opposite sex. A strict Muslim woman will not shake hands with a man. Folks in these cultures generally avoid touching folks of the opposite sex who are not family members. In Italy, Spain, and Portugal a kiss on each cheek is a customary greeting. In Japan and Korea, a tip is considered an insult. This custom is beginning to change in today's world. When traveling in European countries, the tip is included in the bill. In America, we must figure in the tip ourselves at a restaurant unless it is a large party. And in France, splitting the bill is considered unsophisticated. In Germany and most of South America, it is an insult to give the “okay” sign (thumb and forefinger touching to make a circle). It is very offensive, while in France it means “zero” or worthless. In the U.K., when the peace sign is given (the two-fingered “V for victory”) with the hand turned so that the palm faces inwards, it is also considered extremely rude, having an offensive meaning. In countries such as Asia and South America, it is customary to remove your shoes when entering someone’s house. I’ve been trying to get my family to remove their shoes in my house for years! Here’s a good one. In Switzerland, France GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN february/march 2019 and Luxembourg, chewing gum in public is considered vulgar, and in Singapore, most types of gum have been illegal since 1992 when residents grew tired of scraping the sticky stuff off their sidewalks. I often times wish gum-chewing would have consequences here in the U.S. In Italy it is good manners to dress respectably and modestly in churches. Women need to cover their shoulders and knees. Men need to wear long pants. Gift giving in other countries is very common when doing business or in showing appreciation. Knowing when to give a gift, and what is considered appropriate is extremely important. You would never give gifts of knives in Latin America, for example, as they can symbolize the severing of a friendship. And you would never give a clock to someone in China because the Chinese associate clocks with death. Business is not conducted while eating in many countries, unlike in the U.S. It is considered bad manners to discuss business until after the main course has been removed from the table. My most favorite rule of the British is that if you’re dining with the Queen of England, you’d better eat fast if you’re hungry. The reason being that when the Queen is finished eating, so are you! All plates are cleared. These are just a few cultural examples of manners that I thought you’d find interesting. There’s so much to know-and difficult to remember without looking it up. There’s a really cool book out called “Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands” by Terri Morrison and Wayne A. Conaway if you’d like further reading. It is well written and extremely interesting. My suggestion to you if you are going to a foreign country is to study their culture first. While there, if you are unsure about a word, gesture or custom, ask someone. When your respect for others is sincere, then minor etiquette mistakes are overlooked.