MS. BEHAVING continues to be impressed by the exotic and everyday quandaries of her readers. Here, in order, is one of each!
A READER WRITES: I’m going to Malaysia for business meetings with Muslim associates, and will also be a guest for dinner in their homes. Any pointers?
MS. BEHAVING REPLIES: Some Islamic social customs should be observed, having their roots in common courtesy.
First of all, never, ever show your hosts the sole of your shoe or foot, as this is considered a prime insult. No feet up on the coffee table, please! The stigma of the “unclean” left hand is also alive and well in Muslim cultures, so never shake hands, exchange papers, eat or pass food with your left hand. Also never take the name of God in vain, even in the most innocent (to you) context or joke, or point to someone in the room. Actually – save perhaps for the left-hand thing - Ms. Behaving thinks these are good common-sense rules in any culture. As with any occasion, follow the lead of your hosts and all will be well.
A READER WRITES: Is there any reason for rest room attendants in this day and age? And how much should I tip if they just hand me a towel?
MS. BEHAVING REPLIES: Such hard-working folk in men’s and ladies’ rooms still exist in the world’s finer restaurants and hotels, and Ms. Behaving is always delighted to see them. They are there not just to hand you a towel and make sure the facilities are sparkling; they often stand ready to help in sartorial emergencies (lint rollers for men, a quick stitch in a drooping hem). Attention to detail deserves a thank-you – a dollar or its equivalent in another country – and a smile. Both will be appreciated. Now don’t you feel better?
WHAT’S YOUR QUANDARY? Have questions about etiquette, local or global travel customs or awkward moments on the road? Fear not! Ms. Behaving is ready to answer. Send your queries (putting "Ms. Behaving" in the subject line) .
Photo above: Ms. Behaving at Royal Ascot.