July 16, 2017

5 Ways Not To Be That Western Tourist in Asia

As a westerner visiting any country in Asia, you are in for a disastrous experience if you go in unprepared. Culture shock is a real thing. You just might end up spending your time being confused instead of enjoying the trip. With that said, it's highly recommended that you educate yourself about the countries you are visiting prior to boarding the plane. Google is your best friend here. It can save you a lot of trouble and unnecessary embarrassment. Don't be that "western tourist" who kicks up a trail of untoward incidents because he didn't do his research.

To help you get started, here are some practical pointers on how you should conduct yourself in Asia:
1. Always remove your shoes or slippers when entering a home or temple. This is especially true in places like Japan and countries in the southeast regions. Using your shoes inside homes and buildings isn't a big deal in western countries but it's a sign of disrespect in Asia. One way of determining if you aren't allowed to use your shoes or slippers inside of an establishment is to check the entrance. If there are shoes, slippers, and sandals at the entrance, then you should definitely remove yours.

2. Avoid using hugs and kisses as a form of greeting. Again, there's a huge difference between western and eastern values when it comes to greetings. Hugs and kisses may be acceptable in some urban areas in Asia but to be safe, avoid using them as much as possible. A simple handshake or a quick bow would often suffice to show your respect when meeting someone.

3. Fight for the bill when eating out. Asians are very hospitable people and they often find it disrespectful when you try to pay for the check after a shared meal. They also don't like being taken advantage of. So what you need to do is offer to pay for the bill but relent when your host refuses your offer. This is a very common practice especially in China. Arguing with the guest on who should pay the bill is considered polite.

4. Watch your body language because you might offend the locals. Always keep in mind that Asian cultures are usually conservative. For instance, public displays of affection are often frowned upon. So don't even think of kissing or intimately touching each other in full view and in public. Furthermore, certain hand gestures in the west have very different meanings when used in some part of Asia. For example, the thumbs up sign is the equivalent of sticking your tongue out in Thailand. And in Japan and China, beckoning someone with your index finger is considered insulting. Last but not the least, never use the crossed fingers as a sign of good luck or hope because it's seen as obscene in Asia.

5. Watch your behavior when eating at the dining table. Asians have some eating habits that you might find weird and strange. When eating noodles in China and Japan, it's customary to slurp as a sign that you're enjoying the meal. Dinner tables in Asia are often loud and quite messy. You should take part in the slurping action if you don't want to disrespect your host.

In South Korea, it's considered rude if you pick up your bowl of rice. This can be confusing because picking up the bowl is okay in Japan and China. Another etiquette you should always remember is that you should never bring drinks or food when you are invited for dinner or lunch. Asians find this rude because it makes the impression that they can't provide for all that you want to eat and drink.

Keeping all of these cultural pointers in mind will make your Asian trip more meaningful and free from embarrassing incidents. Don't be that uninformed tourist who ruins it for everyone.