Judith Martin. Yep, Miss Manners, herself. I’ve spent the last 30 or so years suppressing gas, speaking quietly, shaking hands firmly, not picking my nose in public (I do not consider driving my car as ‘public’), looking people in the eye when I speak, squeezing zits in private, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, patiently queuing etc. The list goes on….and then I went traveling.
Every bit of etiquette or politeness I’ve learned has disappeared like a fart in the mist, rendered completely useless in cultures and countries so amazing, yet so very different. I’ve wasted so much of my life standing in line or held up in traffic, when I could’ve just been pushing, honking and cutting to the front of the line. Life could’ve been so easy.
I was in Beijing, where spitting on the ground (or carpet) is close to being a national sport, and found out I can just push myself to the front of any line. It was awesome. Spent some time in Vietnam and Thailand, and found out excessive honking on the car horn means that I prefer your spot in the congested traffic, so move out of the way. Went to Tokyo/Osaka and completely freaked everyone out by shaking hands and waving to say ‘Hi’, when all I had to do was bow slightly. And man, if I were to give any friend a hug: complete and utter fear.
Need to belch during dinner? No problem, it’s a compliment in China. Not polite to stare? Check out pretty much any country in the Middle East. Got something in your nose? If you’re in Thailand, pick away! And the best of all, it’s cool to grow an extra long fingernail to help pick those hard-to-reach inner depths of your shnoz. How awesome is that!!
To think of all the time I’ve wasted trying to be proper. The hours wasted standing in line or looking for a Kleenex. The possible damage I’ve done to my internal organs suppressing all sorts of gas has likely done me irreparable harm. Anyone got anywhere else where everything I’ve learned has gone out the window? I’m thinking of suing Miss Manners for giving irresponsible advice.