Pattie Ehsaei (TikTok: “duchessofdecorum”), leads a delightful and informative discussion about unusual and entertaining customs around the world, with lots of giggles along with fascinating facts.
After an intro about customs of the world by Lea, she and Pattie alternate in discussing customs in France, Italy, Nicaragua, Malaysia, Kuwait, Scotland, Greece, Germany, Indonesia, Russia, China, Thailand, Japan, Nigeria, Mexico, Egypt, Vietnam, Switzerland, Iceland.
Ways to kiss in France, how to eat in the Middle East, a strange way of pointing in Nicaragua, and so many more facts and fun.
We end, as we always do on Places I Remember, with a favorite memory.
Pattie Ehsaei (TikTok: “duchessofdecorum”),has established herself as the expert of “P’s and Q’s” on the platform where she's received over 1.8 million likes and nearly a half million followers as she teaches social and workplace etiquette, along with financial literacy. A lawyer by trade and currently a Senior Vice President of Mergers and Acquisitions lending for a major national bank, she believes that success comes from information and empowerment.
Podcast host Lea Lane blogs at forbes.com, has traveled to over 100 countries, written nine books, including Places I Remember, and contributed to guidebooks. She's @lealane on Twitter; PlacesIRememberLeaLane on Insta; on Facebook, it's Places I Remember with Lea Lane. Website: placesirememberlealane.com. Please follow, rate and review this award-winning travel podcast!
And exciting news! In 2022 we'll be dropping podcasts bi-weekly, on Tuesdays. And we'll be on YouTube every other week, starting mid- February, with travel tips and trips.
* Transcript edited for clarity.
Lea Lane 0:04
Hi, I'm Lea Lane, an award-winning travel writer and author of Places I Remember: Tales, Truths, Delights from 100 Countries. On this podcast we share conversations with travelers about fascinating destinations and memorable experiences around the world. People around the world developed customs and traditions for everything from beauty routines to dining to sex habits to death rituals. The world has been enriched with thousands of different cultures since the dawn of civilization.
Pattie Ehsaei is a lawyer and financial advisor and she teaches social and workplace etiquette along with financial literacy. On TiKTok Patti Ehsaei is The SI Factor, and she's known as the Duchess of Decorum by her loyal 850,000 plus TikTok followers. On this episode, we'll be talking with Pattie about some of the more interesting customs around the world.
You have some proper customs, Pattie, I'm going to describe some odd customs and traditions. And we'll mix it up a bit. So you start and then we'll alternate with some of the more unusual customs that I've found.
Pattie Ehsaei 1:10
Alright, so why don't we start with France? So in France, most people don't know this, but you're not supposed to bargain. You can bargain in other areas in Europe, but if you try to bargain in France, it's considered very poor etiquette. And they really look down on you, so don't bargain when you're in France.
Lea Lane 1:26
I wondered why I've gotten some of those looks. Even at a flea market. Yes. Oh, my God.
Pattie Ehsaei 1:33
The price is what it is.
Lea Lane 1:35
Okay. Well, another thing I've noticed in France is the kissing tradition, with two cheeks in some areas of the country. And I think in some cities, you only kiss on one. I think the town of Brest is one cheek kiss too, and Toulouse up to four [_____]..
Pattie Ehsaei 1:50
Right? Yeah, and I actually, in in the Middle Eastern cultures, you kiss on two cheeks, too, sometimes in three places. So yes.
Lea Lane 1:59
Well, I know in America, we're starting to do that. Because we're watching it all over the world.
Pattie Ehsaei 2:04
And you're watching the Housewives and everybody kisses on the cheek.
Lea Lane 2:0
Whatever we're watching everybody's kissing. So we're kissing. Yeah. Okay, what's another place?
Pattie Ehsaei 2:13
Okay, so let's, let's talk about Italy. You don't point to people in Italy, if you use your finger to point is considered very rude. It's considered that you're talking down to them. So you never point at anyone. You never pointed anything?
