No Disrespect

As thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to demand that journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi—who threw his reported size 10s at Lame-Duck-President Bush while shouting “This is a farewell kiss, you dog!”—be let go and hailed for his fitting send-off, I find myself curious about what else is considered disrespectful or rude in countries outside our little United States bubble. Here’s what I found:

Middle East
• Pointing the bottom of your feet at someone or touching them with your shoe is an extreme sign of disrespect (duh).
• Using your left hand to eat, shake or hand an object to someone else is seen as unclean—that hand is reserved for hygiene.
• Stepping back when someone enters your personal space.
• Not standing when older people enter a room, or greeting them before the younger folks.
• Giving the thumbs up is an insult. (Iran)

Latin America
• Blowing your nose in public. (Ecuador and Venezuela)
• Pointing with your index finger. (Venezulea)

Asia
• Touching the head, shoulders or back of an older person.
• Neglecting to leave your shoes at the threshold with the toes pointing outside the door.
• Slapping, patting or putting your arm about someone’s shoulders. (China)
• Handing over cash using only one hand or dropping it into someone’s hand is seen as charity, and that is rude.
• Kissing a significant other in front of parents or other elders. (India)
• Turning your fist sideways and slapping the top with an open palm is the equivalent of the finger, as is closing your fist and sticking your thumb between your index and middle fingers. (Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia)
• Not covering your mouth when you yawn.
• Using your index finger to tell someone to “come here.” (Japan)
• Putting a business card in your back pocket. (Japan)
• Tipping. (Japan)
• Touching someone’s head (Thailand)

Europe
• Shaking hands while wearing gloves.

Australia and New Zealand
• Putting money on the counter rather than in someone’s hand.
• It’s rude for men to sit in the back of a taxi; sit next to the driver.

Are any of these dead wrong (go easy on me, I got them from the Internet late last night!)? Got some to add? Do it!
—Kenrya

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Last 5 posts by kenrya

  • Vivian

    I knew about the money one regarding Asians. There has been a lot of controversy with Koreans and African Americans because they put the money on the counter even when the customer puts his/her hand out. AA were taking it as a sign of disrespect, when it was just the opposite. When it was pointed out that it is a cultural thing, the response in some cases was: “Well they are in America now.” Proving once again that ignorance and racism is not limited to one race.

  • Yahaira

    I still point with my mouth, not to point with my finger! my husband used to think I wanted a kiss! lol
    I had no idea about the thumbs up….interesting. I really wished he would have hit him, it would have been so funny!

  • Shera

    Fascinating stuff Kenrya.

  • jbaker

    refusing food in latin american countries is a sure way not to get invited back into a home.

  • me

    How about the crime of not saying please after requesting anything from a service person in the U.K. For example, “I’d like the salmon please,” as apposed to “salmon,” as you look in the direction of your dinner guest and hand your menu to the waiter. In the UK this will get you the worst service from the rudest waiter you’ve ever encountered, tip or no tip. In the U.S. “thank you” is standard, but “please” is almost never expected.

  • Steely D

    @ jbaker Filipino households too on the refusing food. not a good look.

  • Sal

    It’s interesting that you wrote “duh” after the first shoe one, because most Americans don’t know that that’s rude. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a meeting where someone put their feet up on the coffee table or their desk in their office, with the bottoms of their feet right in my face, not having a clue that it was incredibly rude in my Middle Eastern culture. Anyway, I love that you wrote this post and hope that the entire world reads it!

  • Bkili

    (I think)in Asia turning the spout of a pitcher towards the guest is disrespectful.
    And isn’t yawning without covering your mouth disgusting everywhere?
    Lastly, coughing without covering your mouth, nasty!

  • well in Ghana,it’s like you’ve killed somebody if you try to use your left hand to take or give something to someone.Personally i think it’s very backward.