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Test Your Cultural IQ - Asia & The Pacific

Evelyn Hannon

It's always very useful for travellers to know a bit of the country's culture before heading off to that destination. No visitor ever wants to offend but often simple gestures or deeds that seem perfectly normal in your own country can do exactly that -- offend your host. In her book, 'Raise Your Cultural IQ', author Louisa Nedkov teaches readers cultural 'rights' from 'cultural wrongs.' We invite you to take this quiz to see if you are ready to be a "Cultured Traveller' in Asia and The Pacific. Good luck, everybody!

Q. In what countries would wrapping a gift in black paper be considered extremely inappropriate?

A. The colour black should not be used for wrapping paper as it is associated with death in virtually all Asian countries.


Q. In what country would you be fined for not flushing the toilet?

A. The Singapore government imposes heavy fines for not flushing the toilet as well as for chewing gum, littering or spitting.


Q. In what cultures would offering another person (even a spouse) food from your plate be considered offensive.

A. The Indian culture believes that once food touches your plate it becomes immediately 'polluted' or 'tainted.'


Q. Why would patting a child on the head cause a mother to become upset?

A. In many Asian countries, there is a belief that the spirit or soul resides in a person's head.


Q. In what culture would using your left hand for eating be considered disgusting?

A. In the Muslim culture, the left hand is considered 'unclean.'


Q. In what country would the North American gesture for 'victory' or 'V' formed with the index and middle finger be misinterpreted?

A. This gesture, if the palm is facing towards you, is considered vulgar in Australia.


Q. When would stepping on the doorsill of a home upset the owners?

A. Buddhists believe that souls reside in doorsills. You should also avoid stepping on the doorsill of a wat (Buddhist temple).

(Source: Raise Your Cultural IQ, Louisa Nedkov, Trade Winds Publications, 1999, ISBN 0-9684413-0-0)


Don't show strong emotions in Japan...

Are you a woman doing business in Japan? At all costs, avoid displays of temper or anger. The Japanese are taught to stay within themselves. Anyone who pounds the table, raises his or her voice, or gesticulates wildly is considered impolite and out of control.

(Source: Do's and Taboos Around the world for Women in Business, Wiley, ISBN 0-471-14364-2)


Kissing the hand...

Kissing the hand as a form of greeting is regarded by most as a 'continental' gesture of worldliness and gentility.

A French book on etiquette says, . The man should simply bow low over the back of a woman's hand without actually touching it with his lips, unless...the kiss is more than just a polite greeting.'

(Source: Gestures, The Do's and Taboos of Body Language Around the World, Wiley, ISBN 0-471-53672-5)



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