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Weird and wacky etiquette from around the world

Published April 15th, 2013

One must place their eating utensils together, fork facing up and knife edge pointing in, at a 12 to 6 or 10 to 4 position when they have finished dining. You didn’t know that? How dreadfully boorish of you. Even if you don’t know how to curtsy or fold a napkin swap, we all (hopefully) know that feet on the table, picking one’s teeth and jumping the queue aren’t proper manners. There are some strange cultural protocols that can earn you stern glances and clucks of the tongue on your overseas voyage you might not be aware of. Who knew you were so lacking in basic courtesies and public decorum? Best brush up on your Ps and Qs to save face from being deemed uncouth on your holidays abroad.

 

Hanging out in Scotland

Gentlemen, if you decide to don traditional Scottish attire in the form of a kilt it is fully acceptable to go commando. That’s right. Feel free to tart up in your tartan sans under-garments just as the Highlanders once did. Although, if you’re renting a kilt, you might consider wearing undies for the simple fact that many bits may have been cosied up in that kilt before you. The Tartans Authority says it’s more than okay to wear your kilt with thongs (the shoe kind) or a casual tee, but please note that while kilts are not uniforms they’re not costumes either. The last thing you want to do is tick Braveheart off.

 

No patting in Thailand

If you’re tempted to tousle someone’s hair playfully or perhaps run your fingers through their luscious locks seductively in Thailand STOP IMMEDIATELY. The head is considered the home of the soul and the spirit, not around your aortic pump like most westerners are led to believe. Touching someone’s head or passing things over the top of their head is seriously taboo in Thai culture so no friendly pats on the noggin, okay? Side note: at the dinner table only use your fork to push food onto your spoon; don’t put the fork directly in your mouth. Spooning yes, forking no.

 

Remember your lip balm in Russia

The Russians love a bit of lip action. A kiss in Russia can mean a great many things - hello, goodbye, sorry, respect and probably ‘I like you’ somewhere in there as well. But puckering up isn’t always intimate or romantic as it is elsewhere. When it comes time to go in for a kiss, the general rule is to plant a smooch on a ladies’ cheeks three times, starting on the left and alternating (left-right-left). Guys can go in for the classic macho handshake, but a kiss on the cheek is pretty common too. Just follow the Russian’s lead, but be careful not to shy away if they’re going in for the full encounter. Rudeness.

 

Get handsy in India

Don’t know the difference between a salad fork and a dessert spoon? Head over to India where table etiquette breaks the norm. With clean hands, you can tenderly caress your meal before devouring it. A lot of Indian food is eaten by hand, forging a tactile connection to food that nourishes the soul, not just the body. There’s an art to eating gracefully with one’s hands - using only your right hand (this is important), pick up small amounts and use your thumb to push the food into your mouth. Otherwise, tear bits of bread and dip or scoop. Eating with your hands is a sensual experience. My love affair with food just got a whole lot better.

 

Eye to eye in Italy

Feel free to stare down your Italian friends (not in a weird way, of course). Direct eye contact is greatly appreciated in Italia. If you avert your glance you might look a little shifty, so don’t be afraid to lock eyes when chatting - it shows them you’re interested in what they have to say. This is pretty much the opposite of countries like Japan and Korea who frown on direct eyeballing. Pro-tip: keep your glance under guard in the orient, but not in Europe. Italians also have a different idea of personal space and it’s not unusual for them to get all up in your business and stand very close during an exchange.

 

Ashton Rigg

When I'm not at home in Brisbane, you’ll find me wanderlusting around hipster bars, eclectic boutiques and arty nooks. From bagels in Brooklyn to strudel in Salzburg, I believe the best way to experience a destination is by taking a bite! Tweets & 'grams at @AshtonRigg