The beauty of Sri Lankan culture

The word ‘Sri Lanka’ simply make us admire their generosity. It’s indisputable that Sri Lankans have the best way of treating others also they have the artistic lifestyles which impress others. Culture, traditions, and values are never considered less in Sri Lanka it’s always at the top of every Sri Lankans heart so we have a lot to learn about them. We will reveal the beauty of Sri Lankan tradition which includes different kinds of dances, traditional attire, ceremonies and traditional medicines. Let us have a look at the article to learn further.

The dances that capture everyone’s eyes

Actually, it’s obvious that Sri Lanka is special for dancing since Sri Lankans have the higher values for artistic lifestyles. In fact, dance is followed as the main subject by the students in most of the Buddhism schools where students are being requested to follow it since it’s one of the traditions of Buddhist in Sri Lanka. There are three main types of traditional dance in Sri Lanka they are such as Kandyan, low country, and Sabaragamuwa dance. Apart from these three main types of dance, there is another type of dance which is performed when harvesting or in festivals i.e. folk dance.

Their tradition is showed in their attire as well

Lankans are born to be traditional of course, they are not any less when it comes to being modernized but they never give less attention to their tradition. You would be amazed to know that they show their tradition from their attire as well so let us check it out.

  • Sarong- Sri Lankan men do wear sarong but it is mostly seen in rural and some communities in urban cities. It is considered as the standard dress for men also it shows that they respect their tradition. You will be able to see printed or plain sarong which will be in full length starting from hip to toe. If you study the cities in Sri Lanka it will have mix culture along with western clothes.
  • Sari- a six-yard lengthy fabric which is worn by Sri Lankan women and of course, they will look charming in the sari as it is traditional attire. You should also note that different parts of Sri Lanka have different styles to wear sari so it will differ according to the part of the country.

The complete Picture of Sri Lanka is when the ceremonies and traditions are included

There are many ceremonies held in Sri Lanka as the country consists of several religions such as Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and some other religions. As Buddhists are highly populated in Sri Lanka we will describe two main ceremonies which are held by them.

  • Harvesting time – ‘Paddy’ is a special crop for Sri Lankan citizens as well as for the economy so during the harvesting there will be a small ceremony which is celebrated by the villagers (farmers). They have the hearts of showing gratitude so when the harvest is good they have the habit of thanking the God.
  • New Year – this is called ‘Aluth Awurudhu’ in the Sinhala language. Usually, this festival falls in the middle of April and celebrated by Buddhists and Hindus the time of celebration is decided based on astrology. So, this festival is considered as one of the special festival and Sri Lankans celebrate this as one nation along with other citizens of the country.

 

Asian Customs and Etiquettes

How to get an Asian to respect you?

The basic culture around Asia is collectivist, in other words highly interdependent, and more socialized than the European-based individualistic nations. Mannerisms stemming from this collectivist society value family, spirituality, and honor. Asian Etiquettes reflect beliefs and cultural habits that are the fabric of Asian societies. It is the way an Asian show respect to each other. It is the way they blend in and interact, showing pride in their cultures and beliefs. It is essential to know these for doing travelling and business in these counties. So if you want to be accepted as a trustworthy, credible person and good friend, you’d better forget about how you do things at home, and put in your homework on business etiquette and culture. The assumptions, values and beliefs that Asians use on a day-to-day basis are what make them tick. If you want to do travel and business in Asia, you have to follow those unconscious, subtle and often indirect rules of business.

Asian Etiquettes by country

In China, deeply rooted in society is the need to belong and conform to a unit, whether the family, a political party or an organization. The family is the focus of life for most Chinese. Age and rank are highly respected. However, to the dismay of older people, today’s young people are rapidly modernizing, wearing blue jeans and sunglasses, drinking Coke and driving motorbikes. never talk about siblings as many of the population in China are one child families and this may seem as ignorant on your part. Never talk about democracy openly as you may get arrested for conspiring against their government. There are many tribal Chinese women who must not be physically touched as that is a sign of a marriage proposal. Mostly, Chinese manners include strict discipline, bowing as greeting, and avoidance of asking about siblings

In Indonesia, Paying respect to elders and obeying teachers are expected among Asian youth, such as shown here in Indonesia. The students quietly listen to their teacher’s explanation during their school excursion.Indonesia has a Muslim majority population, and some points of etiquette in the Middle East apply. Following are some key points of Indonesian etiquette. Shaming or humiliating people in public is considered extremely rude. Always use your right hand, when shaking hands, offering a gift, handing or receiving something, eating, pointing or generally touching another person

