Home | About VANK | Contact us | Notice | Site map | Downloads Vank Video | Friendly Korea | Paths to Peace | Join us |
Bookmark and Share Tell a Friend
Etiquette in Asia


Etiquette in Asia

Etiquette in China
Table Etiquette and Classroom Courtesy
Interviewer : Choi Jee-seun (Korean) Interviewee : Yao Junjie (Chinese)
C : In Korea, when dinning with others, young people should wait until the elders start to eat. I want to know about similar Chinese table manners.
Y : We also wait for the elders to start eating. The oldest and the most important guests should be seated facing the door, in most cases, facing the south. The south represents power and stature to the Chinese. In ancient days, emperors sat facing the south. Guests should never be seated beside a door, usually as far as possible away from a door, because the seats near a door indicate low social status. Additionally, it is impolite to get a dish that is far from your seat. Wait until the dish is turned around in front of you. It is very rude to stand up to reach a far away dish.
C : Because I am a student, I am also interested in how to behave in a classroom.
Y : Having your hat on in a classroom is considered impolite to teachers. This also applies when you come across some elders. You should take your hat off.

Restaurant Etiquette and Gift-giving Customs
Interviewer : Myong Yoo-ho (Korean) Interviewee: Zhang Meng (Chinese American)
M : Meng, I've got some questions that I'd like to ask. Would you tell me about any Chinese etiquette I should know if I go to China?
Z : Okay, let me see. When you go to a Chinese restaurant, you should not eat the whole meal on the table. Just sample everything. Put a little bit of every dish on your plate. A lot of courses will be served one after another. Also while you dine with a host, don't leave your plate empty. Your host will think you need more food. Thus it is advised to leave a little bit of food on your plate. In a formal dinner, the host sits the nearest to the entrance door, and the guest of honor sits opposite.
M : Is there any other etiquette other than table manners?
Z : Well, there are several things. First of all, it is very important to respect the elderly. You should use different forms of expressions when you talk to older people. When you meet them, you bow. Second, when you give a present to someone, do not give anything in sets of four. Because '4' sounds like 'death' in Chinese, it is associated with bad luck. Four is considered an unlucky number. Don't give anyone clocks or anything with storks or cranes on it. Also, do not wrap your present with paper in white, blue or black. They all mean bad things like death when read in Chinese. Additionally, do not write people's name in red ink, including yours. That also means death in China.
M : There seem a lot of common features between Chinese and Korean etiquette, such as respect for the elderly and the perception of the number four as bad luck. Elevators in Korean hospitals often do not have the fourth floor, or use 'F' as the first letter of fourth in English instead of the figure 4. So it goes 1, 2, 3, (F), 5 and 6. I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

Gift-giving Customs in Hong Kong
Interviewer : Lee Ye-kyung (Korean) Interviewee : Sarah (American)
L : Are there any etiquette rules for gift-giving in Hong Kong?
S : Personally, when I came here last year, I didn't have much trouble getting used to Hong Kong. Since the country is so developed and everyone speaks English, I thought there wasn't much difference from where I came from (the USA). However, I realized I was wrong. This year, I was invited to a birthday party of my friend, who is a native of Hong Kong. I gave her a really pretty clock to hang it in her room for her birthday present. I bought the clock in the USA during summer vacation. The clock had a picture of a blue dolphin with a white background. The reason why I detailed about the design of the clock is that it caused me trouble. When I gave her the birthday present, she looked confused and was at a loss of words.
Later, I found out why my friend acted that way. In Hong Kong, you don't give clocks for a present. A clock represents death. Also blue and white are the colors that are normally used for a funeral. Additionally, when you want to give a special present, you should give the receiver two. Since number 2 is considered a lucky number in Hong Kong, people believe that giving 2 presents brings you good luck. I think you should keep these in mind when you give presents to a Hong Kong friend. People from Hong Kong may misunderstand your sincere intention, if you don't abide by these rules.

