What not to do in a foreign land
The world is large, its cultures countless, and its people peculiar. And it is only when you travel that you realize just how peculiar people can be. Take this for example, any other person from the west would hand their air tickets to the flight attendant without much care. It wouldn’t matter to them which hand they used or whether they used one hand or both. But to us, Nepalis (and most Asians), it does. It’s important that we use both our hands when receiving and giving anything. And the right side is generally considered the better one. To any outsider, this will seem peculiar. Turns out, the world is just the same, just as strange. Here’s a list of absolute no-no’s that should you choose to break could get you in some serious trouble.
Even number flowers in Russia
Gifting is a huge part of Russian traditions. Be it for a congratulatory occasion, meeting an acquaintance after a long time or just surprising someone, gift giving is rooted in the Russian culture. And their choice of gift is mostly flowers. Funerals, visitations, meetings are all attended with a bouquet of flowers in Russia. Although flowers are given at all occasions, the giver should be conscious of the kind of flowers and especially the number of flowers they’re giving. Even number of flowers is reserved for the more somber events (funerals for example) while odd number of flowers is thought to represent brighter moments. If you’re casually gifting someone flowers while in Russia, unless the occasion calls for sympathetic gestures, make sure the number of flowers is odd.
Tipping in Japan
Tipping in Japan is an absolute no-no. Japanese people take great pride in their work and although their pay scale isn’t the best in the world, they still take offence when offers to tip them are made. This is definitely not the customer’s fault since they usually have good intentions but tipping is perceived as a free add-on in Japan. The offer comes off as, “Here’s some extra money for you to spend since I know your job doesn’t pay you much.” Whatever their pay, Japanese people don’t want you doing that. If you must tip, you may put your bills in an envelope and hand it over to them with both hands.
Refusing food at an Arab household
By geography, Arab countries struggle to acquire fresh produces for their meals. Putting a meal on the table has taken great efforts for a very long time. People in the Middle East are hospitable by nature and indulging and their culture mandates that they treat their guests with respect. So when a native offers you a meal or invites you out for lunch/dinner, it’s generally considered rude to refuse their offer. Denying their offer translates to not acknowledging the effort they are putting into preparing food for you.
Wishing people a day before their birthdays in Germany
When someone drops the mention of their birthdays in conversations, we all wish them in advance. Partly because we know we will forget the day eventually and also because we make everything a competition, we have to be the first one. Forget this when you’re in Germany or making conversation with a German. In matters such as these, Germans’ abide by Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong will go wrong), so wishing someone a good birthday is supposing in advance that the day will go well. “Du sollst den Tag nicht vor dem Abend loben” is a popular saying in Germany that directly translates to “Don’t praise the day before the evening.”
Take the shotgun in Irish taxis
You (almost) never see a person hail a cab and take the front seat. Shotguns are only claimed when there’s no room in the backseat. Safe to say we avoid them like the proverbial plague. But in Ireland it’s not only common to take shotgun but it is expected too. Cab drivers in Ireland are known to be a friendly bunch and they never pass on a chance for conversation. In fact, there’s a whole inventory of cab driver jokes in the Irish community much like our “Santa Banta”.
The last morsel in Malaysia
A typical Malay table will have all the dishes laid out, very much like here in Nepal. As you get close to finishing the dish, never reach out for the last piece or morsel of any foodstuff.
This is a traditional practice in Malaysia. The belief goes that any young person who claims the last piece for him/herself will never find his/her match for marriage. Although there appears to be no logic to it, the reason behind this is apparently to make youngsters considerate and more giving.