In Malaysia, It is considered rude to wear shoes inside a house. One would usually take off shoes outside the house and leave them by the door. When shaking the hand of elders, 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. It is considered rude to not “Salam” a person whether they are visiting you or vice versa.It is considered improper to show affection (such as kissing) ones partner or spouse in public as it is not showing modesty and piety.One usually eats with the right hand.When handing things to people use either your right hand or both hands. Not your left hand.Girls should dress modestly and not wear revealing clothing. Never say “Oi!” when calling out someone.

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Traditional Business Practices of Chinese Diasporic Communities in the Philippines

Maritime trade between the Chinese and the Filipino natives had existed long before the archipelago was a nation. But it wasn’t until during the later years of Spanish colonization in the Philippines that the Chinese began migrating to the country in larger numbers. Unfortunately, the Spanish authorities were wary of them as business competitors and implemented strict policies to control them.

These policies include segregation, expulsion and conversion. Before the 1850s most Chinese migrants were only allowed to work in the provinces and were limited to agricultural businesses.

In order to defend themselves, the Chinese learned to adapt to hispanized Philippine culture and developed business strategies, some of which are still existent today.

One of these strategies is conversion. In order for the Chinese to gain favor from the Spanish authorities and have access to freer trade most of them converted to Catholicism. Those who became Catholics gained higher social status and were segregated from non-converts.

Having been converted the Chinese migrants was given Catholic names, but most of them still used their Chinese names when doing business. This technique allowed them to evade tax and debt collectors. They were known to switch between their Chinese name and hispanized name whenever it benefitted them.

After the end of the Galleon Trade the Philippines opened itself to world trade, resulting to agricultural development with the investments in cash crops. The Chinese merchants had easier access to the provinces and it made them formidable competition. The Chinese were involved in sugar, tobacco, abaca and other miscellaneous industries such as distillery which increased Chinese economic share between 1850 and 1898.

The Chinese strategy was to act as a middleman between the foreign businessmen and the local merchants. This way they didn’t need large capitals and had lesser risk of losing money.

This economic development had led to the immigration of kin. The families of successful Chinese merchants migrated to the Philippines and this resulted to the expansion of Filipino-Chinese settlements. The downfall of the Spanish colonizers and the arrival of new migrants paved the way to Chinese marriages being an exclusive affair from within their communities.

The tradition was known as a way to preserve family wealth and form business connections. This practice is still prevalent in Philippine society.

The resilience of the Chinese diasporic communities is truly outstanding and had led to their contribution in the economic development of the Philippines through the years.

Asian American bi-cultural personality

This article examines Asian American bicultural personality, conventional qualities and traditions from root societies, and how they are still polished and celebrated by Asian American families and in groups. It additionally addresses the routes in which ethnic group impact the lives of the general population it serves including inhabitants, and also how people of different social foundations can add to the lives of everyone around them.

Inside a time of their entry in 1850, Chinese migrants in San Francisco set up a Chinatown. Others soon took after. Boston’s Chinatown was set up by 1875. Chinatown was then, as despite everything it is currently, a position of support and security where one could discover a bed, occupation, and social administrations; a position of social commonality where one could share regular sustenance, dialect, and traditions. Rejected from the bigger society, Chinatown was home.

Parallel examples of group improvement happened with Japanese workers who immediately settled Japantown’s and Little Tokyo’s in the 1890’s and with Filipino outsiders who settled in Manila town’s in the 1920’s all over the West Coast. Settler people group raised towns and family affiliations which recreated the social structure of their home towns. Sanctuaries and holy places were worked to save conventional religious practices while dialect schools were established to keep up the dialect and social honesty of the more youthful era. Asian dialect daily papers and periodicals gave an account of news in the country and also significant neighborhood issues in the group.

Early Asian people group were transcendently male since young fellows had been enlisted as workers. Ladies couldn’t go along with them in view of U.S. Congressional avoidance acts. Without numerous ladies, kids, or families, these “lone wolf social orders” were regularly forlorn. In 1900, for instance, Chinese men in the United States numbered around 85,000 while the quantity of Chinese ladies was under 2,000. Social associations and recreational exercises assumed basic parts in building a feeling of support and having a place. By the by, with every single new migrant prohibited and no ladies to create a moment era, the groups were sentenced to eradication.