Etiquette in India
Table Etiquette
Interviewer : Park Sung-jun (Korean) Interviewee : Krishan (Indian)
P : Are there any table manners I should know before I travel to India?
K : You might be very frustrated if you go to an Indian restaurant for the first time. There are so many rules you have to keep in mind. Let me tell you step by step. First of all, you don't need to go to a restroom to wash your hands because a bowl of water with lemon is provided on your table. We call it a 'Finger Bowl.' Some foreigners drink it, for they don't know why there is a bowl of water with lemon. Please do not drink it!! Our tradition is to eat food with our hands. We don't use forks, spoons or chopsticks. Although some westerners consider this culture to be inferior, it is because our rice is easily swept away by wind. Also, be careful not to eat with your left hand. In India, the left hand is considered unsanitary. Moreover, be aware of the following rules: No speaking is allowed during a meal and no food should be left behind. Especially when invited by your neighbors, you have to eat all the food offered even if it is not tasty. Otherwise, you look very rude.

Etiquette in Indonesia
Restaurant Etiquette - By Amanda Arifiana (Indonesian)
When you enter a restaurant, a waiter or waitress with Batik, Indonesian traditional clothes, will welcome you with a beautiful smile. You will be seated and served with limewater in a small stainless bowl and hot jasmine tea. Hot jasmine tea is for drinking, but limewater is for washing your hands. Even if you don't like jasmine tea please don't try to drink the limewater. Trust me! It doesn't taste good. In Indonesia, it is very normal to eat with your hands. So if you see any Indonesian people eating with their hands, please don't feel uncomfortable or dirty. That is why limewater is provided before you eat. When you pass something like a spoon, a fork, or whatever, to another person, you should never ever use your left hand. To pass something to someone or shake hands with your left hand is considered very rude. After you are finished eating, you will get delicious tropical fruits for dessert. Indonesians love fruits such as lychee, mango, papaya, honeydew melon, and watermelon, but in a restaurant, papaya, watermelon or honeydew melon is normally served. After the dessert, it is time to pay. Ask a waiter or waitress for your bill. Give a tip of around 5,000 rupiah (around 50 U.S. cents) per waiter who serves you. Most of the time, a waiter serves a table.

Etiquette in Japan
Shopping Etiquette
Interviewer : Yoon Ji-young (Korean) Interviewee : Clara (Japanese)
Y : In Korea, when we buy clothes, we consider color, size and style as well as the condition of the clothes before purchase. To make sure whether they look good on ourselves, we usually try them on. With the selected clothes, we enter a dress room and put them on. Are there such customs in a Japanese shopping mall?
C: Japan is a country equipped with a culture of respect for others. This culture is reflected in various aspects. Shopping etiquette is one of them. In a Japanese shopping mall, you need to ask a service assistant, "Can I try to put this on?" Then the assistant leads you to a dress room, and arranges your shoes very kindly for you. If you skip asking and enter a dress room to put on clothes on your own, it will be a surprise for assistants in the mall. When you come out of the dress room, an assistant will ask you, "Would you like to buy the clothes?" Respect for customers and the sterilization of clothes are very important, and services assistants are responsible for them. For customers, it is a manner to ask service assistants' help, and then go ahead to put on your selection of clothes. It is a tiny step, but it is very important in terms of difference in consciousness of assistants' roles.

Etiquette in Jordan
Greeting Etiquette - By Diana Siam (Jordanian)
Not all women feel comfortable shaking hands. Do not feel insulted if a woman rejects shaking hands with you. It is a religious thing. The most common expressions that you hear in Jordan include the term "Inshalla"(God willing) accompanied with statements of intention and the term "Bismallah"(in the name of God) accompanied with the performance of the most important actions.

