I've been given a book to read on social etiquette, published by the Ministry of Culture in 2004. Admittedly, some of it's actually useful, but some of it I feel I won't need, like how to act if I have an audience with the King, or at a ceremony for the initiation of monks.
Here are some of my favourite pieces of advice (unfortunately you can't see the hilarious accompanying illustrations):
If attending or giving a seminar paper:
-'If one is assigned to deliver a speech or present a paper for discussion, the time allotted for the purpose should be strictly kept, or else the whole timetable will collapse. Many speakers are often carried away while talking, become a microphone maniac person who would not let go of the microphone despite several warnings from the moderator.'
- 'Some people want to show off and like to keep the limelight on them by standing up frequently and asking lengthy questions that may not be relevant to the issues discussed.'
At the theatre:
-'For gala concert of performances presided over by the royal family, formal attire or evening dress should be worn, not T-shirts or jeans and sandals! If it is a rock concert, casual attire is permissible.'
-'Do not wear jewellery that makes a jingling noise when you move around.'
-'Do not talk during the performance. People around you do not need to hear your comment or explanation.'
-'Children under five should not be taken to a performance. They are too young to understand or appreciate the aesthetic beauty of the art, and may disturb the audience with their crying. The parents should make a sacrifice if they have small children. Let them stay at home where they belong. It is a lot better for their health and the audience's peace of mind.'
-'When people have good table manners, they are not embarrassing for other people at the same table to look at.'
-'Be punctual to dinner… some people have the habit of being so 'pleasantly absorbed' in what they are doing that they almost always are late at the dining table, making other members sick.'
-The proper way to sit: 'we should not lean back till we look immodest.'
-'We should have a serving spoon in every common dish… this is not only for the sake of cleanliness but also to protect everyone from getting an infection if a sick, virus-carrying person happens to be enjoying the same meal.'
-Using forks and spoons: 'if any piece of food sticks to wither of the utensils, one should not knock the two poor things together to cause the morsel to fall off, thus making unwanted music (clanging) for other people at the table. The thing to do is use either the fork or spoon to scrape the morsel from its partner.'
-'It is important not to pick at food, touching this piece and that piece of food, and then picking up yet another piece!'
-'Do not convey to your mouth too big a mouthful. This may leave some rice or other food particle or say hello to people from upon or somewhere around your lips.'
-Using chopsticks: 'it is wrong to dip your chopsticks in a big common bowl of soup groping in the bowl for a piece of chicken or mushroom in the soup! This is washing your chopsticks in the soup meant for everybody!'
-Using chopsticks: 'in eating things like noodles, do not clamp up a big cluster of noodles, thus getting a terribly big mouthful, which, to make worse, is equipped with short and long hanging ends.'
-Eating manners: 'nobody wants to see the shape or colour of food in your mouth, especially when it being mixed with saliva…it is just as bad to speak when there is food in your mouth, and also because doing this makes your voice 'unclean.''
-Eating manners: 'there should not be an audible sound in food chewing or soup drinking… see that you do not make a juicy noise while enjoying each mouthful.'
-Using a lazy suzy: 'there are some thoughtless people who just boldly stop the motion and get what they want first, as the dish they eye is about to pass them! Another thing is, if you do not look first, someone may be in the act of spooning out something and then the revolving part goes off suddenly and that person is left with the common spoon in his hand in the air! Very embarrassing!'
-'Be quick in using a toothpick. It is not a pretty sight to indulge too long in it.'
-'While conversing at the dining table, if someone asks you a question and you need to give an answer quickly while there is food in your mouth, use your tongue to push the food to one side of your mouth toward the inner side of your cheek and speak.'
-'You should not speak about something dirty or draw up a vision that is not pretty, such as talk about worms in a garbage, someone being sick or throwing up, the condition of someone being down with diarrhoea or constipation.'
-'Do not speak almost all the time about yourself, your great achievement, or your wonderful, adorable children or grandchildren.'
-'Do not wrestle with a though piece of food trying to cut it into smaller pieces till it shoots across the room or the table.'
-'Men do not roll up their sleeves as if getting ready for a fight.'
-'Do not scratch here and scratch there.'
-'If you have a terrible cold with plenty of phlegm to spit out, do so quietly in a restroom.'