Through a blend of inventiveness and good fortune, nonetheless, Chinese formulated an “additional legitimate” approach to maintain their group’s future. Taking after the 1906 San Francisco seismic tremor and fire, which pulverized all birth and movement records, numerous Chinese settlers proclaimed themselves to be U.S. subjects with kids, generally children, who were still in China. Since offspring of U.S. nationals were, by definition, additionally U.S. residents, this procedure made openings on paper for Chinese youngsters to enter the U.S. legitimately as natives regardless of the rejection demonstrations in the event that they could demonstrate their characters.

Three Elements of the Asian Culture and Heritage

The Asian culture is deep, profound and full of meaning. Every aspect of the Asian culture is unique. It has particular elements that make it rich and complete. Although Asia has different ethnicities, some traditional beliefs and practices bring them together. Asian culture and heritage are broad; we will discuss three aspects that are similar to the majority of Asian communities.

Family structure and hierarchy

In the Asian culture, the Man is the head of the household. He is highly respected and honored. So, an Asian male has a bigger value than an Asian female. A son always carries the family name. There is even a clearer distinction between genders when it comes to family responsibilities A woman’s role in the family seems more passive. A wife is below her husband’s standards and should always submit to him. Her roles and duties are within the confines of her home. On the other hand, the male is the sole bread winner. His primary function is being a well-behaved son. Second, he must strive to be a great husband and father. Asians have a lot of respect for their elderly and the dead. Further, they stay loyal to all authority figures in their lives. As for the children, their duty is to listen to adults rather than argue. Kids are taught to respect family as the primary unit and observe high levels of discipline.  Asians value interdependence and they tend to do things collectively. Last but not least, Asians don’t wash their dirty linen in public.

Asian Holidays and festivals

A few holidays are observed in many Asian countries. For instance, the Chinese New Year is a festival that celebrates the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Most Asians celebrate it every year on January 22nd.  Indians celebrate Holi, a spring festival. Held to commemorate the defeat of the mythical creature (Holika), Holi kicks off with a huge bonfire. The Ching Ming Festival that is celebrated on April 5th attracts a lot of Asian party lovers. Surprisingly, the party venue is the cemetery where people go to clean the graves. Asians love life and festivals are an integral part of their cultural heritage.

Medicine and health in Asian Culture

Asians believe less in conventional medical practices and more in their own traditional medicine. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) is a major component of the Chinese culture and revolves around Yin and Yang. Others are acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Tibetan medicine, Japanese herbal medicine, Traditional Vietnamese Medicine (TVM), Indian Ayurvedic Medicine and Moxibustion, coin rubbing and cupping. The last one is widely acceptable in Tibet, Vietnam, Japan, China, Korea and Mongolia.

The DOs and DONTs of starting a business in the Philippines

According to Bloomberg, the Philippines is the strongest and brightest economy in Asia. With a growing GDP and an agile workforce, the country has much to offer in terms of exploring opportunities for business especially for aspiring entrepreneurs. In fact, new entrepreneurs are steadily entering the scene as technology and social media make it easier to attract a viable market and promote products online.

Having a business idea is essential but also knowing what to do is crucial when entering a market. So here are few dos and donts for aspiring entrepreneurs on starting a business in the Philippines:

1. Do your research

There’s so much about the Filipino that you can find out once you get to know them. For example, Filipinos love to eat out and try out new food trends. So if you’re planning to set up a restaurant, make sure you have something cool on the menu. They will be willing to wait in line for a worthwhile dining experience.

You can do market studies or get advice from consultants, but one of the best sources is also asking friends or acquaintances about their interests. You might be surprised with their answers but that would give you meaningful insights on what they would like to see more in the market.

2. Don’t forget to register with the BIR

One of the first steps in establishing your business is registering with the Bureau of Internal Revenue for tax purposes. For more information on the application, you can log on to: http://bir.gov.ph

3. Do get online

The Philippines spends 4 hours and 17 minutes on social media, the highest in the world according to the latest study by Hootsuite and We are Social Ltd. Knowing this, it will be beneficial to have social media pages for your business to acquire a large following and faster reach your desired market. Creating an account is free, and with the number of Filipinos glued on their screens just a few boosts can get you (hopefully) viral in no time.

