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You Dirty, Disgusting Pig!' - Nose Blowing

Europeans and Westerners blow their noses into a handkerchief or tissue while Asians and Japanese spit or snort. Each is appalled by what they see as the other's 'disgusting' behaviour. This dramatic cultural difference is the direct result of the spead of tuberculosis in past centuries. In Europe, tuberculosis was the AIDS of the era - a disease from which there was little hope of survival so governments instructed people to blow their nose to avoid further spreading the disease. This is why Westerners react so strongly to spitting - a spitting person could spread tuberculosis around, so people were as alarmed by that prospect as they would be if you could spread AIDS by spitting.

Modern nose-blowing is the result of a post epidemic of tuberculosis.

If tuberculosis had been a problem in Eastern countries, the cultural reaction would be the same as with Westerners. As a result the Japanese are appalled when someone produces a handkerchief, blows their nose into it and puts it back in their pocket purse or up their sleeve! Japanese are unimpressed at the English custom of men wearing a handkerchief in their jacket top pocket. This is the equivalent of proudly dangling a roll of toilet paper from the pocket, ready for action. Asians believe, correctly, that it is a healthier option to spit but it is a habit that is repulsive to Westerners and Europeans. This is why business meetings between Westerners and Europeans can fail when they've all got a cold. So don't feel upset by an Asian who spits or snorts and never blow your nose in front of a Japanese person.

The Three Most Common Cross-Cultural Gestures

Let's examine the cultural interpretations and implications of three common hand gestures, the Ring, the Thumb-Up and the V-sign.


Date: 2015-01-29; view: 160


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