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Interesting Cultural Differences


									Interesting Cultural Differences

It's interesting to me the various different manners and no-nos between different cultures and also wondering
how they got that way.

For example. Why are chopsticks metal in Korea, often plastic at Chinese restaurants in America and generally
wood everywhere else?

Another, in Japan it is normal to lift your plate or bowl to your mouth, particularly your rice bowl and your miso
soup bowl. In America we generally do not pick up plates or bowls. In Korea I'm told you NEVER EVER pick up
your bowl or plate. Not your rice bowl, not your soup bowl, not anything.

In China it seems like you can put the edge of your rice bowl to your mouth and practically shovel the rice in. In
Japan, even though you can put the bowl closer to your mouth you are supposed to pick the rice up with your
chopsticks, not shovel it. That's one reason why Japanese rice needs to be sticky which it is not in some other

My friend found it funny that I often lick my fingers clean after eating something messy for example buffalo
wings. According to her, in Japan and Korea you never do that. You wipe off your hands, licking your fingers is
considered bad manners. Even in America you wouldn't lick your fingers at a formal dinner but then again, at a
formal dinner you wouldn't be served something that would get your fingers "finger lickin good" like tebasaki
chicken wings.

I wonder where that restriction came from. Sitting at the First Kitchen across from work, eating flavored fries
and getting the flavoring all over my fingers therefore prompting me to lick my fingers it occured to me one
reason might be Japan and Korea might be dirtier places than America.

I'm sure there are plenty of dirty places in America and there are of course, plenty of clean places in Japan and
Korea. But, visiting both countries I couldn't help but notice the number of unpleasent smells around every
corner, block, street, etc. In America (or at least in LA), those kinds of smells are generally reserved for the
alley which means that it's very rare that I have to smell them.

Assuming that was true, then licking your dirty fingers would lead to getting sick. Of course the problem with
that theory is that they give you wet towels to wash your hands with before you eat

In Japan, passing a piece of food from your chopsticks to some else's chopsticks is a no-no. If you are going to
pass it to them you either pass the plate so they can take it or you pick it up yourself and put it on their plate.
The reason is that the only time you pass things from chopstick to chopstick is when you pass bones at a
funeral. My understanding is that that issue doesn't happen in China. I inferred that by watching my Chinese
friend pass/take stuff all the time from/to other people's chopsticks. Of course maybe she just has bad manners

Placing your chopsticks in a bowl with the ends sticking up is also a no-no in Japan as it as also part of the
funeral ceremony. I don't think that holds for other countries though.

In Japan you do not walk and eat or drink. If you buy a drink from a vending machine you stand by the
machine, drink it gone, throw away the bottle/can in the waste basket next to the machine and the continue
on. The same with other fast foods. If there is an ice cream stand, you won't see anybody walking around with
ice cream. Instead you'll see everybody eating their ice cream within about 20 feet of the stand. I'm curious
where that rule originates. We clearly don't have that in America although conversely we have "no food/no
drink" signs in front of many stores. There are less of those in Japan since there's nobody carrying open food or
drinks around in the first place.

If you know of any others for other countries let me know.
                              Responses to Cultural Differences...

                          How do people respond to cultural differences?

                    Ignore them and hope they will go away, believing that to focus
                         on the differences will just make the problem worse.

                   Fail to manage cultural differences and risk experiencing culture

                     Recognize the importance of dealing with cultural differences
                         and the possible consequences of taking no action.
     Manage cultural differences -- learn to appreciation various
    cultures, and understand the positive impact of being culturally


Stereotypingis a risky, offensive, and non-productive exercise.
Ethnic jokes may be humorous, but are build on a foundation of
misinformation and bias. A business strategy based on this
assumption is doomed to fail.

                 Despite popular beliefs to the
                 contrary, the single greatest barrier
                 to business success is the one
                 erected by culture."
                 Edward T. Hall and Mildred Reed Hall
                 Hidden Differences: Doing Business with the


What is Culture?

  Culture comes from the Latin word "colere", meaning to build
  on, to cultivate, to foster.
  Culture is a set of accepted behavior patterns, values,
  assumptions, and shared common experiences.
  Culture defines social structure, decision-making practices,
  and communication styles.
  Culture dictates behavior, etiquette, and protocol.
  Culture is something we learn. It impacts everyone, and
  influences how we act and respond.
  Culture is communication. It is a way people create, send,
  process and interpret information.

                        The Cultural Iceberg

  Culture is like an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg is easy to see. This
  includes the visible aspects and do's and taboos of working in other

  The remaining huge chunk of the iceberg hidden below the surface
    includes the invisible aspects of a culture such as the values,
   traditions, experiences and behaviors that define each culture.

  Venturing into different cultures without adequate preparation can
  be just as dangerous as a ship maneuvering icy waters without
  charts, hoping to be lucky enough to avoid hitting an iceberg. The
  difference is that the ship will know immediately when it hits an

Unsuspecting companies may never realize they hit an iceberg but
they will, nevertheless, feel the impact. It appears in the form of
delayed or abandoned projects, misunderstood communications,
frustrated employees and a loss of business and reputation. The
costs of cultural myopia and the inability to adjust can be

By definition, cross-cultural awareness means not only becoming
culturally fluent in other cultures but having a solid understanding of
your own culture.

  Cultural differences must be understood and acknowledged
   before they can be managed. What happens when these
                  differences are not managed?

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