Etiquette in Korea
Table Etiquette - By Hyunjin Kang-Graham (Korean)
When you enter a restaurant in Korea, you don't need to wait to be seated. Take any seats available, unless there is a sign that says "Reserved" on the table. A waiter will bring you the menu and some water. Otherwise, you can read the menu on the wall. When you are ready to order, call a waiter by saying "Yeo-gi-yo," which literally means "Here" but in this context means "Excuse me." The waiter will come to you and take your order. Korean meals come with several side dishes, such as Kimchi (a spicy fermented vegetable dish) and other kinds of seasoned vegetables. Side dishes are free, and you can always ask for more with no extra charge. In Korea, it is not common for a waiter to come to check on what you need. If you need something, you can either call a waiter or push a button on your table. In many Korean restaurants, each table has a button to call a waiter. This way you are not bothered by a waiter while you are eating. After your meal, you may get some dessert such as a tea (or coffee) and fruits for free. At a table, you should be careful not to burp, blow your nose, or talk with food in your mouth. When you cough, turn your head to the side and cover your mouth with your hand or handkerchief. Also, Koreans use both a spoon and chopsticks that are usually made from stainless steel. Use a spoon for rice or soup, and chopsticks for side dishes. Don't hold a spoon and chopsticks at the same time. When you use a spoon, put your chopsticks down on the table. Unlike in Japan, you don't hold your rice bowl up to your mouth. Because Korean rice is sticky, you don't need to worry about spilling. Also, turning off your cellular phone is polite when you dine with others. Don't leave the table until everybody is done eating. If you have to leave earlier, say "Excuse me" and give a reason, for example, "Sorry, but I have another meeting soon." Avoid smoking in a restaurant. Taking leftovers home is not usual. Western-style restaurants are a little different. A waiter will be assigned to your table and come around to your table frequently. Desserts are not free. Taking leftover food is common. Western-style restaurants are at least twice as expensive as Korean ones. It is not difficult to find a foreign restaurant especially in the capital Seoul. Seoul has American, Chinese, Egyptian, French, Indian, Iranian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Pakistan, Thai, Turk, Vietnamese restaurants and others. Chinese restaurants are widespread, and many deliver food 24 hours a day throughout the year. Delivery is no extra charge. You pay for your meal at a counter that is usually next to the entrance door. Splitting the bill is not very common in Korea. Often times, an older or higher status (in position) person will pay. Or if you dine with your friends, you take turns. If your friend pays this time, you will next time. Tips are not expected even in western-style restaurants. If you say "I enjoyed the meal. I will come by again," it will make restaurant workers happy.

Etiquette in Malaysia
Daily Etiquette
Interviewer : Lee Ji-yoon (Korean) Interviewee : Chen Jun Jie (Malay)
L : What customs should I follow in Malaysia?
C : Malaysia is a nation that welcomes the world. This has been enhanced with the "Visit Malaysia Year 2007." The Malaysian government is doing a lot of work to promote Malaysia within Asia and beyond. Malaysia is made up of various ethnic groups from many countries of origin. The main ethnic group in Malaysia is the Malays. Next are the Chinese who migrated from China more than a century ago, then followed by Indians from India. Apart from these people, there are also many minor tribes in each state. This multiracial composition of its population makes Malaysia special, and we all live in peace and harmony. However, there are a few do's and don't for foreigners when they visit Malaysia. It is important to know them before you visit Malaysia to prevent misunderstandings from happening. First, shaking hands is acceptable for both men and women. However, some Muslim ladies may prefer to just smile and nod their head instead of shaking hands. A handshake should be initiated by ladies, if the person is a Muslim. The man offers both hands, lightly touches his friend's outstretched hands, and then brings his hands to his chest to mean "I greet you from my heart." The visitor should reciprocate the "salam"(which is greetings in Islam). When you visit a Malaysian home, shoes should be removed, and when drinks are offered, it is always polite to accept. Remember to always accept things from Malaysians using the right hand. Muslims regard the left hand as unclean, and thus it has been a custom for Malaysians of all religions and races to accept gifts using the right hand instead. The thumb of the right hand with four fingers folded under is the preferred usage when pointing at something (directions, objects or persons), pointing using the forefinger is considered impolite in Malaysia. Toasting is not a common practice in Malaysia. Muslims, the dominant religious group in Malaysia, do not drink alcohol or eat pork. It is advised not to drink alcohol or eat pork in front of a Muslim. Pork however is still widely available in Malaysia because of the various ethnic groups in the country and to cater to tourists and expatriates. Muslims are allowed to eat in restaurants or stalls bearing the "HALAL" sign, which means the food is prepared without using pork, and is prepared to be suitable for Muslims. Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, but Malaysians are allowed to practice other religions, such as Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Hinduism and more. The tolerance of all ethnic and religious groups allows all 26 million Malaysian to live together and strive for a better Malaysia and at the same time promote Malaysia to the world.

