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  #41  
Old 22 April 2008, 03:15 AM
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damian damian is offline
 
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I have learned to watch what the locals do, and copy that. Not all temples in Asian countries require the removal of shoes, but if I see a row of shoes at the door, then I would remove mine.

This can be quite tricky at times: Once, when I was in Bangkok for a Muay Thai tournament, I was at the concession stand waiting to buy a drink. The attendant would not even look at me. When I tried to get her attention, she tersely told me to wait, as the national anthem was playing. Oops. In my defence, it was hard to notice among the usual racket of "music" that is normally played at such events.
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  #42  
Old 22 April 2008, 03:54 AM
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A concession stand cashier once snapped at my dad for trying to buy a beer at a baseball game "while the national anthem (was) playing." He told her that was fine, but that "God Bless America" is not the national anthem. She still declined to sell him a beer until the song was over.
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  #43  
Old 22 April 2008, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by damian View Post
This can be quite tricky at times: Once, when I was in Bangkok for a Muay Thai tournament, I was at the concession stand waiting to buy a drink. The attendant would not even look at me. When I tried to get her attention, she tersely told me to wait, as the national anthem was playing. Oops. In my defence, it was hard to notice among the usual racket of "music" that is normally played at such events.
Many times while working in bars in Ireland, tourists would continue waltzing when the national anthem started playing at the end of the evening. They were always highly embarrased when they realised and stood to attention.

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We also learnt that a lot of tourists offended people by having their photos taken in front of Buddha statues as it's considered disrespectful to have your back to them. And that you shouldn't place statues of Buddha lower than face height (the cleaner of our room explained that when we left a carved wooden Buddha on the coffee table - again he was quite happy to know it would be high enough in it's permanent home. He was also very interested in us having it and whether we were Buddhists - but as there are many Hindu's there expalining that it was going to a house with Hindu God statues, and Catholic Saints didn't seem to phase him).
My aunt worked most of her life as a nurse in Africa. Having been born in Ireland, she had a small leprechaun statue on her bookshelf. But every time the cleaners had been in, they turned it to face the wall as they considered it threatning.

A woman I worked with was born Dutch, and got a shock when in hospital someone brought her a bunch of red and white flowers. They are only for funerals.
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  #44  
Old 23 April 2008, 10:40 PM
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Most customs are alike all over the occidental world, but there's one thing, that I have to tell you about us Swedes. When we go into someone's home, we remove our shoes, even if we don't live there, but only are guests. But it seems like in most other countries, it's considered rude to remove your shoes in a home, unless you live there. While if you don't remove your shoes in a Swedish home, it might not be considered rude, but people might think you're weird. Fortuneately, I've never visited any homes outside Sweden, so I've never offended anyone by removing my shoes.
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  #45  
Old 24 April 2008, 01:59 AM
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Originally Posted by songs78 View Post
If you want to feel foolish ask for chopsticks at a Thai restaurant.
Funnily enough, I had Thai today for the first time ever, at a school meeting. We had about 20 pairs of chopsticks for 8 people, so at least in OK the Thai have chopsticks.

Granted, I did not pick it up, so I don't know if they got weird looks.
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  #46  
Old 24 April 2008, 02:16 AM
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Some of my very favorite chopstick sets are from Thailand. Go figure. (On the other hand, my very favorite set of chopsticks was made in the USA.)
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  #47  
Old 24 April 2008, 07:31 AM
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Originally Posted by forceflow15 View Post
Funnily enough, I had Thai today for the first time ever, at a school meeting. We had about 20 pairs of chopsticks for 8 people, so at least in OK the Thai have chopsticks.

Granted, I did not pick it up, so I don't know if they got weird looks.
Many Thai restaurants in the US including the Seattle area offer chopsticks for use. But that's primarily because non Thai people request them.

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It is worth noting that the Thai eat with a spoon, fork and knife. In Southeast Asia, only the Vietnamese eat with chopsticks, so next time you'll know why your waiter in the Thai restaurant coughs when you ask for chopsticks.
http://www.cuisinenet.com/glossary/thai1.html

This wikipedia article shows that doing one thing in one country would be considered rude in another country.
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  #48  
Old 24 April 2008, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Furienna View Post
Most customs are alike all over the occidental world, but there's one thing, that I have to tell you about us Swedes. When we go into someone's home, we remove our shoes, even if we don't live there, but only are guests. But it seems like in most other countries, it's considered rude to remove your shoes in a home, unless you live there. While if you don't remove your shoes in a Swedish home, it might not be considered rude, but people might think you're weird. Fortuneately, I've never visited any homes outside Sweden, so I've never offended anyone by removing my shoes.
A lot of places where the climate is bad have a shoe removing policy. I believe people in Minnesota remove their shoes but then again they have a large Scandinavian population
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  #49  
Old 24 April 2008, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by songs78 View Post
A lot of places where the climate is bad have a shoe removing policy. I believe people in Minnesota remove their shoes but then again they have a large Scandinavian population
Let me assure you, it's due to the former and not the latter.
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  #50  
Old 24 April 2008, 08:01 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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"During the Middle Ages, it was thought that French soldiers would permanently disarm English bowmen by cutting off their middle and index fingers, the ones they used to draw the bowstring. Consequently, the English were said to celebrate battlefield victories and taunt the French by displaying these two digits intact. "

Sounds like another tale to me.
The way I heard it on some documentary, it was not something the French ever did, but that they had promised to do it before the Battle of Agincourt in order to demoralize the English. This had the opposite effect, as the English waved the two fingers at the French in a "Come get 'em" gesture. As the battle went the way it went, we'll never know if the French would actually have gone through with it.
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  #51  
Old 24 April 2008, 08:59 AM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
 
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Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
The way I heard it on some documentary, it was not something the French ever did, but that they had promised to do it before the Battle of Agincourt in order to demoralize the English. This had the opposite effect, as the English waved the two fingers at the French in a "Come get 'em" gesture. As the battle went the way it went, we'll never know if the French would actually have gone through with it.
It was the first three fingers that were said to have been threatened. For some reason -- well for the pretty obvious reason that it makes a more believable story -- those accounts (generally emerging in the late 1990's, as far as I can tell) claiming this is the origin of one salute or another have changed the story to one or two fingers.