4. Don’t be afraid to get creative

Filipinos are known to be creative, especially with puns and catchphrases for their business names. A quick search on Google will show that they have created business names from blockbuster movies or TV shows. Some examples are Harry Cutter- for a barbershop, Star Wash- for a laundry shop, and Income Taxi for a taxicab company.

A catchy name not only gives your customers free laughs but also gets you the best kind of marketing.

5. Do invest in people

The Philippines is proud of its hardworking and competent workforce. Aside from being proficient in English (like a second language), they are also known for their warmth and hospitality making them preferred agents in the service industry. Knowing this strength, you can make use of this opportunity to train your staff and provide benefits that will make them want to contribute to your business’ growth.

6. Don’t give up

Bringing your idea to life is not devoid of challenges. There will be challenges along the way but don’t let this discourage you from pursuing your aspiration or dream. It may be hard at first but it will be worth in the end!

Thailand’s Many Celebrations with Rain

Thailand is a very superstitious country that has many traditions and celebrations throughout their year. Because rain is a very important factor in keeping Thailand going, it should be no surprise the country has quite a few ways of celebrating its importance. The country is one of the world’s largest exporters of rice and most rural Thai grow the crop for a living, meaning rain is vital for people’s survival.

The climate in north, northeast and central Thailand can be very dry in the hot and cool season, about November-May. Because of this, there are multiple events held throughout the year used to pray for the rain to keep coming.
One of the most exciting events is the Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival which is held in the northeast at the beginning of the rainy season, somewhere between April and June depending on the location. This festival is held to launch home-made bamboo rockets to the powerful god, Phaya Thaen, to remind him to bless them with rain at the start of the rice-growing season. This festival has grown quite large and has become quite a competition, with large rockets being sent high into the sky. Whichever rocket reaches the highest point is declared the winner.

Another interesting ceremony that is held at the beginning of the rainy season is the Tradition of the Cat Procession. This ceremony is held in the central region where a beautiful female cat is selected and placed into a woven bamboo basket to be paraded around the village. During this procession the villagers will come out of their homes to throw bowls of water at the cat. This comes from the belief that the cries of a female cat could bring rainfall. However, if any villager whose house was passed in the parade didn’t throw water on the cat, the cat will instead become enraged and will use its powers to make the drought last longer. Luckily, because of Thailand’s recent laws against animal cruelty, this tradition has sense been changed, replacing the poor feline with a popular Thai robot cat, Doraemon.

At the end of the rainy season, on the first full moon after the rice has been harvested, the Thai people celebrate Loy Krathong. During this festival people float beautiful candlelit banana-leaf lanterns and bowls out onto the rivers as an act of letting go of anger and bad luck of the last year and bringing in good luck for the next year. This is also to thank the spirits for all the water provided during the rainy season.

Most Common Filipino Manners

The Asia is a big place, and one of the places that is quite known to the world is the Philippines. People in the Philippines are called Filipinos (sometimes, a woman is called a Filipina). In almost every country, you would see a Filipino. It is because many Filipinos come across different countries to be able to earn money to support their families back in their hometown. Well, in some cases, there happened to have interracial families, in which a Filipino child would grow up in his foreign parent’s hometown. Whatever the case may be, whenever you would see Filipino or group of Filipinos, there’s something remarkable with them, for example, with their manners and language.

Filipinos are very fond of saying, “po” and “opo”. In the Filipino language, you would have to use those words as frequent as using a comma. This is very essential when speaking with an elderly, someone older than you, or some who has a high rank or position. It is used as a respect for the person you are talking to.

Filipinos don’t call their relatives by name. Besides the staple “Mama/Nanay” (Mom) and “Papa/Tatay” (Dad), they also call their uncles with “Tito” and aunts with “Tita”. Usually, “Tito” and “Tita” are automatically addressed to the friends of their parents. Also, older sisters are called “Ate” and older brothers are called “Kuya”. All of these are taught to the little children, so they would know how to respect people by calling their names with the respective title.

“Mano po” is a gesture that is very distinct of the Philippines. It is done by taking an elder’s hand, bowing your head, and making the forehand of the elder touch your forehead. It’s a way to show respect to the older people, like grandparents, uncles and aunts, and parents. It is also normal to show this gesture to anyone (stranger) who is elderly. This gesture is usually done by children or adults when they come home from work or school or just visit their relatives.