Etiquette in the Philippines
Daily Etiquette
Interviewer : Lee Young-eun (Korean) Interviewee : Melanie (Filipina)
L : When we Koreans get on a bus or a subway and see the elderly standing, we let them take seats. Korean parents teach their children to respect the elderly. Also, when drinking alcohol, younger people cannot drink it face to face with older people. They turn their heads aside. Do you have any customs similar to or different from these customs in the Philippines?
M : Yes, we have several customs like yours. I can tell you three examples. First, when younger Filipinos talk to elder ones, we always use 'po' or 'opo' in our sentences, which are the signs of respect. Second, when Filipino men get on a bus or enter a room, the first ones to ride or enter the room are always the elderly or females of any age. Filipino men also give their seats to them when there are no more seats available. Third, when meeting elder people, young Filipinos give the "Mano Po" as a sign of respect to them. They hold the elders?right hand and put the back of the hand on their forehead. "Mano" means "right." Filipinos do this practice very often especially to their grandparents every time they meet.

Etiquette in Russia
Classroom Courtesy and Funeral Customs
Interviewer : Kim Ji-eun (Korean) Interviewee : Aleksey (Russian)
K : In Korean schools, we should greet our teachers with a bow every time we meet them. Should you do that in your country as well?
A : In Russian schools and universities, students greet their teachers once a day, saying "Good morning" or "Good afternoon", and "Good bye" before going home. The way of greeting depends more on your personal relationship with that particular teacher. For example, when I meet my teacher in Politology, whom I strongly respect and who feels the same about me, we not only greet each other, but also shake hands. Bowing is quite unusual in Russian culture. For us, it is a gesture which shows a VERY HIGH level of personal respect, much higher than the level of relationship between students and teachers.
K : In Korea, when someone dies, we should bring condolence money to his/her home or funeral home. Could you explain to me about funeral culture in your country?
A : Unlike Korea, there is no rule that we should bring money. However, when somebody dies, his/her relatives and friends will try to do everything they can to help his/her family. Because funerals in our country are very expensive, that help is often money. The minimal cost for a funeral is almost 1-year total income of an average working person to rent a hearse, to order a coffin and so on. As always, we expect help from our relatives and friends, and next time they are in need, we will help them.