Lea Lane 2:28
Well, that's interesting, because in many parts of the world, it's it's similar. For example, in Nicaragua, you point with your lips. Did you know wow, no, they don't want to play with their fingers. So they've learned to contort their mouth and point with their lips. Instead of the index finger like the rest of the world. They make like a duck face. And they move their lips side to side, which is something I didn't notice; I was in Nicaragua and I didn't notice. In Malaysia, they point with a thumb because again, the index finger is considered abrasive and rude and incredibly offensive. So it seems to be a thing around the world. To not point. So we point a lot in the United States. Yes. Something we do, maybe should think about? Yes.
Pattie Ehsaei 3:09
And there's another thing in Italy most people don't know you only order cappuccino for breakfast. Yeah. So if you go to Italy, you order cappuccino for dinner? They're like, Oh, you must be American.
Lea Lane 3:19
Another mistake? Oh, well. Did you know actually, I found something interesting. The ancient Romans believed in feeding the dead. And so some of these ancient graves contain pipes through which they feed the deceased, can pour honey wine and other food items. They used to do that. You can find that in Roman burial. We don't do that today. Yes. What else? What else? Another place?
Pattie Ehsaei 3:44
So let's talk about Kuwait. I'm actually going to Iran in a couple of weeks and Kuwait. You shouldn't just enter a mosque without permission. And really anywhere in the Middle Eastern country's mosques, because they're not considered museums. So it's not like something you can just go in. So you have to ask permission before you enter into any mosque.
Lea Lane 4:05
Interesting. I know in, for example, in Abu Dhabi, when I went to the Grand Mosque there, I don't think I had to ask permission, but they were very careful about who they let in. You had to get dressed. Completely and yes. conservatively, yes. And that's kind of a way to keep you know, anyone just walk in. There's some interesting wedding traditions I would like to just talk about in Scotland. I attended my niece's wedding, she married a man from Edinburgh, and they did not do this to tradition, but I read that there is a pre-wedding ritual, which doesn't sound like a lot of fun for the bride. The custom involves throwing eggs, spoiled milk, and basically all things disgusting at the bride. And then she's taken around the town. Yeah. I don't know if that's if that's a custom. But they're trying to show how tough it's going to be when you're married, I think and to get ready for it. You can make it through that, you can make it through anything. Exactly. And another interesting bridal tradition and wedding tradition is in Greece. And it was popularized in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding in 2002. Spitting. So in Greek cultures, it's a kind of good luck charm and, and when you go fufufu, that means you're trying to give good luck to the bride or groom. And also it’s used it baptisms, and other places. It's a superstitious measure, to ward off evil. And I know it's a Jewish tradition, because I have a grandmother who used to go poopoo, and that was to ward off the evil spirits. And another tradition in Germany, an old tradition, a pre-wedding tradition is for the friends and the family of the bride and groom to come together and break dishes. And then the bride and groom have to clean up the mess so they practice working together. Wow. Yeah, that makes sense. But the weirdest one of all that I found, and I did a lot of research on this Pattie, is in the community of Tudung in Indonesia: a married couple is not allowed to go to the bathroom for three days after being wed. Yep, if they do, it's considered bad luck for their marriage. So they're watched over by the family and given very little food and water. I would like to be in the diaper business. That's the weirdest I've heard. I don't think everybody does it. But certain communities keep these old traditions and sometimes I guess, yeah, what about some more?
Pattie Ehsaei 6:29
All right, and let's let's go back to the Middle East, you are only supposed to eat with your right hand and not your left. Because they're saying that it's kind of religious based because they're saying the left hand is the hand of the devil. And also that is the hand that you use to wash yourself or clean yourself when you go to the restroom. So you're not supposed to eat with the the left hand, only with the right, you're supposed to only pass with the right hand. So yeah, that's a very strict tradition.
Lea Lane 6:56
Yeah, okay. Well, cultures typically approach sex, marriage and reproduction in unique ways. September 12, is a day of conception in Russia, because the declining birth rates of Russia coupled with a unequal proportion of women to men, and the alarmingly short lifespans of Russian men. Because of that there's a public holiday on September 12, to give couples time off from work in order to have a baby. And parents whose babies are born exactly nine months later, can even win prizes. Now, another one in China, it's believed that if the husband carries his pregnant wife over burning coal with bare feet, the wife has an easy delivery. So I guess physical pain for the husband to ease the wife's labor.
