Etiquette in Asia
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As expectations regarding good manners differ from person to person and vary according to each situation, no treatise on the rules of etiquette nor any list of faux pas can ever be complete. As the perception of behaviors and actions vary, intercultural competence is essential. However, a lack of knowledge about the customs and expectations of Asian people can make even the best intentioned person seem rude, foolish, or worse.
In many situations, an emphasis is placed on promptness and appropriate attire. Breaking social commitments, such as appointments or even casual plans to meet with friends, can be a serious faux pas. Preventing another person from keeping a commitment, especially with family, is rude as well.
Special respect is paid to older people in many circumstances. This can include standing when older people enter a room, always greeting older people before others present (even if they are better known to the speaker), standing when speaking to one’s elders and serving older people first at a meal table. Touching the head, shoulders or back of an older person can be considered disrespectful, even if the intent is to comfort or indicate affection. Older people are rarely referred to by first names; they are addressed with such honorifics as Mr. and Mrs. or the appropriate non-English equivalents. Sometimes terms such as "Uncle" or "Auntie" are appropriate for older non-relatives.
For example, the young people (in China) will call an older person as "Ye Ye" (grandfather), and "Nai Nai" (grandmother), "A Yi" (aunt), and "Shu Shu" (uncle) as a sign of respect even if that person is not family by blood.
In India, elders are given priority over younger people in a range of social settings. For example, it is impolite for a young person to be sitting while an elder is standing, in this case, even if there is a free seat, the young person will offer their seat to the elder in concern. Another example would be if an elder is carrying something of considerable weight, and a young person has their hands free, it is expected of the young person to offer assistance to the elder in concern. As with all other Asian cultures, young people in India address any older unrelated person by the closest plausible relation i.e. a slightly older person of the same generation may be referred to as elder brother, or elder sister in the respective language while an elderly person may be referred to as auntie, uncle, grandpa or grandma as appropriate, again in each respective language. As with many other Asian lingual spheres, Indian languages follow strict honorifics that must be abided by.
In the rituals of a Japanese cremation, the relatives pick the bones out of the ashes with chopsticks, and two relatives may then hold the same piece of bone at the same time. This is the only occasion in which it is acceptable for two people to hold the same item at the same time with chopsticks. At all other times, holding anything with chopsticks by two people at the same time, including passing an item from chopsticks to chopsticks, will remind everyone witnessing this of the funeral of a close relative.
Gesturing with chopsticks or using them to skewer food are actions that are seen as rude. Leaving chopsticks standing in a bowl of rice or other food is a faux pas based on the resemblance to sticks of incense in a bowl used to honour the dead ancestors. Etiquette further forbids tapping chopsticks against the side of a bowl, or crossing one’s chopsticks with those of someone else.
Behaviours associated with humility, status and pride are very important in some Asian societies. Etiquette might demand that a great cook or artist deprecate their own achievement in a way that might be viewed negatively as "fishing for compliments" or false modesty in the West. Situations in some Asian societies allow for displays of wealth or ability that would be uncomfortably ostentatious or in bad taste in Western societies.
Certain customs regarding good and bad luck are important to many Asian people. These customs may be regarded as superstitions by many, but they are often tied to religious traditions and are an important part of certain belief systems, even among the well-educated and affluent sectors of society.
Traditionally, shoes are not worn in households in nations such as India, Indonesia, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia, nor in certain holy places elsewhere, such as mosque and many Buddhist or Hindu temples. The typical expectation is that shoes will be removed in the foyer and left neatly with toes pointing outside. Socks or stockings should be very clean and in good condition. In regions where shoes are not worn in houses, these rules also apply to restaurants, except those with Western-style tables and chairs.
Furthermore, in Japan, when one buys a new pair of shoes, one wears them for the first time in the morning. It is unlucky to wear them for the first time in the evening or afternoon.
Etiquette by Region
Specific details which may contradict the aforementioned generalisations are listed in the list here below.
- Women do not shake hands but instead greet others with a polite nod.
- The "thumbs up" gesture is considered obscene.
- When crossing legs, feet or shoes should not be pointed towards anyone. The soles of shoes, sandals or feet are considered unclean.
- When receiving anything the right hand is always used.
- Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority nation. Some points of etiquette in the Middle East are also applicable here. As Bangladesh has cultural ties to India, some points of etiquette listed here under that heading are applicable at times as well—such as the prohibition against using the left hand for certain activities.
