Working as an English teacher in a foreign country is an excellent opportunity not only to teach students how to speak English but also to teach them about the culture of your home country. It is equally important for English teachers to take the time to learn about the particular social customs of their host countries. Whether you are in a meeting with your colleagues or are invited to a social event, there will be things that will undoubtedly be done differently than back home, sometime in quite bewilderingly different ways.
Learning the reasons behind the way these things are done will help you to understand why and as a result help you to have a more fulfilling experience in your host country and help you in the classroom. In many countries in Asia deference is shown to those with positions of power or responsibility and teachers are included among these. This infographic relates some of the social customs of a variety of Asian countries and highlights the similarities and differences between them. In China it is worth remembering that pointing and whistling are considered rude and if you are a dinner guest it is polite to try a bit of everything that your host offers you. When giving or receiving gifts in South Korea it is usual to your right hand while touching your right wrist or elbow with the left hand. In Japan the common greeting is a bow with deeper bows given to more senior people. You should be aware that it is not common for Japanese people to say ‘no’, rather that less definite expressions such as ‘maybe’ should be taken as a no. In Thailand the head is of great importance and it is extremely rude to touch another person’s head. The feet in Thailand are considered dirty and should not be pointed at other people or sacred images. The smile in Thailand can mean many things and if someone does something to upset and they appear to be smiling, they are probably not laughing at you but showing that they are sorry or embarrassed.
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