The point is that the connection to the gesture has never been anything more than a fanciful story. It probably arose when someone heard the story of Agincourt and thought, "That must be how..." Or maybe they just thought it would make a good tale. Some books even take this story back to the Norman invasion so I wonder if even the part about threatening to cut fingers is not true. I haven't been able to find it in any old historical books on the subject, only those printed after 1985. (ETA - Interestingly, the further back you go with this story, the more the accounts say that the archer's whole right hand was threatened with amputation.)

In short: Yes, this story is now in many books and presumably documentaries but, no, it isn't true.

Last edited by ganzfeld; 24 April 2008 at 09:09 AM.
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  #52  
Old 24 April 2008, 09:27 AM
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Don Enrico Don Enrico is offline
 
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From the OP's article:
Quote:
When I curled my thumb and index finger into a circle and pointed the other three fingers upward, my intention was to tell the Brazilian hotel clerk that everything had been "OK." That would have worked fine at home in the U.S., but in Brazil it's considered vulgar.

The OK sign is not OK in many other places too, including most of the rest of Latin America, plus Germany, Malta, Tunisia, Greece, Turkey, Russia and the Middle East.
As far as I know (and I'm living here all my life), the OK sign isn't quite commonly used in Germany, but most will understand it, and nobody will take offence. I don't know where Mr Ecenbarger got the opposite impression.

Don "OK is OK" Enrico
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  #53  
Old 24 April 2008, 09:46 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Another sign used in Sweden, although less common now, that might get you into trouble elsewhere, is the "slit across the throat with the thumb". It's used to tell someone to stop their vehicle or stop their engine.

The we have the sign of humping the air while shouting "Yes! Yes! Yes!" as a general sign of happiness over a success. Increasingly more common, but should be avoided in more formal circumstances.
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  #54  
Old 24 April 2008, 11:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
It probably arose when someone heard the story of Agincourt and thought, "That must be how..." Or maybe they just thought it would make a good tale. Some books even take this story back to the Norman invasion so I wonder if even the part about threatening to cut fingers is not true.
The main problem with the idea is that if the two-finger salute gesture did date back as far as Agincourt, then surely it would be known in the USA too? Being known in the UK and Australia / NZ but not North America (do Canadians use it?) suggests - to me at least - that it didn't originate much before the 19th century and might even be a wartime thing (First world war?). There are pictures of Churchill giving the "V for Victory" sign the wrong way round, after all.

By the way, everybody seems to think it means "up yours", as in the one finger gesture - I always thought it meant fairly specifically "f*ck off". Is that just me?
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  #55  
Old 24 April 2008, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
By the way, everybody seems to think it means "up yours", as in the one finger gesture - I always thought it meant fairly specifically "f*ck off". Is that just me?
Same here. 2 fingers for eff off, and 1 finger for piss off. Absolutely no idea why though
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  #56  
Old 24 April 2008, 12:33 PM
Jay Tea Jay Tea is offline
 
 
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D'oh!

One finger, 'The Bird', had always meant 'up yours' in my swede. Two fingers, flagging somebody off, has never had a specific verbal connotation and is used to reflect a silent but intangible ill-feeling. If i'm particularly miffed I turn the two fingers around mid-gesture and mime jabbing the fingers into the recipient's eyes.

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  #57  
Old 24 April 2008, 12:47 PM
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damian damian is offline
 
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The two-fingered salute was around when I was growing up (in the 70's) and the "bird" came later. Nowadays, the two-fingered version is a more "friendly" version and is not seen to be as bad as the single digit.


BTW - From what I have gathered, the longbowmen at Agincourt did not have as much affect on the outcome as most people give them credit for. As I understand it, the French infantry fell over in the mud and, because of their armour, couldn't get up again.

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Historians have always put this triumph down to the most feared weapon in Europe - England's trump card, the longbow. But new research is beginning to tell quite a different story
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  #58  
Old 24 April 2008, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by songs78 View Post
A lot of places where the climate is bad have a shoe removing policy. I believe people in Minnesota remove their shoes but then again they have a large Scandinavian population
Defnitely a climate thing which has been suprisingly hotly debated here amongst the North Americans on the board. Those of us from the northern climates tend to do it automatically while some people from warmer climates think that expecting your guests to do so is rude. It has nothing to do with cultural heritage and everything to do with the mess that a pair of shows can make in the winter time.
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  #59  
Old 24 April 2008, 08:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by songs78 View Post
Red is considered lucky in China and Japan. So some people will go out of their way to write names in the color red and get the opposite effect.
BTW, if you are in Japan and someone wants to take a black and white picture of you wearing a suit....you're a gonner....
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  #60  
Old 25 April 2008, 04:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by songs78 View Post
A lot of places where the climate is bad have a shoe removing policy.
It isn't always based on climate though, it can also be based on if you are living in a more rural setting or not. If you have enough land to have horses or other livestock, you take your shoes off when you come in the house. If you're in town it depends on the family.
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