Since I’m attempting to visit several different countries while using NZ as home base, and was recently the recipient of some classic, cold European manners, I thought it would be interesting to compare a few things American with those of the South Pacific.
In America we hold doors open for others, chew with our mouths closed, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ and answer telephone calls and/or emails/text messages/etc. promptly (unless we’re avoiding you, and hopefully we have a good reason). At prep school, we learned to pass pitchers with the handle facing out, to greet everyone older than us as ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am,’ and not to use dirty words when the dormitory mother was within ear shot. We also kept the television volume on ‘super-low’ during study hall hours. These are just a few of my favorites.
So how do we compare? It’s always quite interesting to learn about other places around the world, especially other English-speaking countries. The variations in language, culture, conduct, etc. are intriguing. Many places have been impacted by the global market, economy, and media machines so it is difficult to say how much of the pure society has been kept from some new and some ancient societies. Here’s a little that I dug up. Please feel free to make comments or post suggestions/discoveries of your own.
New Zealand: According to one ex-Kiwi now living in Portland, it’s rude to address someone as ‘sir’ in NZ culture. I find it hard to believe an ex-British colony does not use such honorary titles, and kiwiessential.co.uk confirmed that. Also, apparently it’s polite to smile, but don’t be too friendly until they get to know you better.
Australia: Australians, on the other hand, have absolutely no qualms in calling you by your first name from the get-go. It is also similarly considered rude to not participate in a social activity without good reason. Friendships, ‘mates,’ are also vitally important, and society reinforces reciprocal friendships even in business.
Thailand: Raising your voice and speaking negatively are faux pas’ in Thai society. I knew several girls at prep school from Thailand, and they were unequally pleasant ladies. I’m sure they would not appreciate good, American sarcasm. You also are not allowed Public Displays of Affection. Not sure this is such a bad rule actually…
Fiji: Not much info out there…Anyone know a Fijian so I can ask them?
China: Apparently the residents of Beijing are going along with the customs of the rest of China: the New York Times reports spitting on the sidewalk is down by half and even less continue to litter. Also, the Chinese are supposedly humorous enough to appreciate American jokes, which can be quite bad, and don’t mind making small talk about the weather, general business, family, or Chinese food. I’ll be sure to remember that.