Come to thinking of it, I still think etiquette is pretty dumb. Most of it anyway.
Saturday at the library, I thought I'd learn a bit more about etiquette from Do's and Taboos from Around the World, edited by Roger Axtell. Well strike one, plurals don't get apostrophes; it should be Dos. Then again, dos looks wrong and has a different meaning. But I digress as usual.
So the book talks about conversation topics that are and are not acceptable around the world. As you'd expect, in most countries, you wouldn't want to talk about personal finance or contentious issues and such. But here are some of the odd ones:
- In Germany and Italy, you're not supposed to talk about American football. Why, exactly, do you suppose? Is it a sore spot? Did American football beat them up on the playground? It may just be that Germans and Italians don't know a lot about American Football, but wouldn't that be true of a lot of countries? Or are they just mad that we call football soccer and soccer football?
- In Israel, it's rude to talk about the aid that the US sends to Israel. How often do you suppose that comes up in casual conversation? Like you're just making casual conversation: "Isn't the weather nice? Do you like soccer? How do you feel about the fact that my country keeps coughing up the Benjamens for yours?"
- In Spain, you're not supposed to knock bullfighting. That's kind of a random thing to bring up in conversation, but sure. Whatever.
- In Switzerland, you're not supposed to talk about weight or diets. I'm not sure what, if anything, this has to do with the fact that the Swiss have one of the lowest obesity rates in the world. Maybe it's like pointing out "Hey, I'm fat!"
- In Kenya, it's a big no-no to talk about the Mau Mau period. Assuming you've heard of the Mau Mau period, which I certainly hadn't.
- In Zambia, you're not supposed to talk about Zambian inefficiency.
- In the Middle East, it's unwise to talk about your pet dogs.
- In Japan, it's not polite to bring up WWII. "Hey, remember when your country sneak-attacked our country for no good reason, and then we dropped bombs that would destroy the land and kill innocent civilians for years to come? It's a good thing we can look back on it now and laugh."
- In Singapore, you shouldn't make jokes about the food you're being served.
- In Brazil, it's not okay to make ethnic jokes. Really? Brazil is the only country on earth in which you shouldn't make ethnic jokes? Also, Argentina is not an acceptable topic of conversation.
- In Mexico, you shouldn't talk about the Mexican American war. Dude, that was kind of a long time ago. Bygones? And I thought the Irish held grudges.