Things that are, and things that are not acceptable – in the east…

There are different standards and rules out here, some are quite strange to Western minds and so easy to fall foul of; I’m sure the same is true in reverse, but here are a few things I have noticed:

  • It’s OK to eat with your hands, indeed many do. But do not use the left hand, and it’s considered bad from to get food above the second knuckle.
  • It’s rude to blow your nose in public, but clearing your nose and throat with the strongest retching you ever did hear is perfectly fine. The mornings ring with this sound…
  • Chopsticks should never be stuck in to a bowl of rice and left there; vertical chopsticks = death.
  • Sharp things like knives are NOT brought to the dining table.
  • It’s OK to queue jump (not in front of me though; words are spoken…)
  • It’s OK to abandon your supermarket trolley wherever you like: behind other cars, in the middle of the road, anywhere…
  • Many restaurants operate as self service canteens at lunchtime, you just walk in, take a plate and start piling stuff on from the buffet, without a hello, please or thank you.
  • If you don’t want something or it’s not up to scratch send it back or change it; these folk are second only to Americans in demanding exactly what they want… The best example I ever saw of this was in Los Angeles; a woman on the next table ordered a salad with about 11 items in it, and changed 8 of them, the waiter never batted an eyelid… the menu is just the merest suggestion; something to get the ball rolling.
  • Never tip – it’s considered a sign of weakness. A story; this is to go no further or I will be in trouble: the gas ran out the other day and we had to phone for a new bottle. A kid brought it round in about 10 minutes; balanced in front of him on a moped and travelling through a tropical downpour; he then brought it up 2 flights of stairs. When I paid him with Rg30 for a bill of Rg27.50 he was a bit put out that I didn’t have change. ‘It’s OK, keep it’ I said, this somewhat floored him and he just kept saying ‘need change, need change’. I had to shut the door in the end…
  • Expect a discount everywhere, I must have ‘the look’ now, as I can get 10 – 20% off with the flicker of an eyebrow.
  • Shoes off, in many places… homes certainly, but there are other places that require it as well, even some shops – pay attention and watch others.
  • Being very literal (probably a feature of translation), calling things just what they are: the crab restaurant, the noodle restaurant… OK so far. How about the pig restaurant? Do you want to go to the pig restaurant? Well… I suppose so… but could you work on the description a bit?
  • Cutting someone up whilst driving is perfectly normal, so normal its expected, and as a consequence there are very few accidents. Indicators are of no use at all here, if you see one working its probably accidental.
  • Never point at anything; especially with your index finger – its very rude. Either use your thumb to generaly indicate whet you are aiming at, or wiggle your fingers at it; palm side down.
  • Double parking is a regular event – just block people in and then go off for dinner.
  • Running round the Supermarket with your pants on your head singing ‘My Way’ can get you in to trouble; but then I’ve had complaints about that at home as well.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. Use includes page scrolling or navigation within the site. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this. Use includes page scrolling or navigation within the site.