- Never give money. It is considered bad form to open gifts in front of the giver.
countries in this region have traditions based on Islam and share values with other parts of the Muslim world. Guidelines regarding etiquette in the Middle East are often applicable to Central Asia as well. This holds especially true in Muslim majority countries such as:
- Further information: Customs and etiquette in Chinese dining
- The Chinese are not keen on physical contact, especially when doing business. The only circumstance in which it may take place is when a host is guiding a guest. Even then contact will only be made by holding a cuff or sleeve. It is considered rude to slap, pat, or put one's arm around the shoulders of another.
- On the eve of Chinese New Year, it is a faux pas to completely eat a fish at a reunion dinner as there are specific customs surrounding this.
- It is a faux pas to attend a wedding while in mourning as it is believed to bring bad luck to the marrying couple.
- It may be considered shocking for a pregnant woman to attend a funeral due to the belief that this endangers her baby.
- While splitting bills at restaurants as is common among younger people, older adults might consider it a matter of prestige to pay for the bill and will often compete for the honour. Allowing another to pay the bill without some protest may be a faux pas.
- Many standards of Western etiquette, on the other hand, apply in the former crown colony of Hong Kong.
- In mainland China, especially when showing respect, when giving cash to someone, it is given to one with both hands and the head slightly bowed. Cash bills are usually held in both hands, and the receiver picks them up. To drop money from the top down into somebody's hands is seen as giving charity and may be considered rude.
- Guests are generally offered a refreshment depending on the season and the time of visit. Arriving at meal times might result in an invitation to the meal. However, at times this is just a polite offer and sometimes can be a faux pas. While dining, additional food may be offered multiple times. These are generally second and third "rounds" and it is not considered rude to decline them.
- The word "drink" as a noun almost always refers to alcohol in Indian English.
- It is polite to offer refreshments and this custom has been carried by Indians outside of India as well.
- Indian hospitality requires the host to insist their guests eat well and gently protest that they haven't had enough. It would be rude to decline by stating one is watching one's diet.
- Some Hindu households follow a vegetarian diet and many vegetarian/non-vegetarian households do not consume alcohol.
- Many Indian households expect visitors to leave their footwear at the main door of their house.
- It is considered immature and boorish to open a gift in front of the person who has given it. Gifts are opened in private.
- As India has a long colonial history, many rules of Western (specifically British) etiquette are widely observed.
- Eating, accepting goods or making payments with the left hand can be a faux pas (as it is associated with hygiene and cleanliness - left hand is unclean). In some situations, using both hands together is a sign of respect, such as a handshake, offering a gift or giving something in the temple.
- Some points of etiquette in the Middle East apply here, especially in regions where the Muslim presence is strongest.
- Many people in India and surrounding regions avoid shaking hands with individuals of the opposite gender. When meeting a person of the opposite gender, it is prudent to verbally greet them and then wait to see if the other person extends the hand first. Most often, especially with more elderly individuals, Hindus greet with palms together and say Namaste or its variants based on what region the individual is from such as Namaskaram and Vanakam down south and 'Nomoshkar' in Bengal.
- For a man to make any comment about a woman’s appearance can be considered inappropriate.
- Asking a person to a social event (e.g. a bar or restaurant) typically implies that the person offering the invitation will be paying for everything.
- In the Hindu community, it is common for young people to seek the blessings of elders by bending and touching their feet. However, this practice is not generally followed in the Muslim community, instead the elder touches the head to give blessing.
- Among many communities, beliefs regarding holiness and cleanliness forbid the touching of one's feet to a person or an important object such as a book or food which are considered to be divine blessings by most Hindus. Custom also discourages displaying the soles of one's feet. Feet should not be extended toward another person (especially an elder), or towards any religious artifact or symbol. Shoes are typically removed when entering a dwelling or place of worship.
- It is generally expected that men and women dress modestly when visiting the Hindu Temple. This can also be true of other places of worship in India.
- It is impolite and can be considered an insult to refuse the offering of prasad."Hindus believe that the prasad has the God's blessing residing within it". Offering of the prasad is by no means an attempt to evangelize nor should it be seen as forcing of someone else's belief onto oneself.
- The prasad must be accepted with both hands; one on top of the other and with right hand on top.
