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A World Guide to Good Manners: How not to Behave Badly Abroad
Travelling to all corners of the world is getting easier and easier. We live in a global village, but this doesn’t mean that we all behave in the same way. Different people of different countries have their own way of life.

Greetings
How should you behave when you meet someone for the first time? An American or Canadian shakes your hand firmly while looking you straight in the eyes. In many parts of Asia, there is no physical contact at all. In Japan, you should bow, and the more you respect the person, the deeper you should bow. In Thailand, the greeting is made by pressing both hands together at the chest, as if you are praying, and bowing your head slightly. In both countries, eye contact is avoided as a sign of respect.

Clothes
Many countries have rules about what you should and should not wear. In Asian and Muslim countries, you should not reveal the body, especially women, who should wear long sleeved tops. In Japan, you should take off your shoes when entering a house or a restaurant. Remember to place them together facing the door you came in. This is also true in China, Korea, Thailand and Iran.

Food and Drink
In Italy, Spain, and Latin America, lunch is often the biggest meal of the day, and can last two or three hours. For this reason many people eat a light breakfast and a late dinner. In Britain, you might have a business lunch and do business as you eat. In Mexico and Japan, many people prefer not to discuss business while eating. Lunch is a time to relax and socialise, and the Japanese rarely drink alcohol at lunchtimes. In Britain and the United States, it is not unusual to have a business meeting over breakfast, and in China it is common to have business banquets, but you should not discuss business during the meal.

Doing Business
In most countries, an exchange of business cards is essential for all introductions. You should include your company name and your position in a business card. If you are going to a country where your language is not widely spoken, you can get the reverse side of your card printed in the local language. In Japan, you must present your card with both hands, with the writing facing the person you are giving it to.

In many countries, business hours are from 9 or 10 am to 5 or 6 pm. However,  in some counties, such as Greece, Italy, and Spain, some businesses close in the early afternoon for a couple of hours then remain open until the evening.

Japanese business people consider it their professional duty to go out after work with colleagues to restaurants, bars, or nightclubs. If you are invited, you should not refuse, even if you do not feel like staying out late.

Extra Tips
Here are some extra tips that help you when you travel.

  1. In many Asian cultures, it is acceptable to smack your lips when you eat. It means that the food is good.
  2. In France, you should not sit down in a cafe until you have shaken hands with everyone you know.
  3. In India and the Middle East, you must never use the left hand for greeting, eating or drinking. 
  4. In China, your host will keep refilling your dish unless you lay your chopsticks across your bowl.
  5. Most South Americans and Mexicans like to stand very close to the person they are talking to. You should not back away.
  6. In Russia, you must match your host's drink for drink or they will think you are unfriendly.
  7. In Ireland, social events sometimes end with singing and dancing. You might be asked to sing.
  8. In America, you should eat your hamburger with both hands and as quickly as possible. You should not try to have a conversation until it is eaten.

(Source: Norman Ramshaw in New Headway English)


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