Pattie Ehsaei 7:44
Perhaps it balances things out.
Lea Lane 7:46
I guess. So. Okay, how about another one from you?
Pattie Ehsaei 7:49
So in Thailand, or really, in any of those South Asian countries, you're not supposed to touch a monk, especially if you're a woman. I remember I was on the train in Thailand, and I got on the train with my tour guide. There was a monk and I go to sit next to the monk. And the guy just like literally just grabs me and pulls me up. Like what are you doing? He's like, you're not supposed to sit near a monk. You're not supposed to touch a monk. Had no idea.
Lea Lane 8:19
I lived in Thailand for a year. There are lots of things you're not supposed to do. You're not supposed to point your feet at the Buddha. Right? It's very bad, when people that see people walking sideways. Yeah, not supposed to touch the head. Yes. Customs like that. Yeah.
Pattie Ehsaei 8:37
And you're not supposed to speak badly of the royal family. So I started speaking with my tour guide about like, oh, you know, the royal family has our oh, we're not supposed to speak about the other. I was like, okay, my bad.
Lea Lane 8:49
Now they had a very nice king for a very long time. So that was good. But I think they were very careful. They didn't make me want to talk too much. So I know that when living there I was very careful because I was afraid I'd be arrested or something if I said something too loud. Yeah. Anyway, how about another?
Pattie Ehsaei 9:06
So in Japan, you're not supposed to walk and eat at the same time? .
Pattie Ehsaei 9:13
That means I pretty much starve. But yeah, you're not supposed to walk and eat, it's considered very rude.
Lea Lane 9:20
Well, they've got another custom in Japan that has to do with food. And they do slurp. They may not walk and eat but they slurp and that's a different meaning; it means they like the food and it's a good thing to do because you're enjoying your food. And if a host or hostess doesn't hear that they're not happy. So I guess the air also brings the palette up and enhances the noodle flavor. So they have some interesting food customs there.
Pattie Ehsaei 9:44
Yes, they really do. So in Nigeria, when you're greeting someone we're so typically used to just shaking hands and just leaving. In Nigeria, that's considered rude. The greeting is very elaborate. not rushed. You're supposed to greet the Elders first. And it's really like you will stand there and you would just greet someone for a really long period of time. You don't, it's not just a "Hi nice to meet you," whatever and just keep moving. That's considered very rude.
Lea Lane 10:13
Here's another one from Nigeria. Kneeling or lying prostrate is a greeting in Nigeria. For members of the [____] people, an ethnic group that largely resides in Nigeria, greeting rituals are taken very seriously. And when you have an adult approach, a youth is expected to drop to their knees in greeting. And more specifically, women kneel when greeting and men typically lie down prostrate. So this is such a sign of respect and deference to the elders. It distinguishes the [_____] people.
Pattie Ehsaei 10:43
Interesting. Okay. Yeah, very interesting. Well, you know, in Mexico, you're supposed to bow when you're meeting a Mexican woman, you're only supposed to shake hands if they extend their hand. But typically in Mexico, you're only supposed to bow toward women, which I love. Maybe everyone should bow toward women all over the place.
Lea Lane 11:01
But don't take that to women in Japan, or is that just bowing to everybody?
Pattie Ehsaei 11:04
I think they bow to everyone in Japan. But in Mexico, you're supposed to, when you meet a woman you're supposed to bow.
Lea Lane 11:10
Well, we mentioned feet a little bit, and it can cause a problem for visitors to various Arab Muslim Hindu countries, because the feet are the lowest part of the body, they may be considered less than clean. So showing the soles of your shoes to another person may be taken as an insult.
Pattie Ehsaei 11:23
Yes. And you're not supposed to wear shoes inside the home either.
Lea Lane 11:27
That's a good one. Yeah, I've adopted that myself. Oh, yeah. In this day and age. I think we're more aware of that. Yeah. How about one more?
Pattie Ehsaei 11:37
I think you should be aware, like, especially in the Middle Eastern countries. Whatever food you're offered, you're supposed to take, you're not supposed to refuse any food, because it's considered rejecting your host. So even if you don't like it, take it, have a little bit of it. And that's it.