Lastly, whenever Filipinos would visit a house, they would knock the door or be by the gate while saying, “Tao po!” “Tao” means human, and “po” is the word that is mentioned above. These words are used to determine if there is someone inside. Sometimes, it is always said when knocking on the door of a room inside a building.

These are manners that are very common for Filipinos, but there are a lot more!

Shopping in Asian Markets

Asia, where else can you find a shopping experience more exhilarating? The mix of noise, different odours and variety of vibrant colours leave you feeling as if you have stepped into a world which is alien to you.
Although this is a great way to experience local customs and culture, it can at the end of the day, make you feel as if you have been robbed of your money and a positive experience. Hopefully this read will give you a few tips on how to get the best for your buck out of your trip to an Asian market.

Asian markets can be overwhelming for non-locals and is sometimes hard to keep a level head when making a purchase. Just remember that it is all part of the experience. Relax, take it all in slowly and have fun. Try shop in markets that are not really for tourists. These markets are used by locals themselves and are often cheaper than the ones hoarded with foreigners. It is good to have a tourist experience though, if you haven’t before, because these markets have a wider variety of products and the atmosphere provides a raw experience.

Haggling is commonly accepted throughout Asia, so give it a go and fight for a price that you want to pay. If you have never done this before it may be a bit daunting but once you pick up these few tricks and learn a bit of the local lingo, you will seem to control every situation involving your money even if It results in nothing being bought.

Don’t take the bait! If there is nothing that catches your eye in a store as you pass by, don’t let yourself be lured in by the calls of the shop keeper. Their years of experience of making a living through sales has helped them master the art of roping you in for the kill. They are ridiculously good at convincing you that you are in dire need of what they are selling. If you feel that you are strong enough, engage with some shop keepers before you are looking to buy anything and test out the waters. Haggling is a healthy battle of wits which can be quite enjoyable no matter which way the deal swings.

Never take the first price offered to you! This is definitely a tourist price so proposing half of that price is a good place to start off from. Usually half is a fair price for both parties but if every shop keeper blatantly turns down your offer in disgust, don’t hesitate to change your bargaining strategies to land some deals, but this is hardly ever the case.

Don’t be afraid to walk away! You’re technically doing business but you’re in no way obliged to make a purchase. In most cases around Asia you can find the very same thing you were just haggling over a few shops back. You will find that some shop keepers will even call you back as you walk away, offering your proposed price if it bears some profit for them.

As important as it is to remember these tips. It is recommended to keep an open-mind when you go to these markets and enjoy the unique experience it has to offer.
It is truly like none other.

Glance at Asia

The culture of Asia is very diverse as it has a vast area and many different countries. Geographically, Asia is divided into sub-regions which are East Asia, West Asia, North Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and Southeast Asia.
Being the largest continent on the planet Earth, it is consist of… countries. It is home to many different customs, cultures. Each country has its own customs and parameter of interpersonal skills.

Professional meetings

It is customary to set up the meeting several weeks in advance. People present the business cards always face up and with both the hands. It shows respect when one reads the card before putting it in.

Weddings in Asia

Every part of Asia has its unique tradition. China has its own way of celebrating the weddings. Full cost of the marriages is taken care of by the groom’s side. It is customary to wear red costumes for both bride and groom. On the wedding date, the bride and grooms are not allowed to see each other. As a blessing to having healthy and lots of children, relatives put logan, peanuts and lotus seeds under the bed of the couple.

At the engagement ceremony in Japan, a special gift is exchanged which is called “konbu”. It is a white colored long hemp that is given to bride and groom as a blessing for them to grow old together. The money offered is given in special envelopes having gold and silver strings called shugi-bukuro.

For Persian people, the day of marriage is a special day not only for the couple but also the whole family. The wedding ceremony is filled with old customs and stunning details conducted in an amazing setting around an elaborate spread of symbolic items to ward off the evil eye.

Food in Asia

Asia is home to a vast variety of cuisines. From veg to non-veg there are thousand of foods that are prepared specially here. Okinawan cuisine, Taiwanese cuisine, Bruneian cuisine and lots more. India itself is home to hundreds of unique cuisine. Some of them are even scary as they include soups of living red ants.