- It is considered impolite to address a person who is older or holds a higher status by their first name. In Hindi, the first name is usually followed by "ji" to show respect. Older non-relatives such as family friends or parents of close friends are usually referred to as Uncle and Aunty. It is rude for one to address elders by their names.
- It is considered impolite to kiss in Public.
- Asking questions about the caste system or about worshipping cows is frowned upon and will usually mark one as ignorant or rude.
- Interacting with children is appreciated.
- "What are you doing/What do you do?" as in what does one do for work or as an occupation is a common phrase as a conversation starter after greetings, and is a normal way of trying to initiate conversation with one.
- Caste is a very ancient and complex aspect of Hindu culture, and talking about the moral aspects of caste is fraught with too many possible faux pas for the unfamiliar. Most Hindus belong to a caste.
- The general principle of dining in South and parts of South-east Asia is to always use ones right hand to consume, even if one is left-handed.
It is important to understand that Indonesia is a vast tropical country of sprawling archipelago with extremely diverse culture. Each of these Indonesian ethnic groups have their own culture, tradition and may speak their own language. Each of them may adhere different religions that have their own rules. These combinations made Indonesia a complex mixture of traditions that may differ from one place to another. Indonesia have a Muslim majority population, and some points of etiquette in the Middle East apply. Following are some key points of Indonesian etiquette:
- It is impolite to express resentment, arrogance or hostility when speaking to people outside your immediate family or closest friends.
- Smiling is considered polite. Avoid staring too much, as it can be considered intrusive.
- Interacting with somebody you have barely met, especially older people, requires strict etiquette. However interacting with close friends, among peers with similar age, or significant others, might be more relaxed, affectionate and less subject to strict etiquette.
- Public displays of affection with spouses or partners are regarded as sexual and thus are frowned upon. However public displays of affection towards one's children, parents or family members are approved of.
- Hierarchical relationships are respected, emphasised and maintained.
- Respect is usually shown to those with status, power, position, and age
- People older than you must be respected. Parents, grand parents and teachers must be obeyed.
- When shaking the hand of elders (such as parents, grandparents or teachers) the younger person is expected to touch the top of the elder's palm with the tip of their nose or forehead to express respect. It is similar to kissing a hand, but only using the tip of the nose or forehead, not lips.
- Most Indonesians value harmony, so direct confrontation is best avoided.
- It is important to be considerate of other people's dignity. Shaming or humiliating people in public is considered extremely rude.
- Saying terima kasih (thank you) after receiving services or favours is polite.
- Greet Muslims with the Islamic greeting assalamu 'alaikum, and reply with walaikum salam.
- When greeting or introducing oneself it is polite to smile, shake hands and nod slightly. Gently touch your counterpart’s extended hands, before finally bringing your hands back to your chest to demonstrate that you welcome them from your heart. The greeted party should then reciprocate this gesture.
- If it is not practical to shake hands, you can greet people them by putting your hands together in front of your chest while slightly bowing. It is similar to Añjali Mudrā.
- Some conservative Indonesian Muslims might avoid direct touch with the opposite sex including handshake, so performing non-touching salam (anjali) is recommended when greeting opposite sex that are conservative Muslims.
- Always use your right hand, when shaking hands, offering a gift, handing or receiving something, eating, pointing or generally touching another person.
- Eat or pass food with your right hand only.
- Do not point with your index finger, pointing toward someone with an index finger is considered rude — use an upward facing palm to gesture the direction, pointing with a thumb is considered more polite.
- It is impolite to indicate a direction with your head. This is considered aggressive and implies the object or person in question has a very low status.
- Do not touch the head of an adult, as it is commonly believed that the soul inhabits the head, and the head is therefore sacred.
- Avoid tilting your head back, putting your hands on your hips or pointing when talking to other people, these gestures are often used to indicate arrogance.
- Cover your mouth with hand or napkins when yawning or sneezing, other than hygiene or health reasons, opening mouth in such instance are considered coarse and unrefined.
- Speaking softly but clearly is recommended, as speaking too loudly is considered rude.
- Conservative and modest dress sense should be worn — especially by women.
- When visiting a place of worship, the proper dress etiquette for such places is of utmost importance.
- When entering a mosque, always remove your shoes.
- Bathing suits and swimwear should only be worn in and around beaches and swimming pools.
- When not swimming, women should cover their legs, for example with a sarong.
