Vietnamese Factory Workers

5 Not To Do In Asia, Cultural Appropriation Explained

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There can be many cultural differences that happen when you are traveling in Asia.  Sometimes, things happen, and you may feel like someone has insulted or invaded your personal space.  I have often said to live, work, and travel in Asia, you cannot also have self-esteem problems as someone will surely offend you somehow. 

In Asia, there can be many cultural differences. Here are 5 things not to get offended by in Asia: 1) total strangers commenting about your looks, 2) people asking personal questions, 3) lack of understanding of your personal space, 4) lack of etiquette, and 5) language blunders.

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Embracing Asian Cultural Differences: Five Points to Consider

Traveling in Asia can expose you to many cultural differences that might sometimes feel unfamiliar or even uncomfortable. Whether perceived as an unintended insult or an invasion of personal space, navigating these nuances is integral to the experience. Living, working, or traveling in Asia requires an open-minded approach, especially when it comes to handling situations that may initially feel offensive.

From strangers commenting on your appearance to questions that seem too personal, understanding local customs is key. This guide explores five common Asian cultural aspects that you may encounter, offering insights on why they shouldn’t be taken as offenses.”

1 – People in Asia Making Personal Comments such as “Oh, You So Fat!”  

Strangers may come up to you on the street and tell you that you are fat or have a big nose or why your hair is the color it is.  These are all personal questions we would never ask anyone in the West, but they consider this a good thing to ask or do in many parts of Asia.  

I realize it can be hard and challenging to get used to. It can also break your heart and hurt your self-esteem and pride. But most Asians do not mean it to hurt you or be mean. For many Asians, it is just how they talk to each other and part of their culture.

So if someone comes up to you and makes a derogatory comment, the best thing you can do is smile and learn to accept it. It is not personal, as it’s just part of traveling, living, and working in Asia.

2 – People in Asia Ask Personal Questions as “How Old Are You?” 

In the West, we rarely ask anyone their age. This is considered to be not only impolite but also can be downright rude, especially if asked by a complete stranger. But in Asia, do not be surprised if you are asked personal questions like this. Someone may even ask you how old you are, and then they sigh and look at you like, “Oh, you are so old.”

In many Asian cultures, asking your age is an acceptable part of their culture. In fact, in Vietnam, people may introduce themselves and tell you their age immediately.

The reason is that in Vietnamese, you will greet a person by the title of their age. If you are a woman older than me, I would call you “Chi,” but if you are younger, I would call you “Em.” Even if we are born the same year, but I am just a month younger than you, you would still call me “Em.”

Knowing your age can be a sign of respect for the Vietnamese, as they consider it essential as they want to know how to address you politely. This is why you need to understand a bit about the culture in the country you are traveling or visiting so you do not get offended by these culturally based personal questions.

3 – People in Asia Lacking Understanding Your Personal Space or “The Grabber.”

In Asia, I have had strangers come up to me to touch my blonde hair, grab me by the arm, and, in one circumstance, grab hold of both breasts – all in a very public setting.  I am not sure why many Asians think it is OK to grab hold of a stranger’s body part, but it will and can happen.

This is always a very tough cultural norm to address. I certainly feel anyone should know not to come up to touch a perfect stranger to touch them in any way without permission. In some cultures, this is acceptable behavior, or in the case of my blonde hair, some Asians I have met have never seen blonde hair before, so they wanted to touch it and see if it felt like their hair.

The best thing you can do is learn to politely tell them to stop it without getting too upset or getting too angry. In most circumstances, I have found they may not understand this is not something we do to each other in the West.

4 – Lack of Decorum or the “We Don’t Have Your Size” In Asia

Shopping in many parts of Asia can be daunting.  You can go into a store, and the clerks may look at you and immediately say, “Oh, we don’t have your size; you’re too big.” And then they start to laugh at you.   This can even happen in stores that serve Westerners regularly. 

I have found this to be a total lack of decorum, especially in the stores that cater to Westerners. The sales staff in those stores should be better trained and understand that you do not say things like this to a customer.

One of the best ways to handle this is to ignore their comments if there is something in the store that I want to buy. If not, I will walk out and find somewhere else to shop.

5 – Language Blunder or “Where the Hell Are You From?” In Asia

Once, I was in a taxi; a taxi driver was trying to ask me what country I was from. I can speak some Vietnamese and understood what he was asking me, but the driver assumed as I was a foreigner that I could not understand him, so he pulled out his phone that had a translation device. The translation system on the phone asked me, “Where the hell are you from?”

So many things can get mistranslated, whether by a translation app or another person. This is just part of living, working, or traveling in Asia.

Instead of getting upset, smile and answer.  There is little point in explaining to them the translation is off as they probably will not understand you anyway. 

