Etiquette

It seems as if etiquette is no longer “in.” I guess by in I mean no longer taught, encouraged or practiced in many parts of the world. I am not much of an expert on etiquette all over the world so I will stick with what I know. I was raised in California, by Syrian Catholic parents. Etiquette in Syrian society is very important. You always stand when a person walks in the room to greet them. You never put your feet on the table. You always have to have cookies or cake available in case somebody drops in for a visit, which accompany tea, coffee or juice and water. Furthermore, coffee is always served (if Turkish) in demitasse cups on saucers, if American, in coffee cups on saucers. They are always served on a tray, usually covered with a doily or some embroidered handkerchief. The coffee is always served with a class of water, also presented on a saucer. Once cannot drink the water immediately after drinking the coffee or else it tells the host that the coffee was not good. When serving the tray of coffee, which is always done by the maid (if in an upper-class home), the daughter, or the housewife, you must bend the tray down almost near the lap of the guest to accommodate their reach. The cookies/cake are served on a separate plate, and always followed by napkins. When asked about your work or school, you never say anything negative, even if the situation may call for that response, you always act thankfully. Complaining is not a public affair. You don’t chew your gum too loudly. Or blow bubbles. No picking your nose. No touching your feet. When asked by a host if you’d like something to eat, you reject the offer, politely. When asked again, you reject again, if asked a third time, you must oblige unless you really really do not want anything, which even then may be rude to reject. When a family member dies, the women wear black for 40 days. This also entails no make up, which is very noticeable in Middle-Eastern women because they are always done up. If the person was very close to the woman, say her husband, she will typically wear black for the year following his death, often longer. Modesty is highly revered. When complimented about one’s looks, it is typical to respond with a phrase such as “your eyes are the pretty ones” (which can be roughly translated to “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”). The first time you visit someone’s house, you bring something, a plant, flowers, a box of chocolates, etc. When a friend has a child, you bring a gift and visit the baby. Most actions are guided by social etiquette. For example, returning phone calls. You don’t want to seem like you are chasing after someone, so if you call them once and they do not return your phone call, you do not call again, you did your part, now you don’t want to seem desperate. Of course there are exceptions, and not just to this “rule” but to all of these social “rules.” I could go on and on and in fact one could write a whole book on the etiquette of the Middle East, which would be quite fascinating as it varies by region and religion and has been influenced by several outside sources such as various countries (colonization). I just found this interesting because my mom and her friends today were talking about their students (Americans) who behave in a certain way that they cannot even begin to fathom. They don’t understand how some of the girls take off their shoes during class to air out their feet, this would be unheard of in say, Syria or Lebanon. I wanted to post because it’s fascinating and maybe you could learn a thing or two. And I definitely could too.

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