- To announce your presence, ring a bell or knock at the door while saying assalamu 'alaikum if the host is Muslim, or more commonly permisi.
- Wait to be allowed to enter the house, and wait to be shown to a seat in a guest room.
- Wait to be allowed to drink, finishing the whole cup indicates that you wish for more.
- Do not overstay your welcome. The host will not indicate when the visit has been long enough, since it is considered extremely rude. It is up to the guest to estimate the length of their visit and initiate the farewell.
- Food is often taken from a shared dish in the middle. In a seated dinner party, you will first be served and it would not be considered rude if you helped yourself after that. Wait to be invited to eat before you start.
- It is better to sit down while eating, yet in some circumstances eating while standing is acceptable.
- Depending on the situation some people may use their bare hands to eat. Many Indonesians traditionally eat with their hands. Higher status people may also as well, to indicate solidarity. It is customary to follow host's lead. In restaurants however, if one does not wish to eat with bare hands, it is acceptable to ask for spoon and fork instead.
- Making sounds while eating is considered impolite. This includes slurping or the sound of cutlery touching the dish.
- Playing with food it is considered impolite and childish.
- Offer gifts with the right hand only, or with both hands.
- Gifts should not be opened when received.
- Avoid using first names to call a person you are not close or familiar to. If in doubt use Mas (younger male), Pak (older male), Ibu (older female) or Mbak (younger female).
- It is considered very impolite to snap your fingers to get a waiters' attention. Wave and raise your hand instead.
- A Javanese custom is not to drink until all food is consumed, signifying self-control and the ability to endure a task to the end.
- Tipping is customary in Indonesia, yet it is optional. Consult the locals as to the usual rate. Tips apply to anyone who offer a service: toilet attendants, drivers, grocery-store clerks, parking guard. Be generous, but do not exceed too far the usual local accepted rate. A tip of 10% of total bill at small eateries, where the bill does not specify a service charge is adequate. Most all restaurants will include a 10% service charge in the bill, if so you may not give any tip. Hotels and fine restaurants will usually include a service charge, and it is the discretion of the buyer to tip. Tipping at street hawker food stalls is not usual. The general rule among the Javanese is that the truly wealthy are inconspicuous; the wealthier one is or wishes to appear, the more generously one gives discreetly.
Brunei and Malaysia
- Brunei and Malaysia have a Muslim majority and some points of etiquette in the Middle East apply. These countries also have a significant Chinese population to whom the points mentioned in regard to etiquette in China may apply.
- In three nations mentioned above, one should not enter a mosque or Hindu temple without removing one’s shoes. Other places of worship such as Taoist or Chinese Buddhist temples and Christian churches allow footwear while others forbid it.
- Nudity (and toplessness with regard to women) is absolutely prohibited on beaches. Besides offending others, violators risk arrest.
- Placing or slapping an open palm on the top of a sideways-held fist of the other hand is a rude gesture. Inserting the thumb between the index and middle fingers of a closed fist is another.
- Regarding the head and feet, the taboos listed below in regard to Thailand are widely observed in these countries as well.
- Pointing with one’s index finger is considered impolite, especially when pointing at people. Instead, a closed fist held sideways (thumb at the top) with the thumb pointing the direction is used.
- Many Malaysians traditionally eat with their hands. Higher status people may also as well, to indicate solidarity. It is customary to follow their lead, using only the right hand to eat. In restaurants however, if one does not wish to eat with bare hands, it is acceptable to ask for spoon and fork instead.
- Addressing strangers in formal situations by their names (even if they have name tags) is rude. Instead, "Mister" and "Ms." are acceptable.
- It is considered rude to expose your tooth picking to others. Instead, cover your mouth or go to the bathroom.
- Leaving your mouth open when yawning is discourteous. You must practice the habit of covering your mouth whenever you yawn.
- When beckoning someone with a hand gesture, the hand is held flat with palm down, and fingers flexed toward the ground. Like the Japanese, to crook one or more fingers in the air is an obscene gesture.
- Don't point with your feet- this is highly offensive- the sole of the foot is considered the dirtiest part of the body.
- Women must wear brassiere at all times, otherwise it implies she is very low class or a prostitute.
- Don't express anger in public. It is the height of self-control to remain calm at all times.
- Don't point with your index finger- use an upward facing palm, to gesture the direction.
