Saturday, November 11, 2006

Les faux pas

Andy recently sent me a Wikipedia link on faux pas. I'm not really sure, but does this stem from the differently-spelled french phrase "Il ne faut pas" (one shouldn't)?

Anyway, as a mutt of varying cultures (I like to call myself an ABCFC: American-Born Chinese-Filipino-Canadian) who's also spent some time in France, I sought to seek out whether I really have been avoiding those "shouldn'ts" correctly.

Canada
"Canadians are extremely polite when it comes to mild physical faux pas such as stepping on feet or bumping into others. Often both parties will briefly apologise, including the person who was bumped."
Maybe that's why the world thinks Canada is so nice. We're all sorry, ALL THE TIME.
"Not waiting at the end of a queue for your turn ("cutting in line") is considered extremely rude. This applies in all areas of public interaction."
Sure, this is true in a lot of places, but see, Canadians are very rule-following. Like, there's NO WAY we'd try slipping into the grocery store "Less Than 15 Items" line with 16 items. No freaking way.
"Failing to hold a door open for another person is seen as very impolite, especially when doing so would require no special effort."
Sometimes strangers going through the door before you will wait up to 5 seconds while you make your way to the door. I think that's because a door swinging back towards you requires twice as much force to open. And that's just too much.
"The common American custom of responding to a thank-you with "uh-huh" is very disconcerting for Canadians. In Canada, "uh-huh" is a colloquial way to respond to a yes or no question; in any other context it is a sarcastic response."
I always get that when I go cross-border shopping in Washington. You know, I'd go to try on some jeans, and the lady comes to open the door for me.

Me: "Thanks!"
American change-room lady: "Uh huh!"
Me: *face contorts as I enter the changeroom*

Uncool.

The Philippines
At church, I'm often surrounded by first or second generation Filipinos. What I think is polite becomes offensive.
It is impolite to refuse an offer of hospitality if you are a guest in someone's home.
This is hard for polite canadians (even harder for Japanese, I'd imagine) who don't want to "bother" people. But if you're around Filipinos, don't ever say no.

They will try to make you stay for dinner, give you packages of dried mangoes before you go home, offer a ride, or even give you a trinket/piece of clothing that they don't need anymore but think you might appreciate. EVEN IF YOU DON'T WANT IT, TAKE IT SLASH EAT IT. They'll be happy, and you can donate it to Big Brothers afterwards. If you don't accept their offer, you get called "hiya" a filipino word that basically indicates "shame" (from the Culture of the Philippines)

France
"For both sexes, shaking hands with a woman in a casual context introduces distance."
However, guys shake hands with other guys all the time. My first day at school, I shook hands with all the new classmates I met. I wonder if they thought I was guy.

7 comments:

Omar said...

Wow.. the food one goes the same with indians... :( i'm trying to lose weight and this doesn't help.

Greg said...

It is impolite to refuse an offer of hospitality

Oh yeah. Just got back from Kat's family's with a couple pieces of cake, bag of canned goods, and a bag of clothes.

Some might end up at a neighbourhood food bank, but I took it goddamnit.

Omar said...

Something here looks a little different.

Angelica said...

You like? I like.

Omar said...

:) *nods* "Sexy time!"

Allen said...

That's hilarious: I never realized that "Thank you," "Uh huh." was an American thing, I just thought it was what rude people sometimes say. I should research my own culture more ;)

Anonymous said...

'Faux pas,' literally 'false step,' has come to mean committing a social taboo due to the conventions of the French royal courts after the Renaissance. Dancing was very, very common, and anyone who danced improperly (e.g., made an incorrect step) would be ejected from the court.