Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Thumbs Up to Learning Etiquette

    We at Etiquipedia have mixed feelings about using the “thumbs up” gesture. Instagram is positively littered with “etiquette enthusiasts”and “étiqueteurs,” making like modern-day Goofuses and Gallants on video, with a “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” or shaming “finger wag” system, of demonstrating the proper and improper ways of doing something. The “thumbs up” signal has, overall, a positive connotation in most English-speaking countries. Popularization in the U.S. is generally attributed to the practices of American World War II pilots, using the “thumbs up” to communicate with ground crews prior to take-off. However, its meaning varies significantly from country to country and culture to culture. This hand gesture is considered very rude in several countries, including Iraq and Iran. In other countries, like Germany, France, and Hungary, the gesture can simply indicate the number one (the “Ok” gesture means the number zero, or “0.”) 
Starting in 2007, the “thumbs-up” appeared on India’s one-rupee coin. And it’s in India where you’ll find a “thumbs up” gesture used as part of the logo of “Thums Up,” a popular brand of Indian cola. American Sign Language users in the United States use a single thumb up, tilted slightly and moved, or shaken rapidly, from left to right to indicate the number ten, or 10. When held stationary and thrust toward another person the meaning is “yourself.” When lifted up by the other palm, it is read as, “help.” Nowadays, due to social media’s global reach, the “thumbs-up” sign on Facebook and other sites– as a clear statement of approval or agreement– is becoming much more acceptable than it once was.

Warning from Agriculture Dept... 
“Etiquette can be tricky when traveling overseas”

WASHINGTON (AP) - When an American travels abroad with an eye on new markets for farm products, it’s best to be on good behavior and to observe proper etiquette, the Agriculture Department says.
For example, you are in an Arabian Gulf country and have consumed several small cups of bitter cardamom coffee. You would rather not drink more. Should you; 
  • (a) place your palm over the cup when the coffee pot is passed? 
  • (b) turn your empty cup upside down on the table? or 
  • (c) hold the cup and twist your wrist from side to side? 
The answer, according to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, is (c). But the quiz may be a trifle suspect, since the final of 10 questions offered to test a reader’s business etiquette says: 
“Body language is just as important as the spoken word in many countries. For example, in most countries, the ‘thumbs-up’ sign means ‘OK.’ But in which of the following countries is the sign considered a rude gesture?”

  •  (a) Germany, 
  • (b) Italy, 
  • (c) Australia.
The answer, the agency says, is (c). But a spokesman at the Australian Embassy denied that his countrymen consider a ‘thumbs-up’ gesture offensive.

The spokesman, not identified, told a reporter “We have other fingers that might be rude, but not the thumb.” Lynn K. Goldsbrough, editor of Foreign Agriculture magazine in which the article appeared, said the information was taken from a book on taboos around the world and used in the quiz. When told about the reaction from the Australian Embassy, Ms. Goldsbrough laughed and said, “Maybe he’s from a different part of Australia. I guess you can’t believe everything you read in books, huh?” 

Another answer to a question advised prospective exporters to refrain from tipping in Iceland, although it’s permissible in Britain and Canada. And the normal work week in Saudi Arabia is Saturday through Wednesday. 

In Japan, where giving gifts is common among business acquaintances, one should “thank the giver and open the present later.” It would be bad form to open the present immediately and thank the giver, or suggest the giver open the present for you.

 Good topics of conversation in Latin America might include sports, the weather or travel, the report said, but religion and local politics should be avoided. If flowers are in order as a gift to a hostess, some ground rules are in order, since “both the type of flower and color can have amorous, negative or even ominous implications,” the report said.

 “Purple flowers are a sign of death in Brazil, as are chrysanthemums in France in Switzerland, as well as in many other northern European countries, red roses suggest romantic intention.” – By Don Kendall, AP Farm Writer, 1987

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

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