Etiquette in Singapore
Daily Etiquette
Interviewer : Lee So-young (Korean) Interviewees : Cleonice Tan (Singaporean), Jian Mingxian (Singaporean), Justina Tan (Singaporean), Karyn (Singaporean)
L : (Lee) Every country has its own customs different from each other. What customs of your country do you think are distinctive from those of other countries? Or are there any things that foreigners should know before visiting your country?
C : (Cleonice Tan) Singapore does not have a singular distinctive culture because four races live together - Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian. Four languages are frequently used. The most common and widely spoken is English and then Chinese, Malay, Tamil and Hindu languages. In addition, Chinese have various dialects, depending on which part of China their grandparents come from. Many foreign visitors are surprised that most Singaporeans can speak at least two languages as well as the English spoken by almost everybody. Ironically, however, this diversity makes a unique culture for Singapore. We respect each other religions. Singapore has Chinese Buddhist temples, Catholic churches, and Muslim mosques. We are proud that we can live harmoniously on this island with a mindset of respect for each other. The government has done a great job in promoting and maintaining racial harmony in Singapore. Please come to Singapore to experience the unique culture of harmony.
M : (Mingxian) What distinguishes Singaporeans from other nationalities is the English we speak. It is called Singlish. Singlish may not be correct grammatically. It incorporates words from Chinese dialects and Malay. Although there are four races in Singapore, including Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian, most of us speak and understand Singlish.
K : (Karyn) I think what makes Singapore stand out is our multi-cultural background. Though Singapore is a small island, it is the result of our early ancestors having come from parts of Asia to settle down here. We also have foreigners who came here to make their living in the early days. So we are like a BIG family, accommodating many races and living in harmony. There are a number of festivals and customs that we celebrate together and are granted as public holidays. These holidays include Chinese Lunar New Year, Hari Raya Haji, Good Friday, Vesak Day, Deepavali, Hari Raya Puasa and Christmas. We also have many other celebrations less known to foreigners, such as Chingay parade, Islamic New Year, Hindi New Year, Qing Ming Jie, Sikh New Year, Mother's Day, Father's day, Dragon Boat Festival, Hungry Ghosts Day, Mid Autumn Festival, Tree Planting Day, Dong Zhi Festival and so forth. However these are not announced as public holidays. When we celebrate these special days, other races are welcome to enjoy and even participate in the celebrations. Basically, Singaporeans can speak at least three languages, a mother tongue, and a second language and a third language. Many even speak more than three languages. Students are taught in multiple languages in schools, and they are exposed to different cultural aspects.
L : (Lee) Singapore is widely known for its strict laws, such as a ban on spitting anywhere. Could you tell me other examples of its rules or regulations?
J : (Justina Tan) In Singapore, we are not supposed to import or export cigarettes. To trade in cigarettes, you should pay tax to Customs. The price of a packet of cigarettes is very expensive ($10) in Singapore. No smoking is allowed in bus stops and hawker centers. You will be sent to court if found guilty. Also, Singapore banned chewing gum in 1992. Chewing gum is not allowed in Singapore, except for therapeutic gum (prescription required).
C : (Cleonice Tan) The ban on gum is one of the strict laws in Singapore. Singapore has many laws like no littering (fine $500). The heaviest punishment is given for drug trafficking. If caught, the punishment is a death sentence.
M : (Mingxian) We can be fined for jaywalking, which is disobeying traffic rules and crossing the road where there is no traffic light. The downloading of music and videos from websites is also illegal and some people have been caught for doing that. These people were made to pay a fine. Also, there are those who are caught for making racist comments against other races on their blogs. They are made to go through counseling programs to learn that what they did was wrong.
K : (Karyn) Singapore's strict rules include no smoking, no jaywalking, no food and drink in trains and buses, no littering, no parking on double yellow lines, no parking on parking lot areas reserved for the disabled, no parking on pedestrian paths, a fine for no parking coupons or over time, a fine for false alarm such as using the emergency speaker, and a fine for abusing emergency calls like the ambulance and police quarter. A minimum sum of $500 will be charged for a wrongdoing. Sometimes, a summons will be issued if you do not pay your fine by a due date. Then you will have to pay a higher fee or even be sent to court for that little matter. In Singapore, there was a man who did not pay for his traffic fines, and he believed it was just a small case and forgot to pay. The fines accumulated and at the end he had to pay thousands of dollars!

Etiquette in Thailand
Daily Etiquette
Interviewer : Kwon Jae-young (Korean) Interviewee : Kris Kittiampon (Thai)
K : (Kwon) Thailand is a famous tourist destination. Would you tell me about local customs that foreign visitors should know before visiting your country?
K : (Kittiampon) Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, and the royal family is held in high respect. In rural towns, when the national anthem is played, you should stand while it is being played out. Also, it is regarded as highly disrespectful to step on money that has pictures of the monarchy printed on it.
K : (Kwon) In Korea we had the royal family until the early 20th century, but not any more. Instead, we show high respect to the elderly. So it is not uncommon to ask someone's age. When we meet people older than us, we bow to them in greeting.
K : (Kittiampon) Our form of greeting is saying "Sawadee Krub/ Ka"(if you are male/ female), and put our hands together like praying with a slight bow. You also should know that Thailand is a Buddhist country. When you visit temples in Thailand, you should dress appropriately. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are not accepted. There is one more thing. Since the head is considered sacred in Thailand, don't touch someone's head.