Basic etiquettes in Asia

When one visit Asian countries, it can be a bit beneficial to follow some etiquette and can get you respect by the local fellows. When someone offers a variety of food, it is good to take sample of all the things that are offered. Every time while visiting the mosques one should cover the head with something. It is strictly prohibited to wear shoes or any kind of footwear inside the temples or mosques.

It is also not instructed to sneeze or blow the nose at the dinner tables. There are some don’t regarding chopsticks itself like one should not insert the chopstick in rice vertically or lick the chopsticks or cross the chopsticks while resting them and many more.

Asian Food Etiquette

ASIAN FOOD ETIQUETTE EXPLAINED

We all want to be welcomed when we travel — especially around the dinner table. Nobody wants to make social blunders when it comes to eating. Should we accept another glass of tea? Is it impolite to leave food on our plate? What should I do with these chopsticks when I’m done?

We definitely see travellers behaving less offensively when it comes to eating than they do with how they dress, but we cover so much food here that we thought we’d share some advice from the experts when it comes to Asian food etiquette and how to conduct yourself when eating, drinking and dining in the region.

ASIAN FOOD ETIQUETTE — EATING, DRINKING AND DINING ETIQUETTE

I consulted food experts from across Asia — from chefs to food tour guides — on how travellers should behave when it comes to eating in Asia, from visiting an Asian home to dining out in Asian restaurants. You can read advice from some of the same experts on greetings, gestures, and good manners.

ASIAN FOOD ETIQUETTE — RECEIVING AN INVITATION

For many travellers, an invitation to dine at a local’s home can be the highlight of a trip, especially in South East Asia where the cuisines are so diverse and delicious. Often invitations to eat with locals don’t come in advance but happen by chance. Glance at a family eating together on the ground floor of their shop-house and they might call out to you to join them. A friendly conversation in the street can often lead to a spontaneous invitation to dine.

“Cambodians will always offer people drinks such as water, tea or juice, and sometimes food,” Sambo Pat, chief concierge at Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, Siem Reap told me. “To honor the host, the offer should always be accepted, even if the guest just takes a sip or small bite.”

“Never turn down food or a drink offered when visiting someone’s home in Bhutan,” advised Choden Dorjee, an executive at Amankora resort in Bhutan. “Even if you don’t eat or drink, simply accept the gesture and say thank you.”

“If you visit a Vietnamese family when they are having a meal, they will invite you to join them,” warned Tran Hoang Viet, guest relations manager at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay. “One of the family members will stand up and get a bowl and chopsticks for you, before you have even accepted. To be polite, you shouldn’t refuse.”

Pauline Lee, who runs Simply Enak food tours in Kuala Lumpur, said that in Malaysia it’s also considered good manners to take a gift. “If you’re not sure what to bring the safe choice is always a basket of fruit,” she suggested.

“In Bhutan, bringing along a gift, even something small, some food or a textile, is always appreciated,” said Choden Dorjee. “And removing one’s shoes is respectful and a necessity.”

Keep in mind that there are some things that aren’t welcome. “If you’re thinking about taking a gift, don’t give handkerchiefs, a mirror or a comb, as they signify a funeral and separation,” warned Nguyen Huong Thuy, a manager at Evason Ana Mandara Nha Trang resort, Vietnam.

“And if you wear shorts, they’ll think you don’t respect them. Don’t wear black clothes, which are thought to bring bad luck. Red or yellow, on the other hand, signify happiness and luck.”

“If you’re invited into the home of a Malaysian, you’ll be expected to remove your shoes. Malaysians remove shoes to keep the house free from dirt,” explained Bhaskaran Kessavan, concierge of the Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur. “A tip: look to see if there are shoes outside the front door to know what to do!”

ASIAN FOOD ETIQUETTE — GREETING AND SEATING

Once you’re at someone’s home, what next, I asked?

“In formal or semi-formal situations, it’s better to wait for the hosts to make the introductions,” advised Pitak Srisawat, chief concierge at the Four Seasons Bangkok. “Self-introductions are rare in Thailand.”

In Malaysia, it’s important to make an effort to show courtesy to more mature hosts, according to Pauline Lee. “If your hosts are older men and women, addressing them as ‘uncle’ and ‘auntie’ is considered polite,” she said.

