Manners that are good/polite/acceptable in one place but rude/gross in another?

We’ve had this conversation before about hand gestures and badly translated phrases, now I’m wondering what are certain manners that are acceptable in one place but rude in another.

For instance, when I first ate with chopsticks with my girlfriend, I stuck the chopsticks straight down into the rice like a flagpole (who wouldn’t?), which is apparently very rude in Taiwan/Asia. When I finished the food, I put the chopsticks in the bowl with the tips on the bottom of the bowl (like one would leave a spoon in a bowl). That’s rude as well. You’re supposed to lay the chopsticks across the bowl (like a bridge).

Also, in Taiwan/Japan/Asia, you can pick up the bowl and shovel into your mouth. It’s rude to slurp in Taiwan, but it’s alright in Japan (alledgedly).

There are some French one’s too. I’ve been told that your actually supposed to keep your hands on the table in France, as opposed to in your lap. By that I mean, in the US, I was always taught to put down my utensils and put my hands in my lap while I’m chewing, whereas here you just chew with your arms on the table and your utensils in hand.

I’ve heard that napkins don’t go in laps here, but I know a lot of French people who put their napkins in their laps. On the other hand, in my host family, every time I put my napkin in my lap, my “mother” gave me another napkin, thinking she had forgotten to give me one.

This isn’t limitted to table manners, it’s just what got me thinking about this.

The one that struck me as weird , when I was a kid, was when I learned that it was considered polite in, I think, Tibet, to stick out your tongue as a greeting. Another was that it weas considered a compliment iin some parts of the weorld to burp after a good meal. (They used this to comic effect in the movie Ben Hur). I’m not sure where it’s supposed to be observed.
The “don’t put chopsticks upright in your rice” thing I learned about in a book on chopsticks. Apparently when you do this, it looks like the sticks of incense the Japanese place in bowls of sand at funerals, and you’re supposed to avoid such unpleasant associations.

being british, I tend to say thank you for anything and everything

on an exchange visit to Germany when I was 14, my host “mother” got pretty ticked off with me saying “thank you” every time she told me something (e.g. where to find spare towels, that sort of thing).

I think it was partly because the Germans like to acknowledge thanks (“nichts zu danken”) and it just gets tiresome, whereas we brits tend to use it like punctuation

To add to the discussion of Japanese table manners, slurping noodles is not only polite, it’s expected. You eat certain noodles (like udon) steaming hot, and slurping is seen as the only way to eat them comfortably.

I used to date a Cuban girl, and on one occasion she took me to a Cuban restaurant. As I normally do, I thanked the waiter for bringing us our menus, our entrees, refilling the water and wine glasses, etc. She finally became exasperated enough to tell me that in the Latin American culture, you’re not supposed to thank the wait staff- the thinking is that you’re the customer, and their job is to wait on you. Except for giving them your order, you’re not even supposed to acknowledge them, really.

For all I know, she was putting me on. Feel free to debunk as necessary.

I don’t think this is as much a custom as it is a ‘social-class’ issue. My ex-wife is from Peru and when we went there, I was considered out of the norm for thanking the wait staff and actually, GET READY FOR THIS, talking to them like they were human beings.

My current wife is Colombian and they have the same social class thing, don’t talk to the wait staff, our maid, etc. Although my wife is not really like this, her friends are.

Most societies basically have some sort of social class system, whether by age, wealth, etc. It seems the latins are a little behind the times in changing (in my personal opinion).

So yes, in our society it would be considered rude to talk down to the ‘help’, but it is accepted in many other societies. (GOD KNOWS WHAT HAPPENS TO THE FOOD IN THE BACK).

I asked her whether it was a ‘social-class’ thing, and she assured me that it wasn’t. She herself came from basically nothing; she was the only member of her family to make it to the States and her family in Cuba was certainly not well off. It wasn’t for the purpose of being rude, she just said that the “help” knew that they were there to serve the patrons, and did not expect to be acknowledged.

Considering the fact that the Cuban restaurant was in the West Village, NYC, I chose to continue thanking and acknowledging like I normally do. I guess I’d be more inclined to follow the custom if I was “in-country”.

When my brother was in the military, he spent time in Turkey (IIRC) where it is considered rude to show someone the bottom of your shoe. Although he had been told of this custom, he was in a bar and got pretty relaxed. He put his legs up on an empty chair, and a fight ensued.

When Brazilians call each other in Rio de Janeiro, they quite often ask “Who’s speaking?” to whoever answers the phone. The first time I heard this, it seemed incredibly rude – if you call me, you tell me who you are first, and then I might consider identifying myself.

I asked around and found that this is quite common and acceptable down there.

In many Muslim countries it is impolite to point the bottom of your shoe at someone. I was just home on leave and one of the little things it felt nice to do was to cross my legs. I hadn’t done it in months (at least not 'Merican style).

Do you know the thinking behind the custom? Is it because the bottom of the shoe is dirty?

I’ve asked people about it, and they say it is considered disrespectful and the usually point out that the bottom of a shoe is very dirty. If you remember during the fall of Baghdad in 2003 there were lots of news shots of people smacking pictures of Saddam with their shoes. It was considered a very disrepectful act.

One of the things I had to get used to in Paris was people bringing their dogs into restaurants, and having them sit on chairs at the table. And then there’s the strange custom of eating pizza with knife and fork, and never sharing a pie.

“Talking down to” is much different than “not talking to.” A lack of repartee with servants is a way of keeping a certain amount of distance–they’re not your pals, they are there to serve you. That’s not condescending, that’s simpy the nature of the relationship. In the U.S. we have the opposite problem–we think that everyone is our buddy. I hate it when restaurant servers are fakey friendly.

I had the exact same feeling when I got home in April. I took to propping my feet up more than I ever had.

Yep - and never sleep with your head to the North. Bodies are always arranged with the head to the North at funerals, at least that’s what my wife who’s Japanese claims.

I heard recently that in China it is rude for a guest to finish his or her entire meal because this implies that the host had not served enough food. I would love for someone knowledgeable to confirm or deny this. In the United States, at least, I think that leaving anything on the plate would be rude because it would imply that the food had not been prepared well.

My friend who spent a few weeks with a host family outside Paris was told that you should never say that you’re “full” or “stuffed” but that you have “eaten well”. The host mother told him it was quite vulgar.

Is it not considered rude to belch loudly in China? I work with a Chinese cook (at a big grocery store) who belches seemingly constantly, and loudly while doing invoice paperwork and the like in the office.

You’re kidding, right? Twenty-three years in the restaurant business has convinced me that, for many middle-to-lower-class Americans, eating out is their one opportunity to feel “superior” to somebody else. They get to be rude and demanding, assuming that were are so desperate for their business that we’ll put up with anything. They believe that “the customer is always right” is actually a law written in the Constitution, but clearly we restaurant types are too uneducated to realize it, so they need to remind us at every opportunity.

I had this problem when I first moved to France. I wanted to tell the lady I lived with to stop giving me food because I couldn’t possibly eat anymore. “Je suis plein,” I said, and all the French people at the table started laughing.

The problem is linguistic (Clairobscur will correct me if I’m wrong). The direct translation of “I’m full” (“Je suis plein”) is actually (roughly) saying “I’m pregnant.” Though “pleine” (the added e is for the feminine) is only for animals that are expecting (for humans, it’s “enceinte”).

So, it’s not so much that it’s rude. It’s just incorrect. “I’ve eaten well” (“J’ai bien mangé”) is simply how one says “I’m full” in French.

Did that make sense?