Home » Living in Singapore » For Guys » Gentleman’s Guide: Asian etiquette
For Guys Money Career

Gentleman’s Guide: Asian etiquette


Take Joe Swain’s Asian etiquette quiz to find out if you can close a deal no matter what cultural practice you come up against

1. You’re going out for dinner with business associates in Manila when one of them suggests a detour to a balut vendor. Should you:

a) Pretend to faint. Slurping down a fertilised duck embryo straight from its shell is too much for your weak Western stomach to bear. No contract is worth that much.

b) Go along with the idea with as much gusto as you can muster. Go as far as to shout: “Dalhin akin ang higit pa ng mga maliit na beauties bago ko sumabog na may kagalakan” (Bring me more of these little beauties before I explode with joy) at the top of your voice. Then close your eyes and munch one down, thinking only about that promotion.

c) Explain to your business associates that when you were a child in Siberia (or somewhere else suitably remote) your only friend was a duck. And that ever since then you’ve been unable to eat poultry of any kind.


2. You find yourself on the wrong side of a bottle of sake when one of the Japanese business delegations you’ve been schmoozing for the last few months announces that it has a space for you in its Kiotoshi team the following day. Should you:

a) Punch the air in a display of unbridled joy at the thought of sitting astride a 20-ton ancient log as it careers down the side of a mountain at speeds of up to 100 miles an hour. Laugh off the unusually high death rates of the centuries-old tradition and take a moment to relate the story of how you once represented your school at Buckaroo.

b) Explain that as far as you are concerned chopping down ancient trees is an act of international terrorism and that you are ‘that’ close to picking up the phone to Kofi Annan and reporting the whole blinking lot of them.

c) Agree to do it but back out the next morning blaming food poisoning and a moment of sake madness.

3. You’re out for dinner with a prospective client in Beijing. He orders noodles and to your surprise begins to slurp rather loudly as he eats them. Should you:

a) Slap him firmly round the back of the head and shout, “Stop slurping boy, get your hair cut and some sensible shoes.”

b) Try as hard as you can to cast off the shackles of your upbringing and, no matter how disappointed it’ll make your ma, join in. Even if you can only manage a miserable little whimper slurp.

c) Out-slurp him and then some. The best way to do this is to slurp your entire bowl of noodles down in one go, while simultaneously downing a pint of lager and humming the final verse of Die Fledermaus. If this fails to impress, simply regurgitate your noodles back into your bowl and start all over again. 

4. You’re invited out for a meal in Seoul by your prospective Korean boss. He orders a curry. You ask what sort of meat is has in it. He asks, “Why, does it matter?” Should you:

a) Realise that you have just parked yourself right in front of the biggest taboo there is in epicurean Korea and that anything you say now will help you about as much as a chocolate teapot. Maybe faint again?

b) Say: “Yes, I was actually hoping it would be dog meat. I love eating dogs, especially cute ones that used to be someone’s pet until they couldn’t afford to feed it any more. Do they do Chihuahua?”

c) Reply, “Look, a flying saucer,” and do a runner.

5. You are at the French embassy in Vientiane. You ask the French ambassador’s wife what she is looking forward to most when her husband retires. She replies, “A penis.” Should you:

a) Spit your soup all over the table and half kill yourself choking as you try not to laugh.

b) Offer your services on a freelance basis.

c) Realise (too late) that what she actually said, in her strong French accent, was happiness. Excuse yourself from the table, take a couple of deep breaths to calm your laugh box and return saying something along the lines of “ Forget all your troubles, get happy.”



1. a) or c) – or any other way you can think of to avoid eating that embryo.

2. a) Kitoshi does indeed involve sledging down a mountain on a giant tree stump and is not for the faint-hearted or those without good life insurance. Except it’s an honour to be asked.

3. b) Slurping noodles is of course acceptable in most parts of Asia.

4. b) Try the dog meat. You’d be barking mad not to.

5. c) The sun is shining, come on get happy.