Showing respect for older hosts is essential in Vietnam too, although Tran Hoang Viet warned travellers not to get too familiar. “In Vietnam culture, young people cannot hug elderly people, even in a family. Young people greet elders by folding their arms in front of their chest (and clasping their hands as if in prayer), and stooping down respectfully. Also, if an elderly person gives you something, you must receive it with two hands and stoop down. Saying thank you is a must.”

Similar customs exist in Cambodia. “When invited to the dining table wait to be told where to sit as you would not want to upset any hierarchical arrangements,” advised Sambo Pat. “The oldest person is usually seated first and should start eating before others. Do not begin eating until the eldest diner does.”

What if travellers are taking a photo to remember the occasion? “When standing or posing for a picture with an older person, a younger person should never put his or her hand on or arm around an elder’s shoulder,” Pat warned. “It’s considered very rude.”

“In Vietnam, eating generally wouldn’t start until all guests have arrived. Usually younger people will wait for older people or guests of honour to start eating or the host will invite guests to start,” said Tu Van Cong. “It’s typical for younger folks to put food into the bowls of guests and older people.”

“You shouldn’t reach for the meat first,” advised long-term Hanoi resident and cookbook writer Daniel Hoyer, who runs Eating Vietnam food tours. “It’s more polite to take vegetables first and don’t take too much of the nicest things. If your hosts want you to eat more, they’ll offer you more.”

“A host will usually continue to offer you food as a show of hospitality in Malaysia,” explained Pauline Lee. “It’s okay to decline when you’ve had enough, but try to stay polite — a smile always does wonders.”

“Meals for occasions will start with a toast before people start eating. Toasts are very common during Vietnamese meals so expect to say cheers many times for many reasons,” warned Tu Van Cong. “The meals are generally lively with banter and can involve lots of drinking, particularly amongst males. Be aware that rice wine is strong, so be assured that when you empty your glass it will continue to be filled. The same goes for food.”

Tran Hoang Viet offered advice on how to drink rice wine: “The traditional way is that everyone at the same table shares one small cup of wine, then one by one (the eldest first), drinks the cup and then refills it for the next person. Asking for a personal cup when everyone is sharing is very impolite.”

Working with Indonesian Staff

My story of working with Indonesian staff

By the end of the second month of 2011, having just finished a six-month teaching post in Tripoli, Libya, I had worked with people from many walks of life including South African, British, Sudanese-Libyan. Through this teaching experience, I encountered attitudes and outlooks on life, such as learning about the tribal scars on Sudanese men and their religious upbringing, that were altogether different from mine. I took this as valuable learning in my cross-cultural understanding that would serve me greater when encountering new customs and other ways of thinking. Little did I know that a few months after finishing this job, I would be boarding a flight across the seas to Balikpapan, Indonesia.

My first meeting with one of my Indonesian colleagues I would never forget. I was collecting my luggage when I saw my boss and alongside her, a kind-faced gentleman in his fifties. I introduced myself to both and discovered that he was officially my boss’s driver. Mr. Supraman, or ‘Superman,’ as he liked to joke. He, to this day, remains one of the people I remember the most. How could I forget someone who went with me to the airport to pick up a friend come to visit, and ended up waiting out in the dark and rain until 1 am for someone that would never arrive? Supraman really had a way of going beyond what his job entailed. It wasn’t that he was trying to constantly secure his position while so many in that city appeared to live on so little: he wanted to help, and he would go out of his way to help me and my other staff, including the Indonesians. I mention him specifically also because he was a great teacher to me of the Bahasa, the local language, and where I could go safely and of course some handy dos and don’ts.

A couple of things Supraman taught me that served me well in my professional role at the international school I worked with may seem so small, but to anyone who goes to Indonesia as a foreigner like myself or for business, would be prudent to take heed:

Be polite Mr Jess, he would tell me. It was so simple and yet so many people who came into that country, including my boss, acted without sensitivity. I recall one of my colleagues, the front office lady, confiding in me that sometimes a foreign staff member would be short and curt and order her around like she was a small child.

People do not speak up. Rude, Mr. Jess. Supraman explained to me one day when I wanted to know why, when the Indonesian and foreign staff gathered for meetings, many were quiet and loath to say anything. They are very respectful of business hierarchy and as one woman told me, they come and listen to the boss. Many, despite being encouraged, did not want to speak up as it was part of cultural etiquette not to question the authority in charge of the business. This, however, is not a perfect rule, and other Indonesian staff would speak and contribute on important school matters.