What defines one culture or another?

Culture refers to the collective historical patterns, values, societal arrangements, manners, ideas, and ways of living that people have used to order their society. It is composed of all those things we learn as part of growing up including language,religion, beliefs about economic and social relations, political organization, and the thousands of”Do’s and Don’ts” society deems important that we know to become a functioning member of that group.
When one is unaware of other cultural practices, it is easy to make mistakes. Below is a list of some possible cultural faux pas:

Americans tend to answer questions as quickly as possible, but Asians take their time to formulate their response. Silence for as much as twenty seconds would not be unusual and does not indicate inattention or refusal to answer .

Asian students may be reluctant to ask questions, as identifying problems would be a “face” diminishing act. They also tend to avoid asking qu estions in class out of respect for the teacher and would be most reluctant to correct an error made by a teacher.

• African regions : A left – handed handshake. Offering and accepting things with the left hand.

• Arab countries, Indian Subcontinent, Japan, Middle East, East Africa, South – East Asia :. A left – handed handshake or passing food at the table with the left hand.

Scandinavia, Central and Eastern Europe, Japan, China, Hawaii, India : It is considered unacceptable to enter someone’s household and leave your shoes on your feet. It is also considered impolite in many Canadian households, but not as universally .

China : Giving someone a timepiece as a gift. The phrase “giving a timepiece” is a homonym for burying the dead. It is also considered rude to eat first before the elders. Another faux pas at the dining table would be to eat a side dish without coming back to eating rice. This is viewed as a faux pas in Japan as well.

• Central and Eastern Europe : Shaking hands while wearing gloves (this does not apply to women).

France : Asking an individual their job or name directly. Offering someone a gift of chrysanthemums on an occasion other than a funeral (as chrysanthemus  are generally associated with death in France).

• India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma : Eating or shaking hands with the left hand, not greeting family elders at a gathering, addressing elders without salutations.

Japan : When greeting or thanking another person, not bowing lower than an elder or a person of higher social status. Passing food from one pair of chopsticks to another is also considered rude. The latter is also viewed as a faux pas in other Asian countries such as China.

Korea : Not bowing when greeting or thanking an elder. Writing someone’s name in red (which normally symbolizes death).

• Middle East : Addressing an elder or person higher in social status with his/her bare name. Words like uncle/aunt, (elder) brother/sister or formally Mr./Mrs. are expected to be used.

• India, Pakistan : Walking with shoes on the carpet inside a house. Calling an elder or a stranger of the opposite  sex with just their name.

• Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia : Giving somebody an even number of flowers , which should only be done in funerals.

• South America , Spain , and other Spanish-speaking countries: Neglecting to greet someone at a social / family gathering. Any kind of large gathering of friends or family should be started b y greeting every person present and ended by making sure to say goodbye upon leaving. This rule is more relaxed in a group of young people. Generally these formalities are far more relaxed in Latin America than in Spain.

Thailand : Stepping over or standing on bills or coins — they all have the face of the King, who is highly revered. Also, touching a Thai person on their head, as the head is considered a sacred part of the body. Food must be kept above the ground level.

Bangladesh, India, Pakistan : Stepping/sitting on paper, books, money, or religious items is considered inappropriate.

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