The featured image shows Kessel’s Monkey Feast. Let’s use some manners so we’re not seen like this in other countries!
Even though this is the Temple of Evil there is one kind of evil that even we don’t like: Bad Manners. Of course drunk, or when you’re being crazy it’s ok to break them now and then but you should really KNOW the rules before you break them. If you have no idea how to behave in public you really won’t get very far. I’ve learned in my limited travels though what might make you well mannered here, will make your a boorish turd in other parts of the world. I was talking with Nessa (one of the Temple partners) the other day and she come up with the idea that it might be fun / helpful to give you a primer to manners in different cultures. So here it is!
BEFORE YOU GET THERE
Before you even get to the food there’s a few things you should be on the lookout for. If you offend people before you even get to the food guess what… you’ve already lost … at life.
1) Having fresh breath is always important but in countries like Switzerland and France it’s considered extremely vulgar (that’s bad) to chew gum of any kind. Think of it as the oral equivalent of scratching your unmentionables in public here. It’s so distasteful in fact that Singapore has made gum ILLEGAL since 1992.
2) Keep your grubby palms to yourself! In Greece it’s considered very offensive to ever expose a bare palm to another person. Think of it as giving someone the middle finger. Not cool. If you want to wave keep your palm towards yourself like the queen does. It looks silly to us but that’s the rules!
3) This one probably won’t be a big deal to most of you right handed people out there but in Arab countries you should NOT use your left hand for anything really. Don’t try to shake someones hand with it, and absolutely positively NEVER pass or eat food with it. Why? Because back in the old timey desert days there was no toilet paper so …you know. Fun fact by the way… Did you know the word SINISTER is actually latin for “Left-handed”? I guess we’re double evil!
4) Be on time! We might be casual or relaxed about timings here but in other places it’s considered a direct reflection of how you feel about your host to be late! The only exception is in Tanzania. Don’t EVER be early there it’s considered quite rude!
AT THE TABLE
China – The chopsticks are the big thing to be wary of here. Never point at someone with them, nor tap them on anything. Don’t use them to move stuff around the table unless its from the communal bowl to your dish. NEVER EVER stick your chopsticks upright in your food… this means the food is meant for the dead and will call spirits. If you want to serve someone flip your chopsticks around and pick up things with the blunt ends that haven’t been in your mouth. Finally pick the pieces of food closest to you and on the top of a dish. Don’t rummage around you’re not a fucking raccoon in the trash!
Japan – It’s all about politeness and respect here! First off never start eating until you’ve been asked to start 3 times. If you have soup or noodles it’s actually POLITE to slurp! We’d never think of doing that here but it’s believed the slurping cools and enhances the taste of the dish. It can also show appreciation! If you’re eating sushi you should always try to eat each piece in one bite if you can, if you can’t place it back on the plate before picking it up for a second bite (It’s also ok to use your hands for Sushi!). Finally if you’re having drinks remember that a senior must never pour a drink for a junior. The younger should always pour drinks for older folks, or more high ranking guys. Alot of places with wooden chopsticks here you’ll often see people rubbing them together to remove splinters from them. Good idea? Maybe but it shows great disrespect for your host or restaurant!
Philippines – Before you sit down always stand and wait until you receive an invitation from your host. Who knows maybe the host has a Filipino Sheldon Cooper and you’ll sit in HIS PLACE by accident! ALWAYS accept any sample of food the host offers you no matter what it is or how it’s served to you. In alot of countries you should not clean your plate as it is considered the hosts job to keep refilling it without being asked. Not so in the Philippines. Here you should ALWAYS clean your plate to let the host know it was great and appreciated! When your done eating place your utensils ON your plate facing up (if it’s a spoon or fork) to let your host know you are finished. Also it’s expected that you will help clean the table off!
India – It should go without saying that you should wash your hands before AND after eating but in case you’ve never left your cave it is ESPECIALLY important in India! Before the meal starts it is customary to leave food out for the crows and the cows. Cows are sacred and crows are the spirits of deceased ancestors! I did not know the crow one. In any case this is usually left up to the host but you should know it so you don’t need to ask. Most eating is done with the hands, except for soups. You should pick up food with only the very tips of the fingers and place it directly into your mouth. Don’t fuck around. Also it is good manners to scoop food up with bread such as naan. Eat with only your right hand, and pass dishes with only your left. NEVER leave the table until at least the OLDEST person has finished eating OR the host asks for your help.
Korea – Here’s another country where pouring your own drink is considered a faux pas. I think these rules are great cause they really do encourage drinking! Keep an eye on your table-neighbors drink if they get low pour them another, they’ll do the same for you. If someone much older or of much higher social status pours you a drink it’s considered polite to turn away from them when you drink it. When you pass ANYTHING to someone it’s rude to pass with only one hand. Instead cup the items in both hands and pass. Generally tipping is rude, and accepting a tip is like begging so don’t bring that up. Cheapskates rejoice! If you’re a smoker you’re in luck you can smoke almost anywhere in Korea even at a table BUT if you’re a woman it’s considered rude for whatever reason even though you won’t be arrested for it. You should avoid clanking plates or utensils together and not talk about smelly or dirty things, nor should you talk or joke about killing nearby animals while at the table. If any of these things seem like GOOD ideas to you in your home country you’re probably an idiot anyway.
Well there you have it! Of course there are as many interesting and important pieces of etiquette as there are countries in Asia. Use this guide just as a primer to get you started and to make you consider what MIGHT be a bad idea. It’s often not what you might expect. Don’t be afraid to ask if you’re unsure. Asking often shows respect for another culture and that you are interested.