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Mind Your Manners Around the World ...

Evelyn Hannon

Whether you are travelling for business or pleasure it is more than important for guests to be culturally correct at the table. Here are sixteen tips to assist you in 16 different countries. They are excerpted from a book called, Raise Your Cultural IQ. Make good use of this advice and we wish you Bon Appetite wherever you travel in this great big world!


In Australia...

Know your meals: Before issuing or accepting a dining appointment understand that lunches are reserved for conducting business, whereas dinners are used for socializing.


In Bangladesh...

Don’t be surprised: In traditional Muslim homes, the hostess may not join the guests for dinner. Muslim women eat separately from men.


In Brunei...

Forget your diet: In this country it is polite to accept even just a little food or drink when offered. When refusing anything offered, it is polite to touch the plate lightly with the right hand.


In Cambodia...

Forget chairs: In traditional homes, Cambodians will sit on floor mats when eating. The men will sit with their legs crossed, whereas women will tuck their legs to one side.


In China...

It’s all in the eyes: During a greeting, the Chinese will often avoid direct eye contact. Slightly lowered eyes are considered a sign of respect. Avoid prolonged eye contact as it may be uncomfortable for the Chinese as well as perceived as being rude.


In Hong Kong...

Offer to pay: Although it will not be accepted, it is considered polite to offer to pay the dinner bill. Never offer to split the bill as this would result in loss of face for your host.


In India...

Be prepared to pay: A foreign woman may entertain an Indian man at a business meal. Most men will offer to pay the bill, but finally she should insist on paying.


In Indonesia...

Know your place: If both men and women are present at a business dinner, the male guest of honor will be seated next to the host. The female guest of honor will be seated next to the hostess.


In Japan...

For men only: Wives rarely accompany their husbands to a business dinner.


In Malaysia...

Things change: Spouses may be invited to dinner, but not to lunch.


In South Korea:

How to succeed in business: Foreign businesswomen should appear elegant, refined and very feminine.


In Laos...

Feeling full: Placing the lid on top of your rice basket is considered a polite way of indicating you have had enough food.


In Pakistan...

No left hands, please: Never use your left hand for eating or passing food. The left hand is used for bodily hygiene and is considered unclean.


In Singapore...

No odd numbers, please: If you invite Singaporeans to dinner, ideally have an even number present at the table to ensure good fortune.


In Taiwan...

Culturally-correct chopsticks: Do not place chopsticks parallel on the top of your bowl (bad luck) or standing straight up in the rice (associated with a funeral ritual and synonymous with death).


In Vietnam...

No smoking, please: Foreign women smokers are advised not to smoke unless they wish to attract considerable attention from Vietnamese men.



Women’s words on etiquette...


Etiquette is what you are doing and saying when people are looking and listening. What you are thinking is your own business.
(Virginia Cary Hudson, O Ye Figs and Judges, 1962)

Good manners have much to do with the emotions. To make them ring true, one must feel them, not merely exhibit them.
(Amy Vanderbilt, New Complete Book of Etiquette, 1963)

In society it is etiquette for ladies to have the best chairs and get handed things. In the home the reverse is true. That is why ladies are more sociable than gentlemen.
(Virginia Graham, Say Please, 1949)

(Source: The New Beacon Book of Quotations by Women, Rosalie

Back to Ms. Biz Travel Advice

Culturally Correct Dos and Taboos



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