Thursday, October 22, 2009

Face Book's Public Babble and Death Notices


Today while happily tooling around on Facebook, I inadvertently happened upon a comment made to someone else about their friend's father. They wrote that the friend had posted that his father had died, today! Horrible. Sad. A bit shocking.

Oh my goodness. There goes my happy mood. Please do not post any comments on Facebook (or for that matter verbally repeat) anything you would not want the town parrot repeating or the town gossip publishing in the afternoon social pages of the town paper.

Please DO NOT post someone's death on Facebook. Send the intended person a personal, private "message" instead.

Merci beaucoup et Au Revoir, y'all.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Continental vs. American Dining Style

Europeans used to dine just like Americans, eating with their fork in their right hand, until the 1840's.

Then, the British upper classes stopped shifting their forks back to their right hand and just kept their forks in their left hands to dine.

In 1853, a French etiquette book stated that if one wanted to appear fashionable and "In the Know", one should not shift one's fork back into the right hand while dining, thus began the European "Continental" style of eating. Before long, Europeans of all classes started eating in the Continental style.

In many European countries, eating in the American style is still suspect after seven Centuries. Folk Lore states that in the 14th Century, men eating together, (the women ate in the kitchen), used to hide daggers up their sleeves, then stab each other after the meal commenced. Stabbing at the dining table became so wide spread, the King finally put forth a decree stating everyone sitting at the table must have their wrists above the table, so all others may see no one is hiding any daggers up their sleeves.

An American Diplomatic Attache recently went to Germany on business. He ate in the American style with his right hand keeping his left hand in his lap throughout the entire business meal. The Germans at the table thought the American Attache was hiding something. They perceived him as dishonest. The German Host called the American Ambassador to Germany the next morning and told him: "Next time, send an Attache with a bit more style." This Attache thought he was "In the Know", but in fact, he "didn't know what he didn't know."

Both Continental and American styles of dining are correct. Be comfortable with the one you choose and stick to your choice! So, as history clearly states, it was the Europeans who changed styles, not the Americans!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Americans Abroad, Asian Etiquette and Manners

Asians are some of the most adaptable people in the world when it comes to other cultures. They take the rules of etiquette very seriously. When traveling, they do not expect other countries to be just like their country, except a different geographic location. Americans often do expect foreign countries to have the same amenities, customs, dress, behavior, comforts.

It has been said that Americans are ethnocentric. We appear to care nothing about other cultures, and worse, care nothing about learning. We expect other cultures to live just as we do and complain when they do not. The whole point of visiting another culture is to immerse oneself in their way of life, cuisine, traditions, customs, dress, mannerisms. To respect their religion, behavior, and know the rules of etiquette. To fit in.

Today we address Asian culture and offer a few tips for our kind readers. Always look up the weather and religion before traveling so one may pack appropriate clothes. Learn a few key phrases such as your "magic words: please, may I, thank you. The following are a few good to know phrases:
  • Hello, Good Afternoon and Evening is: Ni hao, pronounced "Nee how"
  • Good Morning is: Zao, pronounced "Dzow"
  • Please is: Qung, pronounced "Ching"
  • Thank you is: Xiexie, pronounced "Syeh Syeh"
  • Yes is: Shi, pronounced "Sher"
  • Goodbye is: Zaijian, pronounced "Dzigh-jy-en"

Next, we list a few good to know tips that will help our readers understand the Asian culture in general. Each country will have particular rules, but these are just general, hopefully helpful tips:

  • The Chinese do not "line up." They push in large crowds.
  • Confucianism is not a religion. It is a way of life based on the "Golden Rule." Treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. It also encompasses the idea of the communal rather than personal. The art of living and the good of the group takes precedence over individuality.
  • Buddhism, Islam ism, Taoism, Hinduism and Shinto are other religions in China.
  • Western Handshakes are lighter and less firm. To bow is a respectful gesture.
  • Eye contact in Asia is always short. Looking at someone for too long, or starring is used as punishment by Mothers to their children who are bad.
  • Always accept a business card with both hands, look at it, pause, then put it nicely away in a purse or front jacket pocket. DO NOT put it in your back pocket as this is considered to be an insult.
  • Be reserved in speech, volume of speech, dress and posture.
  • A smile from an Asian may mean anger, fear, humiliation or apology.
  • DO NOT Use any hand gestures. NO "thumbs up." No "O.K." sign with your hand. DO NOT put your hands in your pockets. Keep your hands at your sides instead. NEVER touch anyone on the shoulder, arm or anywhere. DO NOT ever pass an object to a woman unless a close relationship has been established.
  • Eat slowly and mind your intake. Asian dinners often consist of a dozen small courses. Taste all and enjoy.
  • Sauces are for light dipping. Do not fully dunk or saturate your food.
  • The rice bowl is on the LEFT. Rice is eaten with chopsticks. NEVER lick your chopsticks or point them at anyone as Asians consider to to be very rude.
  • The soup bowl is on the RIGHT. The solid morsels are eaten with chopsticks. Noodles are eaten by bringing the bowl to your mouth and slurping the noodles from the chopsticks. Slurping is good. Slurping is a compliment to the chef. The liquid soup is drunk directly from the bowl. Replace the lid on the soup bowl when you are finished. Neatly place your chopsticks on top of the lid, or on the chopstick rest.
  • Asian legend says: if one holds one's chopsticks close to the tips, one will marry someone close to where you live. If one holds one's chopsticks far up, and away from the tips, one will marry someone far away from where you live.
  • Never give a gift, like flowers, in a quantity of 13. Never give a gift of flowers that are white. White flowers are reserved for funerals. The color black is also associated with death. Clocks are associated with death. The numbers 4 and 40 and sets of four are unlucky. Red wrapping is the color of choice for a gift.
  • NEVER give a gift of knives, scissors, or other sharp items, not even with a "lucky penny" attached.
  • ALWAYS ask permission before photographing anyone.
  • ALWAYS show respect for the elderly.

