Welcome back to my Open Your Eyes series.
As you all know what this famous phrase of “Be a Roman when in Rome” means, I am not getting into the details. It just means know the local culture and people so as to enjoy your trip to full extent. Right?
Today, I am going to highlight why knowing local culture is so important even to a tourist. Add more to that, from my own experience of the visits I had made to Asian countries like Japan.
I have been visiting Japan since 2000. Majority of the days I have stayed in remote villages around Osaka (specifically, Yokkaichi). I have wondered about the kind of difference between a big city like Tokyo & such small villages.
Being around such small villages help you to know the local cultures more easily and interestingly. Here is an interesting incident during one such visit, which started as just a casual discussion.
Knowing Local Culture
Those days, I had no knowledge about the chop sticks. Forget eating, I can’t even hold it in my hand.
It always reminded me of the “Dandhiya Sticks“. I kept playing with it, and loved the “click-click” sound it makes. Of course, when I was alone.
Jokes apart, I did try to learn to use chopsticks in a while, and managed to hold & pick some food from the bowl!
The moment I was little confident to use the chopstick, I wanted to show my friends.
We went for the dinner, and as usual, my friends instructed the waiter to bring the spoons and forks for me. You should have seen the face and the shock they all had when I said no.
There was a chorus of “Honto?” (Really?) from the table. I smiled, and was proud that I am going to be a local, finally.
When the food arrived, people were more interested in seeing me playing with the chopsticks than their own food. They were all on laughs seeing me struggling to get the rice from the bowl. But they did encourage me to continue.
Initially, I was keeping the chopsticks between my fingers. But then when I wanted to drink water, I fixed the chopstick to the rice bowl, and took the glass of water.
That was it. Big silence on the table. I was both surprised, and confused.
After drinking, I took the chopstick, and continued to eat. Things went on.
Later, after a couple of days I came to know from one of the friend that fixing the chopstick in the rice bowl upright, means a great insult and is disrespectful.
Me too was on same boat. Then he went on to explain the reason.
Japanese, serve the rice to the dead exactly with the chopsticks fixed upright in the rice. So, doing it on the dinner table have sent a wrong message of insult to my other friends, and hence they were all felt hurt.
Had I did a bit of home work and known this fact, I would not have behaved in such manner, right?
That is exactly why we travel bloggers keeps advising travellers to learn some local culture before making the travel. Especially to remote places, where the traditions are still very much alive, and any deviations will be considered as a disrespect.
It never hurts to put that little effort to know such things.
Interesting Facts on Chopsticks
- In China alone, around 25 million trees are cut to produce chopsticks. A single tree provides 4000 chopsticks, the longest in size when compared with any other Asian countries.
- Japanese chopsticks are shorter and more delicate. And they are tapered in the tip.
- Chinese chopsticks are with squared, or also round corners.
- Japanese were the first to come up with the “single use” Chopsticks.
- Both in China & Japan, it is acceptable to raise your bowl and shovel the rice into your mouth. Even with the chopsticks.
- In Korea, such acts are considered very bad manners. It is better to use spoon instead.
I am sure, you all learnt an important piece of lesson from this month’s Open your eyes series.
Have you got similar experience in a foreign country? What was the cultural shock, or pleasant things you saw in your travel?
Let me know such interesting incidents of yours in the comment section.
Good luck, and happy Learning!!!