Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Cross Cultural Etiquette

In England, if a friend is visiting another and stays to dinner, he may ask for the loan of a hairbrush without giving offense, but in Hungary he may not. 

Unintentional Insults? 
Persons Must Be Very Careful When In a Foreign Country

A short time back a message was received by the authorities through the Chinese legation that the gentleman representing her majesty in China had been guilty of conduct unbecoming an embassador and a gentleman; that he had insulted the Chinese cabinet. Investigation, however, showed that the only conduct of which he had been guilty was thumping the table at which he was sitting to emphasize a remark. Of course no notice was taken of the affair, but, all the same, the diplomatists of China were offended, for in that country it is an insult to the assembled company to thump the table. It only shows how careful one should be in a foreign country.

In England, if a friend is visiting another and stays to dinner, he may ask for the loan of a hairbrush without giving offense, but in Hungary he may not. To attempt to borrow that useful article is one of the greatest insults which can be offered to a Hungarian and one which will in most cases cause a duel.

In France there are several insults which the unwary foreigner may offer without knowing it. For example, he may be visiting a friend and may put his hat upon the bed. This is a grievous form of insult, but why it is not known. It is a very ancient one, and so probably results from an old superstition. 

Again, there are two ways of pouring out wine in France, as everywhere else. One of these is to hold the bottle so that while pouring the thumb is facing the tablecloth. The second way is to hold the hand reversed—that is, with the knuckles downward—and this is a great insult to the assembled guests and the host, a far greater insult than drinking a health in water, and that is pretty serious in France.

Germany has some curious forms of insult. To begin with, to offer a rose or any other flower without any green or leaves with it to a lady is to deeply insult her, though why this should be so is not known precisely. The German students are formed into corps, some of which are fighting corps and others not. Each corps has its distinctive cap, and when a member of one meets another in the street it is etiquette for each to doff his cap. Should the other not respond, a complaint is made to his corps, and a duel is fought—a real duel, with sabers or pistols, not the fencing duel which is pastime in Germany, just us foiling or single stick is in England—for the insult is nearly the worst that can be offered.

There is one worse, and that is spilling or flicking beer over another student purposely. No apology will wipe out this offense. Nothing will, except a duel to the death or a duel which is continued until one of the combatants is too badly wounded to continue the fight. A minor insult is to refuse to drink with a student if invited or to refuse to respond with “Prosit” when he raises his glass and says, “Icth Komme vor,” but this is more a breach of good manners than an actual insult.

We might finish with two Spanish examples of curious insults in South America. The first of these is to refuse to smoke a cigarette which another man offers you after he has bud it in his mouth, and the second is to refuse drink out of the same glass that a man has just drunk from, or, worse still, to wipe it before drinking.—London TitBit, 1898

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia