Friday, 28 February 2014



Here are some basic rules of etiquette to get you by in Asia.

When you enter some-one’s house, slip off your shoes and leave them at the doorstep. (It is advisable not to wear holy socks.)
Try not to cause loss of face. This is very important, as Asians rate face above all. If you advertently or inadvertently put some-one down, you have made an enemy for life. However misguided an Asian’s opinions are, avoid expressing disbelief or openly contradicting him.  In the classroom, this translates as not interrupting some-one mid-flow to point out a pronunciation or grammar error. Make a note of the mistake and correct it later in the form of a mini-lesson.
Don’t get angry, no matter how annoying or frustrating the situation is. It achieves nothing, and is actually counter-productive.
Don’t bother saying “please” or “thank you” to shop assistants. They don’t expect it (and don’t deserve it).

Don’t discuss politics or religion in class. And whatever you do don’t admit to being an atheist. It’s sacrilegious, crass and just plain inexcusable.
Don’t blow your nose in class (or any other public place, for that matter). And for God’s sake don’t be seen depositing your nasal excretions in a handkerchief, to be folded and taken away for later examination or use. The Indonesian way is to wait until you are unobserved, and expel your snot into the gutter.
Don’t point at anyone. A quick wave of an open hand, palm upwards, is acceptable however. Don’t put your hands on your hips when conversing.
Don’t use your left hand to eat, beckon someone, hand over change or anything else to anyone, anywhere. The right hand is for general use; the left hand is for wiping your bum. (This rule applies in any Moslem country.)
Don’t expect anything to happen on time. (In fact, Indonesians are quite proud of their ‘rubber time’).

Don’t touch someone’s head. Don’t step over a sleeping person; walk around instead.
Don’t show a baby its reflection in a mirror. The baby will grow up sans teeth if you do.
Don’t sit on a table or a pillow.

Don’t get mad at anyone, no matter how frustrated or pissed off you are. It gets you absolutely nowhere.  (Of course, if you’re teaching a particularly unruly kids’ or teens’ class, by all means get mad. It’ll only get them behaving for five minutes or so, but boy, does it feel good.)
Don’t just nod at an acquaintance. Anything short of the full “Hello, how are you?” routine is seen as impolite.
Don’t use the Western-style curled index finger gesture to get someone to approach you – that’s for animals only. Instead, with your palm downwards, wriggle all four fingers.
A Vietnamese nod and a “yes” do not necessarily indicate that you have been understood.

Don’t drink from the complimentary small bowl of lemon-flavored water on your restaurant table. It’s for rinsing your fingers in, Dumbo.
Avoid physical contact with Chinese. If you’re guiding someone, hold the cuff or sleeve.

Bow. When you meet someone, when you say goodbye to someone, when you agree with someone, and when you’re on the phone to someone.
Don’t be late for appointments.
Don’t pour your own drink. Pour the other guy’s, and wait for him to pour yours.
But do slurp your noodles loudly; that’s expected of you.

Don’t touch a Korean student. Not even a pat on the back or a friendly hand on the shoulder. Koreans are unused to and revolted by any physical contact. (Which makes me wonder what their home life is like.) Don’t worry about hoicking loudly and throwing meal scraps on the restaurant floor though; that’s completely normal.
Don’t pour your own drink. Wait for someone else to do it.

Don’t stare into someone’s eyes during a conversation.
Don’t interrupt the speaker.
Lifting your eyebrows (but not smiling) means “no”.
Well, that’s it. The Asian version of Emily Post’s Rules of Etiquette. Ignore at your own peril.


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