These rules of etiquette are general to Asia. Specific regions have particular rules. Best to check the region you are visiting and check the exact local customs and manners and rules of etiquette. Relax and enjoy!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Handy Household Tips: Eggs, Water, Salt and Dancing

Here are some simple helpful hints for the house:

A Handy Weight: If you ever need to weigh an article down, place a bucket of water on a board over the article. One gallon of water weighs approximately eight pounds.

To Preserve eggs: Believe it or not, if eggs are boiled for one minute, they will keep fresh for one month. Eggs will keep for six months of they are steeped for a little while in sweet oil.

To Easily Shell Boiled Eggs: After boiling the eggs, dip them in cold water. This will keep the eggs a bright color. Roll the egg back and forth between the palms of your hands and you will be able to pull the shell of easily. An egg that has a dip in one end of it larger than your thumb is an old egg. It is not a bad egg, just not so fresh.

To Get a Cake Out of a Pan: after greasing the pan, sprinkle flour over the bottom of the pan, then cut out, fit and place a piece of wax paper on the bottom of the pan. If the cake is in a Bunt pan and you cannot use the wax paper, after taking the cake out of the oven, stand the cake tin on a damp cloth for a minute or two and the cake will come out quite whole.

To stretch eggs: when beating eggs with fork or whisk, add a little water to stretch the eggs. Water will also make the eggs lighter in omelettes and cakes. The addition of water makes the eggs easier to beat.

Many Uses for Salt:

  • Drink a glass of cold water, ten minutes later put a pinch of salt on your tongue, and your headache should be cured.

  • Salt makes your teeth whiter, hardens up your gums and sweetens your breath.

  • Salt added to flower water keeps the flowers fresher longer.

  • New potatoes will scrape much easier if a little salt is dissolved in the water

  • When boiling eggs, sprinkle salt in the boiling water before adding the eggs and the shells will not crack, and the insides will not leak out.

  • Soak your tired feet in salt and water after a long day or a long night of "Dancing With The Stars," and your feet will feel better the next day.

Dance and have fun!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Middle Eastern Manners - Etiquette, Customs, Gestures - Part II