- It's also impolite to indicate direction with the head - this is considered aggressive and implies the object or person in question has a very low status.
- Avoid using the left hand for handling goods, exchanging money, eating. For Muslims, and many Asians, the left is the toilet wiping hand— and is thus considered unclean.
- Traditionally, children should not eat until the older guests have eaten.
- Avoid using first names. If in doubt use Encik or Puan (in Malaysia).
- Never snap to get a waiters' attention. This is near the height of boorishness. Wave instead.
- It is very polite to play the game of initially refusing a gift, then receiving it with extreme gratitude, and indulging the gifter on the thought the giver put in it and how unworthy you, the receiver, are of such gifts. Furthermore emphasizing how you may have inconvenienced the giver is appropriate- in a very similar style to other Asian cultures.
- It is generally acceptable to open gifts immediately as they are received. However, it is considered slightly more polite to unwrap them when the giver has left.
Among higher status groups, western table manners are observed meaning:
- no eating until all guests are served
- no eating sounds such as slurping, gobbling or belching.
- no playing with food
- no slouching
- no elbows on table
- no cutlery to crockery sounds
- no spitting bones out. Discretely pass them into napkin.
- no hawking, coughing, clearing throats or blowing noses at the table
- no incorrect cutlery use or improper handling
- no cutting or manipulating food between chews. Cutlery is placed at rest on plate between chews
- no continuous shoveling of food into mouth
- no chewing with mouth open
- no speaking with food in mouth
- no bending down to meet the cutlery- cutlery brings food to the mouth not vice-versa
- soup bowls tilted away when finishing the last broth
- soup is spooned into the soup-spoon away from the diner
- some will apply a rule of all diners remain seated until all have finished
- some will apply a rule of silence at the dinner table
Tipping is customary in Brunei and Malaysia. Consult the locals as to the usual rate. Tips apply to anyone who offer a service: toilet attendants, drivers, grocery-store clerks. Be generous, but do not exceed too far the usual local accepted rate. A tip of 5-15% of total bill at small eateries, where the bill does not specify a service charge is adequate. Most all restaurants will include a 10% service charge in the bill. Hotels and fine restaurants will usually include a service charge, and it is the discretion of the buyer to tip. Tipping at Mammak (Indian Muslim coffee shops) shops or hawker(food stalls) is not done.
Japanese customs and etiquette can be especially complex and demanding. The knowledge that non-Japanese who commit faux pas act from inexperience can fail to offset the negative emotional response some Japanese people feel when their expectations in matters of etiquette are not met.
- Business cards should be given and accepted with both hands. It is expected that the cards will immediately be inspected and admired, then placed on the table in front of the receiver for the duration of the meeting. After the meeting, cards should be stored respectfully and should never be placed in a back pocket. You should not write on a business card. If you want to be taken seriously at a business meeting, you must have business cards. When you get them out, they should be in a card holder - not just taken out of your pocket.
- It is a faux pas to accept a gift when it is first offered and the giver is expected to offer it multiple times (usually 3 times). Gifts are generally not opened in the giver's presence.
- In greeting or thanking another person, it may be insulting if the person of lower status does not bow appropriately lower than the other person. However, foreigners are rarely expected to bow. The level and duration of the bow depends on status, age and other factors.
- Pouring soy sauce onto rice is considered unusual.
- It is less common to pour one's own drink in a social setting. Generally an individual will offer to pour a companion's drink and the companion, in return, will pour the individual's drink. Although if one of you is drinking from a bottle to glass and the other one is drinking just from a glass, it is fine to pour yourself because otherwise you will be in for a long wait.
- Blowing one's nose in public is a faux pas. Also, the Japanese do not use their handkerchief for hanakuso, which literally translates as "nose shit".
- For women, not wearing cosmetics or a brassiere may be seen as unprofessional or expressive of disregard for the situation.
- Though many Japanese are lenient with foreigners in this regard, it is a faux pas not to use polite language and honorifics when speaking in Japanese with someone having a higher social status. The Japanese honorific "san" can be used when speaking English but is never used when referring to one’s self. Japanese place surnames before given names but often reverse the order for the benefit of Westerners.
- Although people around the world strive not to lose their tempers, expressing outward anger, annoyance or losing one's temper is an especially embarrassing loss of face in Japan.
