By Steven G. Mehta

In today’s closely connected society where a person from one culture can easily hop a plane and be half a world away, it is important to understand the nuances of cultural differences.  What is appropriate and what is not?  Can you give something with your left hand?  Can you show  your tattoos?

Well, fasten your seatbelts, these questions can be answered at a a site called Fastenseatbelts.eu that provides simple but informative cartoons that reflect the cultural differences in Europe and Asia.  The site provides a a brief explanation of a simple concept.  This way you can learn a very small point and not be overwhelmed.  For example, the site explains Vietnamese restaurant etiquette as follows:

The first thing a Vietnamese person will do after greeting you is to ask if you have eaten. More than in China, where the question ‘have you eaten. More than in China, where the question ‘have you eaten?’ is equivalent to asking how you are, in Vietnam the question is to be taken literally and the likelihood is that you will be whisked off to a restaurant before you have had a chance to answer.

Whether you have been invited to someone’s house, you are attending a business meeting or you’re just hanging out with locals, you will almost always be taken out to go and eat somewhere. Dining out is an integral part of Vietnamese life and going on a diet when travelling to Vietnam is a very bad idea! The likelihood of your breaking it is 100%.

It is customary in Vietnamese restaurants and bars to pay for a round of drinks or for the whole evening. You do not divide the bill between people. As in China, your Vietnamese host may insist quite strongly on being allowed to pay the bill, as a sign of respect to you. If it is your turn to pay, try to avoid the bill being brought to the table. Leave the table discreetly before the meal is over and pay away from your guests.

In Vietnam, there is no tradition of after-dinner conversation. When people have finished eating, the person with the highest status gets up and the party leaves.

The most popular dish in Vietnam is pho, a noodle soup with a clear meat broth. Many Vietnamese people regard pho as their national dish. The wordpho can be translated as ‘your own bowl’. It is one of the few items of food in Vietnam which is not passed around and shared. Be careful! Pho is very spicy. It has recently become very popular in the U.S.

Information such as this can be helpful not only when you go to that country but also if you are in another country working with a person from that culture.


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