Etiquette in Turkey
Greeting and Daily Etiquette
Interviewer : An E-seul (Korean) Interviewee : Nurullah Degirmenci (Turk)
A : How do you greet people in Turkey?
D : Following the Islamic tradition, we give Salam (greeting) to show our hospitality toward visitors and foreigners. We say "Salamun Alaikum" meaning "peace be upon you", and in return, the other says "Alaikum Salam" or "Wa Alaikum Salam". These are Arabic words. It is obligatory in our religion to answer this greeting. Handshaking is also our tradition. However, most women don't shake hands with males, except relatives. When you meet a friend, you come close to him/her, shake his/her hands, and touch cheek to cheek (right cheek to right cheek and left cheek to left cheek). And sometimes we talk for about 5 minutes.
A : What should foreigners be aware of when visiting Turkey?
D : Most tourists visit old historical buildings, especially mosques. All the mosques are covered with mats. In a mosque we perform the special prayer 'Salah', which consists of a standing position and a prostrate position. If there are traces of dirt on the mat where you prostrate, it breaks up your praying. So mats should stay clean. Thus it is not allowed to enter with your shoes on. Also, people in a mosque don't like women to enter wearing short clothes such as T-shirts, shorts, and mini-skirts. Before you enter a mosque you will see a box that contains head covers inside. Cover your head before you enter. People in Turkey usually don't like tourists rambling about with such kinds of clothes on. Although there are some Turks who wear such clothes, most Turks don't like them.
A : In a bus or a subway, if you see old people or pregnant women standing, young people offer their seats to them. If you don't, people around you may look at you in an unpleasant way. Are there any customs like this in Turkey?
D : It is the same here. Young people give their seats in buses to the elderly and middle-aged women. At home, if your father or someone old comes in, children should stand up. If they keep on sitting or lying down, it is shameful. Although it changes nowadays, we don't lay down in the presence of our father. A child doesn't smoke while his/her parents are present. Also it is rude to sit with your legs crossed while there are older people around you.
A : Is there any etiquette I should follow at a table?
D : First of all, we should wait until our father or the oldest one of the family starts to eat. Mostly we eat on the floor, sitting over a mat. We put a dining cover on the floor, a large round tray on the cover, and then dishes on the tray. We form a circle when we eat. Also, remember that since a house is all covered with mats and carpets, nobody is allowed to walk in a house with his/her shoes on. Take off your shoes before you enter. We eat from the same dish. It is no problem if you drink water from a glass that somebody has drunk from, as long as you know that person. And when you go to a restaurant or somewhere to drink something with your friend, each person tries to pay the cost because paying others' cost is also tradition. Even though your friend tries to pay, you shouldn't let him/her pay all the time. Then you will make a bad impression.
A : Would you tell me about some special holidays in Turkey?
D : On Bairams (religious festival), we visit relatives and friends. Parents buy new clothes and shoes for their children to wear during Bairam. In the morning of the first day of Bairam, males go to a mosque with their children and pray and then go back home and celebrate the day with their family. Children kiss their father and mother on the hand. We visit our relatives and kiss our uncle, aunt, grandfather and grandmother on the hand. Children also visit their neighbors, even though they don't know them. They go to the door (but not enter), and the neighbors give them some candies or money. Children also get some pocket money from their father.
A : In Korea, there is a tradition that when a couple gets married, the couple's friends hit the groom on the sole of the foot. Of course, it doesn't cause a serious injury, but just for fun. Are there any special wedding customs in Turkey?
D : Before the wedding day, there is an entertainment night, the bride with her friends and the groom with his friends. It is the night of KINA, meaning henna'. Women dye the bride's hands with henna. The groom's friends hit the groom on the back before the bridal chamber. A wedding car is decorated, and drives away under the escort of the cars of the couple's friends. Sometimes, kids cut off their way and ask for money. Then the groom gives money to them.