Traveling is what most of us save a chunk of our salaries for, what keeps us inspired during workday slumps, or what offers the most joy and excitement to our lives. For the designated adventure junkie, the idea of visiting a foreign land is one of the best motivations, and we can’t argue with that!
However, in the midst of the thrill and excitement, we mustn’t forget that with every new country comes different languages, traditions, and customs. If you’re traveling to Japan, Thailand, Singapore, or Cambodia anytime in the near future, here are some reminders on how you can best respect their cultures.
Don’t forget to say hello.
In a country of friendliness and hospitality, it is considered rude not to return a warm greeting in Thailand. Unlike the common handshake or beso we Filipinos are used to, the Thai do not touch each other during greetings. The typical Thai salutation is called a wai. This is done by pressing your palms together and bowing your head slightly.
Don’t finish your food.
Totally opposite from what our nanays have always told us, right? In Thailand, proper dining etiquette includes leaving a few bites of the food your host has prepared on your plate. Apparently, finishing all of the food on your plate shows that you’re still hungry, so it’s better to leave a bit to prove to your host you’re full and content with the meal.
Don’t disrespect your chopsticks.
If the food is good, your manners should be, too! A friendly dining reminder: Never poke your chopsticks into your bowl of rice and leave them in an upright position. Just like the incense prepared at their funerals, this gesture is a disrespectful symbol of death in Singapore. Just neatly place them horizontally on your bowl to avoid any glares!
Don’t sit where you’re not supposed to.
In Singapore, discipline and respect are very important values, and this reflects even in public transportation. There are designated priority seats for the elderly, handicapped, pregnant women, or young children in almost every public vehicle which you should never sit on, even if none of the above are present.
Don’t shrug off sleeping heads on the train.
Sounds funny? We mean strangers beside you on the train whose sleeping heads roll over to your shoulders! Your first instinct could be to simply shrug them off, casually making pa-simple that you’re moving positions. In Japan, you’re encouraged to let them just sleep! Japan’s culture includes a very rigorous work ethic, so it is only polite and respectful to let these hard workers take a quick nap on their way to another day at work, even if that means napping on you.
What, really? Yes, it could actually be construed as insulting, rude, and derogatory if you leave a tip in Japan. Many times, the receivers will even chase you just to give you your money back! If you’re feeling thankful for someone’s help, a small token of appreciation is suggested to give instead.
Don’t wear clothes that are too revealing.
Cambodia is a conservative place, so wearing appropriate, modest clothing is the way to go, especially if you’re visiting temples or any religious site. Make sure your upper arms and legs are covered, so don’t forget to pack those maxi skirts or loose pants! Save the hubadera outfits for another time!
Don’t try to "feet in."
Keep those feet to yourselves! In Cambodia, it is a cultural norm not to point the bottom of your feet at someone, or at anything sacred. In some areas of Southeast Asia, the feet are considered the dirtiest and least sacred part of the body, while the head remains the most revered. So never raise your feet higher than anyone’s head, and when sitting on the floor, always tuck your feet in!
Got any more cultural no-no’s to share with the rest of the FN girls? Do share them with us at our GirlTalk forums! Let’s make the world a better place, one responsible, respectful tourist at a time.