Your map to being a good tourist

by By Michelle Chin (mchin@sph.com.sg)
published on 21 June 2016

You do not have to look far for a travel destination. Asia offers a wide variety of activities and places of interest for travellers.

Asia is a melting pot of cultures, but each culture has its own unique set of dos and don'ts. For a better travel experience, acquaint yourself with the culture and social etiquette of the country you are visiting.

South Korea

If you need to beckon someone in South Korea, do so with your palm facing downwards. It is considered impolite to beckon someone with your palm facing upwards.  

Accept objects with your right hand or with both hands. Refrain from doing so with only your left hand.

Some eateries have low tables and provide cushions for guests to sit on. The floor heating system will be switched on if it is cold.

Ms Jane Chang, the head of marketing communications at Chan Brothers Travel, said: “In dining establishments with such seating arrangements, remember to remove your shoes before taking a seat.”

When consuming rice, unlike the Japanese or Chinese, South Koreans do not lift their rice bowls off the table, but eat from their bowls at the table.

A pair of kitchen scissors may be placed on the dining table for cutting meat or noodles into more bite-sized pieces. 

Ms Chang said: “Soups or stews may be served in large communal serving bowls or platters instead of individual servings. You can eat directly from the communal dishes, or place your share into the individual serving bowls provided.”

Thailand and China

In Thailand, the general way to greet a local will be with a “wai”. Do this by pressing your palms together in a prayer-like gesture.

The head is considered a sacred area of a Thai’s body. Never touch someone on the head and avoid pointing at people or objects with your feet.

In China, eating around a communal table is a common practice. Avoid gesturing with your chopsticks or tapping your bowl with them.

If you are served fish, refrain from turning it over to debone it. Instead, lift the fish's backbone near the tail and gently tug upwards to dislodge the bone from the meat below.