Traveling to another culture can be a unique and wonderful experience. But at the same time, cultural differences will lead to cultural misunderstandings. One of the best things you can do is learn how not to be offended by these differences and smile politely. Getting upset or angry does not help the situation, especially when dealing with someone who may not understand what they have done to offend you.

If you are interested in learning more about how we can help you create, develop, and manufacture home decor and furniture products in Asia, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to contact Mondoro and Anita by clicking here or with her direct email by clicking here.

Find out more about how Mondoro can help you create, develop, and manufacture excellent home decor and furniture products – don’t hesitate to contact me, AnitaCheck out my email by clicking here or become a part of our community and join our newsletter by clicking here.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Travel Etiquette?

Travel etiquette is knowing about the culture and place you are traveling to and understanding what is or is not acceptable there. So if you travel to another country, be sure to do your homework and learn about the culture of the place you are traveling to. Study up about the acceptable dos and don’ts. If you do this, then you will have a more meaningful trip.

What are some Asian cultural do’s and don’ts?

Here are some basic Asian cultural dos and don’ts:

Don’t lose your temper in public. That is considered to show a lack of character.

Don’t point your feet at any sacred object, and in places like Thailand, you should not point your feet at anyone.

Know how to greet people. In some places like Thailand, you do not shake hands but put your hands together in a “wai.”

Remove your shoes before you enter a home.

Bargain at the market, but know when you also need to stop.

Do not touch someone’s head; it is considered the symbol of a sacred place as it is the highest place on the body.

Take a gift if you are invited to someone’s home.

Is it necessary to remove shoes before entering a home in Asia?

Yes, in many Asian countries, it is customary to remove shoes before entering someone’s home. This practice is a sign of respect and cleanliness. It’s important to observe this custom to show respect for local traditions.

How important is hierarchy in Asian cultures?

Hierarchy is very important in many Asian societies. Showing respect to elders and those in higher positions is a fundamental aspect of social interactions. Understanding and adhering to this hierarchy is crucial for effective communication and relationship-building.

What is the significance of face-saving in Asian cultures?

Face-saving refers to the act of preserving one’s dignity and reputation. In Asian cultures, maintaining face is crucial as it impacts personal and professional relationships. Being aware of this can help avoid situations that cause embarrassment or loss of respect for others.

Are public displays of affection acceptable in Asia?

Public displays of affection are generally frowned upon in many Asian cultures, especially conservative ones. It’s important to be mindful of this to avoid offending local sensibilities.

How do Asian cultures view punctuality?

Attitudes towards punctuality vary across Asia. In some countries, like Japan and South Korea, punctuality is highly valued, while in others, a more relaxed approach is taken. Knowing the local attitude towards time can help in making a good impression.

Is it appropriate to tip in Asian countries?

Tipping practices vary greatly across Asia. In some places, it’s customary and appreciated, while in others, it can be seen as unnecessary or even insulting. Researching local customs related to tipping can prevent uncomfortable situations.

How is negotiating conducted in Asian business cultures?

Negotiating in Asian business cultures often involves a more indirect and relationship-focused approach. Understanding the importance of building trust and relationships can lead to more successful business dealings.

What is the role of silence in communication in Asian cultures?

Silence can be a meaningful part of communication in many Asian cultures, often used to convey respect, thoughtfulness, or disagreement. Being comfortable with and understanding the use of silence can improve interpersonal interactions in Asia.

Where Did “Underwater Basket Weaving” Come From?

Underwater basket weaving is an English language idiom used to describe a fictional college course or degree that is entirely useless. The term was first used in print in the 1950s; since then, it has been used to describe university classes or degrees considered useless. The term underwater basket weaving is in the Urban Dictionary.

You can learn more by reading Where Did “Underwater Basket Weaving” Come From? by clicking here.

Water Hyacinth Baskets: Sustainable Storage Solutions

Water hyacinth baskets are products that have gained popularity in recent years. These natural baskets are beautiful and versatile but are also eco-friendly and sustainable. We explore water hyacinth, how it is grown, dried, and woven, and why it is considered eco-friendly. Read on as we also explore eleven ways water hyacinth baskets can be sustainable storage solutions.

You can discover more by reading Water Hyacinth Baskets: Sustainable Storage Solutions by clicking here.

About Weaving Water Hyacinth Baskets Into Home Décor Products

Water hyacinth is used to be a nuisance on the waterways around Vietnam as the water hyacinth plant grows on the water and is highly fast-growing. Today, the plant is cut, dried, and then handwoven into beautiful baskets and other home decor products. The water hyacinth material can be left in its natural color, dyed, or painted in various shapes and forms.

You can learn more by reading About Weaving Water Hyacinth Baskets Into Home Décor Products by clicking here.

Anita Hummel
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