- A smile or laughter from a Japanese person may mean that they are feeling nervous or uncomfortable, and not necessarily happy.
- "Hai" means "yes" in Japanese, but in a meeting or discussion it is often used to mean "Yes, I have heard you". Don't mistake this for agreement with your point of view.
- It is very bad manners to be late in Japan. If you have an appointment then aim to be early.
- It is rude to not send a postcard for Japanese New Year to someone who sent you one. Sending such a postcard to someone who suffered a death in the family during the past year is a faux pas.
- Tipping is considered rude and is rarely done in Japan except in certain cases, such as tipping your surgeon for an operation, when visiting a high class ryokan, or when dealing with house movers. Consult the locals to be sure what is appropriate. If you can’t be bothered to wait for change, it is okay to tell a taxi driver to keep it.
- Cash is a standard gift for weddings and for children at New Year. It is always given in a special envelope or packet (which you can buy at any convenience store). There will be a standard amount to give at a wedding - ask someone else how much to give.
- When beckoning someone with a hand gesture, the hand is held flat with palm down, and fingers flexed toward the ground. To crook one or more fingers in the air is an obscene gesture.
- It is a faux pas to point directly at someone. Instead, extend fingers outward with your palm up (as if carrying a tray) and gesture toward the person.
- If using a toothpick, one should cover the mouth with the other hand. This comes from a Buddhist belief that showing any bone, including teeth, is dirty.
- The number 4 is considered unlucky, so gifts should not be given in multiples of 4. Giving 7 of an item is considered lucky.
- Blowing one's nose at the table, even if the food is spicy, is mildly offensive. If necessary, take a trip to the toilet or at least be very discreet.
- In restaurants and bars, pouring one's own drink is a faux pas. Keep an eye on your neighbors' glasses and fill them if they are empty; they will do the same. To avoid over drinking, simply leave the glass near full. When pouring drinks, hold bottle in right hand, lightly place left hand on forearm near elbow.
- When someone of a significantly higher social position pours you a drink, it is considered proper to turn away from that person when you drink it.
- Leaving a gratuity is usually not accepted nor expected.
- When handing an item to someone, it is considered rude to only use a single hand. Under most circumstances, especially when interacting with a stranger or a superior, one uses the right hand supported by the left hand.
- Even though mentality evolved, women smoking in public is sometimes not accepted, despite being legally allowed.
- A couple kissing each other in public is a faux pas, since it is not seen as modest.
-  A guide to Korean funeral etiquette
- See also Traditional Korean table etiquette.
Also: Etiquette in Pakistan
The centuries of Spanish and American rule, as well as the influence of Japan, China, India, Middle East and the West, have given the Philippines has a unique and particularly formal sense of etiquette concerning social functions, filial piety and public behaviour. Age is an important determinant in social structure and behaviour, dictating the application of honour, precedence, and title.
See also: Table manners#Philippines
- Unlike in Western culture, where meals are a private affair, Filipinos who are chanced upon dining will invite visitors to eat with them. However, to actually sit down and eat upon the invitation is considered offensive. It is the host's prerogative to be gracious, but it is the guest's burden to avoid being overbearing. When asked to do so, it is polite to say one has already eaten or is still quite full rather than declining bluntly.
- Hosts will strive to appear gracious while guests strive to appear happily grateful in all situations. Any shortcomings by any party in this regard are seen as bad manners.
- Hosts will invariably serve a snack for their visitors, who should in turn always accept and consume the food. Declining is considered rude to the host who has taken to offer his own food to the guest. Only in certain circumstances is it socially acceptable to decline, i.e., if the guest is allergic or if it is against religious beliefs.
- Good posture is expected at the dinner table. A diner singing at table is considered rude in some areas.
- Waiters usually only come to take the order, refill drinks and bring the bill. Most will not return to ask if anything else is needed but are mostly attentive and can be easily summoned. However, except for formal dining establishments, Filipino waiters are not trained to answer questions.
- If someone is buying a meal for someone else, the buyer orders first. For the guest to order something expensive on the menu is considered highly rude and speaks of ill breeding.
- Filipinos use forks, spoons and knives differently than in Western countries, particularly because rice is the country's main staple. The spoon is held in the right hand, and is used to scoop up the food or cut up pieces. The fork in the left hand helps in cutting up and spearing the food. Knives are also sometimes used and always in the Western manner (spoons are left out when eating Continental or American cuisine). Chopsticks are not normally used outside of Chinese, Japanese and Korean restaurants or in the home when eating such food; rules on their use still apply.