Lea Lane 11:53
I think that's a good idea anywhere in general, unless it's something strange looking that you don't know where you know, it's come from at all or something. But I think Egyptians are very interesting. If you're invited over to dinner there. And you want to add more salt to your dish. Don't touch the salt shaker, because Egyptians will feel it's equivalent to insulting the hosts, very similar.
Pattie Ehsaei 12:14
Yes. Like they don't know how to cook. Exactly.
Lea Lane 12:18
So let's end with some happy customs. What about, you know, something? Do you have something that might be a positive thing?
Pattie Ehsaei 12:26
Yes, happy persons. One thing I love is in Vietnam and other Asian countries, they pass if you're, if they're handing you something that pass it with both hands. And I love that because that that's a sign of respect. I think that's what it is.
Lea Lane 12:45
Yeah, I remember in Bali, whenever they give you these little offerings that they'd make all day long on these little leaves, and they go over them with two hands. And I thought it was so beautiful, bow a little bit and hand you this pretty little thing. And I really thought it was a lovely gesture. Here's one in Switzerland, there's something called an honest shop or an honesty shop. And these are little shops that will allow you to buy your fresh cheese or milk or whatever, without having to have anyone around you and no one watches and the farmers very often do it in rural areas, you just leave money behind. And what's amazing is that trust comes up between customer and farmer and it's a beautiful tradition. That's really great. I've seen it in some small towns in America as well. I love that yeah, just leaving a little box or something where you can put your money. And I love it in Iceland because they have a Christmas Eve tradition of giving a book and everyone unwraps the books and they spend the evening reading together. The culture of books is a beautiful Christmas custom..
Pattie Ehsaei 13:46
I love that. But one other thing we should talk about like a custom in Kuwait is once a week everyone, their main meal in Kuwait is lunch because people are off work at like two o'clock. So every Friday or Saturday they go, the entire family goes to the eldest son's home for lunch, and they all have lunch together. It's kind of like a Shabbat but for the Kuwaitis.
Lea Lane 14:13
Well they allow that. How do they get out of work? Is it Is there a traditional time?
Pattie Ehsaei 14:18
Typically Kuwaitis end work around 2:00, 2:30. So then they go home, it's now changing, the hours are getting longer, but traditionally that's what they do is 2:00 to 2:30 they go home and at three o'clock they have like this amazing lunch with all the family and all the kids, it’s just incredible.
Lea Lane 14:37
Sounds great. I love learning about tradition. I love customs. I love festivals that tell us about ourselves. We're different and similar at the same time. Absolutely. The name of the podcast is Places I Remember. So Pattie, please tell us a favorite travel memory involving a custom.
Pattie Ehsaei 14:55
Yes. So this is actually really funny. So I was visiting a home in Vietnam, and I bought flowers right off the street. I was in Hoi An, which is probably one of my favorite cities in Vietnam, right? It's very, like European looking. And I bought these flowers. And as I'm walking into someone's home, the host was with me was like, Oh my gosh, just grab these flowers I threw away. I'm like, What are you doing? I want to bring gifts. If you bring yellow flowers to someone's home in Vietnam, that's for death, for funerals, and it's considered a horrible omen.
Lea Lane 15:34
Yeah, because I think we think of yellow as friendship.
Pattie Ehsaei 15:38
That's exactly what I was thinking yellow. And I was like, Oh my gosh, okay. I didn't take anything there.
Lea Lane 15:44
I'm sure they understood. Totally. Yes. They're nice people. Well, thank you so much, Pattie, SI lawyer, financial advisor and the popular Duchess of Decorum on Tik Tok. This was a fabulous discussion, and I learned a lot.
Pattie Ehsaei 16:00
Thank you so much. It was so much fun. I really enjoyed it.
Lea Lane 16:03
And big news in 2022, Places I Remember is bi-weekly dropped every other Tuesday. And on alternate weeks I'll be featuring tips and trips on YouTube. So you can listen to our Places I Remember podcasts and also watch me on our Places I Remember video. See you soon.
Lea Lane 16:25
Thanks for sharing travel memories with us. My book, Places I Remember, is available on Amazon and i,n bookstores in print, on Kindle, and I read the audio version. Please subscribe to this podcast and consider giving us a review. Until next time, join us wherever in the world we're going