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ScottyMcGeester's avatar

Is it true that some Eastern cultures don't find bodily functions rude?

Asked by ScottyMcGeester (1001 points ) September 12th, 2012

I always hear things like “In the Middle East, India, China and/or Japan it’s okay to burp or fart because it means you enjoyed the meal.” But I’m never sure if that’s actually true or some myth that people always pass around.

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15 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

Turn the question around.\

Why do ‘western’ cultures’ find natural body functions offensive? We all fart, we all burp – it is the most natural thing in the world, and everyone, everywhere, does it.

Why then, in the ‘civilized west’, are these most natural things seen as offensive? They shouldn’t be, any more than eating or sleep. Nature is nature.

ScottyMcGeester's avatar

@elbanditoroso Yeah, it’s annoying. There’s a lot of things the western culture suppresses.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m not sure. I know that the Chinese find slurping to be a good thing. Also in some cultures, belching after a meal is good manners.

But farting? Not sure that’s good manners anywhere. And I doubt if anyone shits where they eat. And in cultures that do not use utensils, it is really bad manners to touch food with your left hand (the hand you wipe with—assuming right handedness).

deni's avatar

@elbanditoroso Come on. I’m all about farting if it doesn’t smell, but I have smelled some seriously disgusting, gag-reflex-triggering farts, and I think that is rude. I am far from a clean freak or germaphobe or any of that shit, but farting is another thing. And like I said, if it doesn’t smell, and you know it won’t smell, then sure do it. But if you have to fart at a family dinner while we’re saying grace with my grandma, and you drank a ton of gin last night and you know it might literally knock someone out, THEN it’s rude. Seriously though, morning after alcohol farts are among the worst thing that exist on this planet. That is why I air on the side of caution.

@wundayatta Wouldn’t right handed people wipe with their right hand? I do. Am I weird? Never asked anyone else what hand they wiped with haha.

Judi's avatar

@deni, but mid binge farts, when exposed to a bic lighter can be hilarious.

zensky's avatar

Women fart?

geeky_mama's avatar

Manners vary all around the world.

Slurping soup/noodle dishes is considered normal/expected in most of Asia (notably China, Korea and Japan). Burping is something men can do with impunity – it’s seen as a compliment to the cook.
Public urination is still pretty commonly accepted in rural parts of China and Japan as well. (Though in big cities this is frowned upon as of the last decade or so.)

This (public urination) always struck me as incredibly different from my western upbringing though I witnessed it (and spitting, also considered fine – as long as it was directed at a Benjo—the open sewer grates on the sides of the road) over and over.

Conversely, it is considered terribly rude to blow one’s nose (into a hanky or tissue) in public in Japan. You need to do that in the privacy of a bathroom stall. So, blowing your nose into a tissue = rude, peeing on the side of the road = OK.

For women, even the SOUND of urination is to be masked (there is a button on the toilet that makes an electronic flushing sound) in public restroom stalls. Oh, and there’s an app for that, too.
So..clearly there is a different standard for women than men in Japan… Farting and burping are not something polite women in Japan ever do. And, when and if we should pass gas it would be scented like cherry blossoms.

Oh, and the table manners that I was taught as a young girl (when not eating, hands should be folded in my lap, never leaning on the table) were considered rude most of Western Europe and China – where I’ve been reminded by business colleagues repeatedly that when not holding utensils, your hands should be visible above the table. (France, Italy most of all, but Germany and China, too.)

wundayatta's avatar

@deni I assume that most people who are right-handed, wipe with left hand, and vice versa. You might be ambidextrous somewhat. Do you do anything else with a different hand from other people, or from yourself, if you know what I mean?

deni's avatar

@wundayatta I’m right handed and do everything with my right hand. I literally almost never use my left hand, it is pretty uncoordinated I find which I assume is simply from never using it for much. Maybe I should ask a question: “What hand do you wipe with?”

Keep_on_running's avatar

I’m right-handed and wipe with the right too.

Sunny2's avatar

@wundayatta It’s the Japanese who find not slurping wrong. A Japanese friend, who spent 5 years here in the U.S., tells the story of having lunch with a group of business friends on his return to japan. Everyone was happily enjoying their soup when the table went silent and everyone looked at him. He wasn’t slurping! He’d gotten out of the habit.

RocketGuy's avatar

As described in the movie Tampopo, slurping indicates that the soup is the correct (hot) temperature. Slurping is the proper way to consume good soup.

6rant6's avatar

Are these bodily functions: eating, drinking, running hands through hair to distribute oil, scratching our heads, flexing tired feet, putting lemon balm on our gall bladders, rubbing our eyebrows, coughing, sneezing? I would say yes to most of those. Maybe it’s not whether but __which__ bodily functions are permissible.

Adagio's avatar

@zensky No, who told you that?

rooeytoo's avatar

I always had to chuckle in Korea when after the meal everyone would sit at the table and pick their teeth but only behind their cupped hand. Different cultural habits are always, well strange to the uninitiated.

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