I just taped my Workplace Confidence TV show, which was all about international etiquette.
You know, most people think etiquette is all about which fork or spoon you use, but it’s so much more than that.
Etiquette is about being thoughtful in your behavior to make the people around you feel comfortable. This is even more important when you’re a guest in another country.
One of the many things we discussed is knowing, and respecting, local customs. Never assume everyone speaks English and everything is “just like home.” You don’t want to run the risk of being thought of as the “ugly American.”
Here are a few customs we shared. I think you’ll find them interesting:
- Meals last longer in most countries, and they eat later—so don’t be surprised. In Spain, for instance, it’s common for restaurants to start serving dinner after 9 pm.
- In Asia, it is expected that you eat with chopsticks. (So, try practicing!)
- Loudly slurping noodles and soup is acceptable in Japan. They feel it improves the flavor of the dish!
- Asking for a doggy bag is considered unacceptable behavior in the UK and France. In France, they’re taught at an early age to finish everything on their plate. In the UK, it’s considered greedy.
- In Italy, they still don’t like it when you ask for cheese on your fish. (Although this attitude is beginning to change—slightly.)
- Tipping is usually not as extravagant as here, and the tip is often included (For instance: “Service compris” means “Tip included” in French)
Remember that, no matter where you are, you are responsible for your behavior. A little preparation and common courtesy can go a long way and reap uncommon rewards.
Copyright 2014 Michelle Kerrigan