Did you know that in some parts of the world, flashing a thumbs-up is just as bad as sticking up your middle finger? And in Japan, it’s perfectly okay to slurp and make noises while enjoying a meal?
As shown by these examples, what’s considered proper behavior in one country could be considered taboo in another, and as the world continues to shrink, it’s important to understand these cultural differences. In order to help prevent cultural faux pas while traveling abroad, a recent article on Japanese website Matome Naver highlighted things that are considered normal, everyday behavior in Japan, but are taboo in other countries. Let’s take a look at the list!
Slurping your food
In Japan, slurping your food, especially soup or ramen, is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it’s considered the proper way to fully enjoy the flavor of ramen. However, in many Western countries, the only noise that should be heard at the dinner table is chitchat and the clanking of silverware.
Taking pictures without asking permission first
Many people are uncomfortable having their picture taken by random strangers. Some are fine being photographed, but would appreciate being asked first instead of being treated like an animal in a zoo. However, Japanese tourists are notorious for taking pictures of people and personal property without asking permission. This problem is so prevalent and Japanese tourists have gotten themselves in trouble while abroad so often that many travel guidebooks in Japan warn potential travelers to ask permission before snapping a photo.
Arriving for an event too early
In Japan, if you aren’t at least 10 minutes early, you’re late. However, in other countries, showing up to a party too early could be considered rude to the host who is still preparing for guests. In some countries, the start time of a party could even be considered a general guideline of when to arrive. Many Japanese have learned this unwritten rule the hard way while living abroad, sometimes being the only guest at a party for the first half hour.
Giving the thumbs-up sign
In Japan and the Western world, a fully extended thumb is the sign of approval. In the Middle East, and western and southern Africa, however, the thumbs-up sign is used to express distain or contempt, the equivalent of giving the middle finger in Western countries.
In Japan, the shelves of stores are filled with many different flavors of gum and those who need to freshen their breath are free to utilize gum to get the job done. However, even bringing gum into Singapore as a tourist for personal consumption is illegal and violators of this rule must pay a fine.
Blowing your nose in public
It’s generally considered bad manners to blow your nose at the dinner table at a restaurant, but okay in other public areas. However, Japanese tourists in England who have blown their nose in public commented that they were met with looks of disgust.
Sitting in 'seiza'
In Japan, sitting in "seiza" (sitting with legs folded under one’s buttocks), is literally translated as “proper sitting.” However, in Korea, sitting in "seiza" is known as the “prisoner sitting style” and is widely considered a way to bring your guests much pain.
Taking off your shoes while sitting in a chair
We’re not sure which country Matome Naver is referring to, but they suggest that sitting in a chair while taking off one’s shoes to be bad manners while abroad. We don’t have any idea which country this action is taboo in. Has anyone heard this before?
Knocking on the bathroom stall
Another interesting one. Matome Naver suggests that in the US and Europe it’s impolite to knock on a bathroom stall to check if it is open. They say it’s like saying, “Hurry up and get out!” and shouldn’t be done. Instead, they suggest jiggling the doorknob before entering a bathroom stall.
Eating all of the food on your plate
In Japan, children are encouraged to eat every last scrap of food, including grains of rice, before being excused from the table. But in China, it’s polite to leave some food on your plate as an acknowledgement of the host’s generosity. If all of the food is eaten, it’s a sign to the host that there wasn’t enough.
Source: Matome Naver
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