Burping & Belching: Cultural Differences in Mannerisms

Jimmy, from the United States, is in class and along with all of his classmates in the room he is taking an exam. Ten minutes into the exam Jimmy lets out a five second long burp, causing everyone to turn and look at him. A few students gasp, and a few make a face of disgust and murmur “ewww”. Jimmy’s teacher immediately sighs and removes him from the classroom and sends him to the principal’s office where he receives a lunch detention for his actions.images

On the other side of the world in China, Bao has just finished his mother’s Sunday dinner. Bao could not have enjoyed the meal more and lets out a five second long burp. His mother smiles and says, “Bao I am so happy that you liked the meal that I made!”

What are the chances that you will unwittingly offend someone of another culture? I believe that it is quite easy for one to accidentally offend a person from another culture simply based on the different meanings that different cultures place on their mannerisms. In the United States it is seen as rude, offensive, and most often disgusting to let out a loud belch in public or even at the dinner table with family. However, in other cultures such as the Middle East, burping and belching freely after a meal is seen as a major compliment to the chef. It is a sign that you enjoyed your meal.

Who might YOU offend and how if you went to another country? Would you be offending Bao’s family if you did NOT burp after you finished your meal?