Middle Eastern Manners - Part II

Arab Languages are related to Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac. Thee are dozens of regional dialects. There are 28 letters and the language is written and read right to left and spoken by over 150 million people.
Regional dialects include: Egyptian, Iraqi, Gulf, Levantine.
Family is the foundation of Arab society. Identity is based on heritage of desert, nomadic culture. Arabs have a keen sense of social rank and clan identity.
Names are formed for you by your Patrilineal string. Other than your formal first name given to you by your parents, your name is done already. The structure is: Formal given first name + Abd (servant of), + bin(m) or bint(f), + Father's first name, + Paternal Grandfather's first name, + tribe or region. An example is my name: Katherine Abd bint Bruce Chester Seneca Falls
Honor and Dishonor are very important in Arab culture. "Saving Face" in the group is paramount. A woman's honor is based on her behavior. A man's honor is based on his behavior and the behavior of all of his family members, particularly the female family members. The pressure to restore one's honor when shamed can be enormous. Chastity is directly related to one's honor. Islam and Arab society segregate the sexes from puberty. Covering a woman's body is done out of modesty and is essential. The Qur'an (Koran) says only the hair has to be covered. The "Black Burka" is worn only by family modesty. Men are also required to dress modestly.
Women are limited to one husband. Men may have up to four wives. Arranged marriages exist, but are frowned upon.
Arab Culture dictates that Group Rights trump Individual Rights. Different from most Western Cultures, desert cultures emphasize group survival secondary to the individual comfort. Decisions are made by consensus, and again, different from Western countries, Arab countries prefer consultation with regional neighbors. This fact alone emphasizes the importance of U.S. coalition-building.
In Arab culture, nothing happens unless it is the will of God or as they say: "If God Wills." Negatively speaking, this way of thinking can foster a culture of blamelessness and a reluctance to accept responsibility, and a lack of self-criticism.
Similar to European etiquette, hand gestures to avoid include: pointing with an index finger or pencil and the "OK" or "Thumbs up" hand gestures. Keep your hands out of yor pockets. Also, the left hand is considered unclean as it is used for toileting. Always eat with the right hand. If you steal and are convicted, your right hand will be cut off, thus forcing you to eat with your left hand for the rest of your life, which is considered to be the greatest insult.
When speaking to an Arab: always stand up straight, and stand for all introductions. Keep your hands out of your pockets. Keep the soles of your feet always on the floor. Placing your right hand on your chest at greeting denotes respect and thankfulness. Dressing too casually is considered to be disrespectful.
Arabs care more for sincerity and respect than exact observance of cultural norms. Enjoy time spent with your Arab friends. Be sensitive, but relax. Show your interest in their culture!

*This information is from a seminar I attended at The Protocol School of Washington. This session was taught by Cynthia Rambo, Chief of Protocol, Shaw Air Force Base.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Middle Eastern Cultural Tips and Customs -Part I

There are many definitions for what and where is the Middle East.

  • Arab is not an ethnicity.
  • Arabs represent approximately 18% of Muslims, but their language, culture and religion permeate the Islamic world.
  • The Koran was delivered to Muhammad in Arabic, so speaking Arabic is a foundation and plays a central role in the practice of Islam.
  • Ethnic Arabs originate from the Arabian Gulf region, but the spread of Islam and the Islamic Empire absorbed a host of other ethnic groups.
  • Some of the countries considered to be "Arab" countries are: Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Yeman, Syria, Iraq, Oman, Somalia, Jordan, Western Samara and Mauritania.
  • The Islamic religion is the fastest growing religion in the world: 1-1.4 billion believers which is 20% of the world population. There are 6 million believers in the USA.
  • 90% of the Middle East is Muslim (65% Sunni, 29% Shi'a)

Muhammad was born in 570 A.D. in Mecca and orphaned at a young age and lived with his uncle. He became a caravan merchant and married Khadija, a trader. He received his first revelation in the year 610 A.D. and for 20 years afterwards. He fled to Yathrib in 622 A.D. He returned to Mecca in 630 A.D. and died in 632 A.D. without a successor and was buried in Medina. This is when many splits in the religion happened. Sunnis are those who follow the sunna, or example, of Muhammad. Their leaders are thought to be the "best person" as an example of Muhammad. Shi'a, are those who are the Party of Ali or Shi'at Ali, and believe the succession of leaders should be hereditary, or blood relatives of Muhammad. Many disputes center on the rightful leadership of the community. The Islamic world is 85% Sunni and 15% Shi'a.

The foundations of Islam include the Five Pillars:

  1. Shahada, or Profession of Faith
  2. Salat, or Prayers
  3. Zakat, or Alms Giving
  4. Sawm, orFasting
  5. Hajj, or Pilgramage

Most people are humble and pray when convenient, not necessarily 5 times per day. One must wash one's hands and feet prior to prayer and pray during the washing too. One's head must touch the lowest point on the ground.

Muslims are required to donate 2.5% of their income to the homeless. Also, as a kindness, bring them into their homes for a meal without reservation. There are NO orphanages because the giving capacity of the communities is so very great and the important family structure does not warrant orphanages.

The one thing in common with Islam, Christianity and Judaism is the Universal God. Other similarities with Christianity and Judaism are:

  • Oneness of God
  • Prophets and Divine Revelation
  • Angels
  • Satan
  • Moral responsibility and accountability
  • Judgement Day
  • Eternal reward or Punishment
  • Covenant with God
  • Peace, love and charity

The Muslim religion has no "Pope." There is NO chosen leader for the "lesser Jihed." Osama bin Laden DOES NOT have the support of the Muslim society.

Family is the foundation of Arab society. Extended family is treasured as the obligation for their care runs very deep. Arabs have a keen sense of social rank and clan identity. Familial bonds are much closer, deeper and larger than in typical Western families. Business meetings very often happen in the home surrounded by extended family centered around a large, long meal.

This information was from a seminar I attended at The Protocol School of Washington. This session was taught by Cynthia Rambo, Chief of Protocol , Shaw Airforce Base. Enjoy these tips!