- The last morsel of food is almost always left on the serving platter. If someone wants to eat it, he or she should ask if anybody else wants it; eating it is considered porcine and ill-bred behaviour.
- While splitting bills at restaurants is common amongst the youth, older adults consider it a matter of prestige to pay for the bill and will often compete for the honour. Moreover, allowing another to pay the bill without some customary protest is a faux pas.
- Filipinos still hold gentlemanly behaviour in high regard. In waiting rooms or on buses, men traditionally offer their seats to the handicapped, the elderly, the pregnant and women in general, although this is generally ignored today. To revive this, a Manila railway has designated separate seats for these groups, and a separate coach for women after several indecent incidents.
- Filipinos place importance on proper introductions. Older people are introduced to younger people first; men are introduced to women first. Introduce a group to an individual first as the individual is not expected to remember all the names at first introduction. Failing to make the proper introductions can also be a faux pas. This is particularly true for children introducing friends or acquaintances to their parents.
- Always acknowledge the presence of older people in the room by shaking their hands. When greeting a parent, godparent, grandparent or religious authority, Filipinos give obeisance with the important máno gesture; the doer asks for the receiver's hand and brings it to the forehead. Kisses are not involved in such a case nor is there any regard for the cleanliness of the hands. It is unusual and awkward for someone to máno non-relatives or new acquaintances unless there is a relatively deep kinship involved. Youth in Americanised and urban areas have however begun switching to the more age-egalitarian kissing of cheeks as a form of greeting.
- Seeming reluctant to socialise, especially at an event to which one is invited, could be considered offensive. It is proper to hide one's self from attention than to directly ask for privacy or personal space.
- Never address older people at the same level; use the words "tito" ("uncle") or "tita" ("auntie") for extra-familial adults but only if they are close or merit some other honorific yet prefer to be addressed as such (usually to avoid sounding old). Mister, Mrs., and Miss will suffice in more formal situations, especially if it is only the first introduction.
- When speaking to elders, respectful tone and language is absolutely required. Using "opo" (respectful form of "oo", the Filipino word for "yes") and its shortcut "pò" wheresoever required. "Pò", unlike "opo", may be inserted in more places in a sentence (usually Filipino, but sometimes in Englog or Taglish) instead of simply functioning as a reply in the affirmative. Example: "Kakain na po tayo." (We are going to eat now.) Not doing so is also extremely offensive and could be taken as a sign of aggression. The use of these respectful words is sometimes considered to be a fundamental tenet in local etiquette, especially when taught to children, and is also admirable in a child who employs this in conversation with adults. This rule may however not always apply to non-Tagalog speaking regions.
- Gift-giving is important on many occasions such as weddings and birthdays. Coming to a party empty-handed is considered a faux pas. If a gift is unavailable on short notice, a food item may be brought instead. If invited to a restaurant, do not assume the opportunity to buy the celebrant dinner; bring a gift instead.
- When attending a wake, avoid wearing loud colours (especially red). Sombre colours such as black, white, greys, muted and earth tones are proper for visiting wakes. Due to the Philippine heat and Tsinoy cultural influence, white as a mourning colour is increasingly preferred by many (although Ilocanos have used it for centuries). Wearing black or white is however slowly waning, and it usually limited to the immediate family. Money, flowers or Mass intention cards are acceptable gifts.
- If someone needs to walk in between a television and those watching it or between two conversing people, he or she must excuse themselves and lower the head (almost bowing) whilst passing through.
- When one meets an acquaintance at any form of public transport, he/she must never forget to greet the other. In some instances, one takes the responsibility to pay his companion's fare. Allowing this to happen without protest is considered rude.
- When one drives or rides one's own vehicle and sees an acquaintance on the street, it is prerogative to stop and offer a ride, especially if the acquaintance's destination is on the way. The one offered is free to decline or accept; either choice is acceptable.
- Boisterous or loud talking is generally frowned upon; this rule is almost never followed, except by the educated or when someone is in pain or distress.
- Kissing and displaying affection in public is still generally considered to be in bad taste or scandalous in this somewhat conservative country. It is however as rude to make a scene of it, so one merely ignores—or at best stares down—couples who make public displays of affection. This is becoming increasingly acceptable in urban areas, though this is a minority.
