Etiquette without borders: A guide to global politeness

3 min read

Etiquette without borders: A guide to global politeness
You might know the common dining etiquettes, but what about tea-pouring or hand-feeding? Fear not, for we are able to dive into it all, so you can learn about global politeness standards
Etiquette, a subtle and often unspoken language of manners, is the silent conductor of our social symphony. It's the harmonious tune that guides us through a world where every interaction is a performance, from the grand stage of a formal gala to the intimate setting of a family dinner. Most of us might be aware of the common etiquettes when it comes to dining, phone, or even email, but have you heard of the different etiquettes practiced around the world? 
As you embark on your worldly adventures, you'll quickly discover that what is considered polite and courteous can vary significantly from one corner of the globe to another. In this etiquette odyssey, we'll journey through ten etiquettes around the world, offering insights into the art of being polite in diverse cultures. So, fasten your seatbelt and prepare for a crash course in global politeness—no passport required. 

1. Japanese bowing 

A man in a kimono bows
In the Land of the Rising Sun, bowing is an art form. The depth and duration of a bow convey various levels of respect and politeness. A slight nod may be a casual greeting, while a deep, sustained bow is reserved for profound respect or apologies. It's a dance of manners, where the rhythm of the bow speaks volumes. 

2. French "la bise" 

When in France, don't be alarmed if you find yourself exchanging kisses on the cheeks as a form of greeting. Known as la bise, this ritual varies in the number of kisses (usually one to four) depending on the region. It's a charming custom that forms an essential part of French social interactions, although it can leave you feeling like a pecking expert in no time. 

3. Indian dining 

In India, sharing isn't just caring; it's a way of life. When dining with others, it's customary to share food from a common plate or platter. It symbolises unity and togetherness, and it's a fantastic way to savour a multitude of flavours in a single meal.
"In India, sharing food from a common plate symbolises unity"
Just remember to wash your hands before and after the meal—a hygienic tip that's always a good idea, no matter where you are. 

4. British queuing 

A queue of people waiting to pay in Waitrose
Brits have turned queuing into a national sport. Whether you're waiting for a bus, enjoying a cup of tea, or seeking entry into the Tower of London, respect the queue. Jumping ahead is frowned upon, and locals will not hesitate to voice their disapproval. So, keep calm and queue on!

5. Chinese tea pouring

In China, pouring tea is a gesture of respect and hospitality. When someone's teacup is empty, it's customary for others at the table to pour tea for them. To show gratitude, tap your fingers lightly on the table. It's like a tea-themed applause for your attentive host. 

6. Turkish shoes off 

When visiting a Turkish home, remove your shoes before entering. It's a sign of respect and cleanliness, as well as a way to keep indoor spaces pristine. You might also be offered slippers to wear inside, ensuring your feet stay comfortable while your host's floors remain spotless. 

7. South Korean gift-giving 

In South Korea, gift-giving is a cherished tradition. When presenting a gift, do so with both hands; vice-versa, it is customary to use both hands to receive a gift as well.
"In South Korea, the value of a gift isn't as important as the thought and effort put into it"
The act of giving and receiving is accompanied by a polite bow. The value of the gift isn't as important as the thought and effort put into it. 

8. Argentine mate 

Argentines have a unique way of bonding over a cup of mate. This traditional South American drink is made from the leaves of the yerba mate plant and sipped through a metal straw from a shared gourd.
A cup of mate, in a gourd with a metal straw in it
Passing the mate is a gesture of friendship and unity. So, when in Argentina, be prepared to share a sip of this communal brew. 

9. Maori hongi 

In New Zealand, the Maori people greet each other with a hongi. This involves pressing one's nose and forehead against another person's in a symbolic exchange of breath and life force. It's an intimate and respectful greeting that acknowledges the connection between individuals and their shared history. 

10. Ethiopian hand-feeding 

In Ethiopia, it's customary to eat with your hands, particularly when sharing a meal from a communal platter. Injera, a sourdough flatbread, is used as a utensil to scoop up stews and dishes.
"In Ethiopia, it's customary to eat with your hands"
Embracing this tradition is not only respectful but also an enjoyable way to savour the rich flavours of Ethiopian cuisine. 
Banner photo: Politeness differs around the globe (credit: fauxels (Pexels))
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