So you’ve booked your ticket, mapped your route, and packed your bags. You’re almost ready for an adventure in Asia! But before you head out, here are a couple tips.
- Chopsticks. This might seem a little obvious, but learn how to use chopsticks before your trip. Some restaurants might bring you a fork on request (or if they see you struggling), but others won’t have a fork to bring. In order to avoid embarrassment and an unintended chopstick diet, practice before you leave. You might not be an expert after only a couple of weeks, but at least you’ll be able to eat. As far as chopstick etiquette goes, lay them neatly along the edge of your bowl when you’re not eating. If you’re sharing a lot of dishes with others, use a separate serving pair of chopsticks (if provided) to put the food on your plate and then a different pair to eat with.
- Bartering. Bartering is an essential skill if you want to leave the malls behind in favor of markets. If there’s a price tag on an item, you probably won’t be able to bargain. If not, it’s game on! You usually start by offering fifty percent less than what they offer you and work your way up. If you like the shopkeeper and it’s still quite cheap for you, barter less. If you feel that the price is unreasonable even after bartering, don’t be afraid to walk away. Even if you don’t like the price, don’t insult the product you’re trying to buy. Most importantly, smile! Bartering is more successful when you’re having fun.
- Toilets. Asia has a huge variety of toilets ranging from Western-style ones to squatty potties. If you find yourself in a place with only squatty potties, don’t be intimidated. Just try it and take your time, and remember that squatty potties are quite hygienic. Remember that many bathrooms have no toilet paper. It’s helpful to keep a small package of tissues for those situations (as well as for use for napkins or blowing your nose). Finally, some toilets have something that looks like a sink sprayer installed next to the toilet that is used in lieu of toilet paper. You can just ignore it and use your tissues, but I’d encourage you to try it at least once. It’ll be an experience!
- Culture. Don’t expect people to do things the way you do them. Get to know the places you’re going to visit to avoid social faux pas. For example, in all Asian countries, take off your shoes before entering a house. Some schools and shops also prefer patrons to go shoe-less, so check for a pile of shoes outside the door if you’re unsure. Don’t get offended too easily. Maybe something that you consider rude (like cutting in line) might not be considered rude in that country. Keep an open mind.
Asia is an exciting place to see with lots of great food and friendly people. Follow these tips, be careful, and have loads of fun!