- When gesturing for someone to come hither, he or she must face the palm to the ground and gesture the fingers back. The Western gesture, where the palm is faced upwards, is considered a gesture for sex.
- While the Philippines is predominantly Roman Catholic, there is a significant Muslim minority and therefore many points of Etiquette in the Middle East can apply in Muslim areas.
- In Singapore, a former crown colony of the United Kingdom, many standards of etiquette in Western societies apply.
- Singapore has a very heterogeneous population with Chinese, Indians and Malays as the largest ethnic groups. As such, many points of etiquette noted above in regard to China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia can apply.
- Thais hold their king in very high regard and any sign of disrespect is a major faux pas. Currency, postage stamps, magazines covers and any other items with the king’s image are never tossed to the ground or treated harshly. Even licking the back of a postage stamp is considered disrespectful. Most especially, these items are never trod upon as it is a sign of utmost disrespect to place one’s foot above the head of the king. Money or other items dropped accidentally should immediately be picked up and reverently brushed.
- Some parts of Southern Thailand have a large Muslim population making applicable certain points of etiquette in the Middle East. Western etiquette applies among the expatriate communities of Bangkok and Pattaya.
- A small part of Turkey (3%) is in Europe and many points of European etiquette apply. As Turkey has a Muslim majority, points of Etiquette in the Middle East may apply as well.
- Shoes are often taken off in the foyer (not outside the house unless they are especially dirty). Slippers may be offered. It is a faux pas to refuse slippers unless one’s socks are extremely clean and in good condition.
- As beliefs regarding bad luck from open umbrellas indoors are taken seriously by some people, close umbrellas before bringing them inside. Some people believe that passing a knife directly to a person is bad luck as well. These beliefs are especially common among the elderly.
- Hosts typically insist that guests keep eating. One needn’t eat much, but should at least taste a bit of everything on the table and express appreciation for the taste and quality.
- Food or any small favor in general will generally be offered more than once and it is polite to decline it the first time with an expression implying effort to avoid causing inconvenience.
- Avoid hand gestures with which one is unfamiliar, such as making a fist with the thumb placed between the middle and index fingers. Many of these are offensive.
- Any comment to a person about the appearance of the latter's female relatives or wife might be seen as rude.
- If invited to dinner, one is expected to bring something (usually dessert). Avoid bringing alcohol unless sure that the host partakes. If the guest brings food or drinks (as usual) it is customary to offer it in the proper context during the visit.
- Friends might greet each other by shaking hands and touching or kissing one or both of the cheeks. This is inappropriate for business.
- Blowing one's nose at a table is met with disgust and frowned upon even if one has cold. As sniffing is also considered rude at a table, it is best to clear one's nose at a toilet as often as necessary. These activities are in general regarded distasteful, and are best kept away from social interactions.
- When sitting legs crossed, it is offensive to point one's hanging foot at someone, especially someone older or of higher status. Similarly, it is in general rude to show the bottom of one's shoes or feet.
- The entire country practices one minute of silence on 10 November at 9:05am. It is very interesting to see the most crowded places becoming quiet at once. This silence is observed in the memory of the founder of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal.
- When going out to eat with other people, it is prestigious to pay for the meal. It is therefore rude to prevent someone from paying if they have made the offer first. The offer can be made as soon as going to a restaurant is discussed or anytime thereafter. On the other hand, inviting others for a meal, drink or event automatically creates the expectation that the one giving the invitation will pay for the others. Among younger people, the practice of splitting the bill is increasingly common.
- Culture and Customs of Bangladesh
- Doing Business in China
- Chinese New Year
- "Indonesia - Language, Culture, Customs and Business Etiquette". Kwintessential. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
- Lucy Debenham BA (27 July 2010). "Etiquette in Indonesia". Travel Etiquette. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
- Scott Reeves Forbes Magazine July 28th, 2005
- Terri Morrison The Business of Gifts
- Fodor's Tokyo Etiquette & Behavior
- Culture, Customs and Etiquette of South Korea
- Airman's Quarterly Spring 2006
- Worldwide quality-of-life index "Singapore's position in the World in terms of Quality of Life". The Economist. Retrieved 2006-08-17.
- ACIS Travel Talk August 2006
- Most Common Cultural Habits in Turkey>