Just thought I’d share a list of cultural norms that I am used to since I have been corrected as I was growing up. I thought visitors here might find the list useful. I would love to hear about the cultural norms in your country that I am probably not aware of.
1. Wearing black to a wedding. (it’s considered bad luck and for Indian weddings no white saris for women either as that’s for widows – thanks for reminding me thinkpink)
2. Pointing at someone with your finger.
3. Touching an adult on the head.
4. Kicking or touching a book with your foot (in Indian Culture)
5. Visiting someone without bringing a gift (in Indian Culture)
6. Dogs as pets although cats are ok, which is why you will see a no dog sign at most Indian Muslim prata shops (in Muslim culture)
7. Presenting someone with a bouquet of Frangipani. My French cousin’s favourite flower is the frangipani, but as a child growing up we were often told that if we got a whiff of the scent of this flower it meant a ghost or spirit was lurking and it scared the heck out of us. The white of the frangipani is associated with funerals in Asian culture.
8. Calling an older person by their name instead of addressing them as uncle or aunty is considered very rude
9. Visiting your friend’s house and not saying “hello aunty” or “hello uncle” when you see their parents is a sign of bad manners.
10. Being too abrupt or direct at work (or even at home) may get you in trouble with the boss or client (it’s the opposite of American culture, where directness and speaking your mind is valued and expected). You should pay attention to subtle hints, facial expressions and non verbal queues like significant silence. It comes naturally to locals, but might be a frustrating uphill battle if you’re not used to all these cues.
11. Speaking too loudly in public. You will notice that Asian usually whisper and hardly say a word when in a lift.
12. Public Displays of Affection or what is known as PDA in Singapore is frowned upon. Basically kissing and beyond. But we’re getting more used to this as the country becomes more cosmopolitan. Don’t try this in Malaysia though. It’s considered illegal for locals to kiss, hold hands or hug in public, in East Malaysia.
13. Don’t give watches or clocks as a gift as it’s considered ill will in Chinese culture (thanks Kirsten!)
14. When you give an ang pow during Chinese New Year always give even numbers, odd numbers denote lonliness.