Ok everyone. On around-the-world cruise you are obviously going to visit a lot of different countries and experience a lot of different cultures, and I just wanted to say a few words about what we call international etiquette – being aware of the appropriate way to behave socially, in public.
We’ll give you specific advice when you are going on particular shore excursions, but I thought a few general words of advice now wouldn’t go amiss.
Really, it’s all about respect. I’m sure a lot of you already know about visiting churches, mosques, and other religious buildings. It’s important to wear appropriate clothes and cover up bare skin. Men should always wear shirts. Shorts are not good idea for women – women should in general avoid showing bare shoulders, arms, or legs, and in mosques and temples you’ll need cover your head too.
In fact, when we’re in Egypt, the Middle East, and Asia you’ll also need to take off your shoes before you enter any religious building – outdoor shoes are seen as carrying all the impurities of the world.
I wonder if any of you know about some other customs. For example, when we get to the Far East, from Singapore onwards, you should be particularly careful about your posture. The soles of your feet, for example, are considered to be the dirtiest part of your body, and you should never point your foot at someone – so crossing your legs in public is not a good idea when we’re in Singapore and Thailand. Also, avoidpointing, certainly at people, but also at objects. In Japan and other Far Eastren countries, blowing your nose in public is also not really acceptable.
When it comes to greeting people in different countries there are a lot of differences. You’ll find Egyptian and Middle Eastern men kissing each other. The Spanish and many southern Europeans also kiss each other on the cheeks – though normally the men. In Japan
they’ll bow – and the extent of the bow depends on the respect due to taht person. But for you, probably the safest way to greet someone, certainly outside Asia, is just with a firm handshake. Although you must make sure it’s your right hand: in a lot of countries, particularly African and Middle Eastern countries, the left hand is regarded as unclean, so you shouldn’t give thing to people, pass food, and so on, with your left hand.
Food and eating habits is probably the most interesting area of international etiquette, but you’ll be eating in international restaurants most of the time – altough I hope you can all handle chopsticks! You probably won’t get invited anyone’s home on this trip but if you ever do, make sure you check out the way to behave first. There’s lots of potential for unintentionally causing offence. for example, in Singapore you should always say no to a second helping of food (you’ll probably get some anyway!), and it’s polite to leave some food on your plate at the end, whereas in somewhere like Russia that would probably offend your host!
Well, perhaps that’s enough on international etiquette for the moment. You’ll find a lot more information in your welcome packs, and I’d like to suggest you have a good look at the section on tipping and bargaining in particular.